by Almiria Wilhelm
They say a good teacher has no favourites, but that is not true. Look at my students. Do you see how happy they are? I love them all. They are my garden and I their gardener, equally watering and nourishing those that will grow large and beautiful and those that will remain insignificant. Or almost equally. A good teacher shows no preference, but in her heart every teacher has a favourite, one that is dearer to her than the others—or maybe I am not a good teacher. I don't know. I only know that my girls are happy, they flourish and thrive, and they have grown used to the situation with Annika.
There is only one thing that I am not easy about in my mind. I have never singled out any student for special attention. Never have I given any one child all my attention, until Annika came along. I have never seen anyone like her. I do not need to teach her to live and breathe dance. She does this already. She radiates it. She never moves but she dances. Must I leave this jewel unpolished, because it will shine brighter than the others? Must I refrain from exerting myself on the hard surface of the diamond so that the emeralds will not feel envy? So, I teach Annika privately. She alone commands my full attention for a period every day.
At first it was difficult. Parents complained. Some of my students lost heart and quit. Others, with wealthy parents, cried themselves into being sent away, to a teacher nearer the Cultural Centre. Doubtless their parents’ money would buy them anything they wanted until they were done with their training.
But we weathered the storms, Annika and I. She clung to the dance, not caring for friends. I tried to remain, in all other ways, impartial in my treatment of my students, loving and tending them as before, and at last the outrage subsided. Annika became a fact.
* * *
I was in the middle of Annika's lesson when Janni came running in.
"Lady Teacher, the Cultural Centre is coming to inspect! It's the Blue Council Teacher and she's looking mad!"
No one is allowed to disturb me while I teach Annika, but Janni was so full of the idea that she brought me vital news—perhaps she thought my private attention to Annika would enrage the Council Teacher—that I let it go. A moment later the self-important woman from our Capitol found me, settling in my studio with a heavy silence that I could almost taste. It weighed on me, but not on Annika. She shone. She glowed. She danced with an inner fire that would have kindled a response in anyone but the severe official in the blue teachers’ wraps. When her lesson was done, I let Annika go and braced myself for the usual argument on method and ethics, the Code of the Cultural Centre, and accepted teaching practices. I know them well, these practices. I spent ten years training at the Cultural Centre, where they do their best to indoctrinate young teachers. But I saw things differently from the Council. I saw their greed. I saw them give attention and privileges to those with means. With money, you can buy yourself into almost any school, buy yourself almost any prize. Almost.
You see, I know that once my students leave me, if they wish to pursue this sublime and punishing art, the highest judges will not care for anything but their ability. And because I live far out, where they have little influence or control, the teachers from the Cultural Centre grumble, then go away and leave me to my methods.
But this time the teacher said nothing about my methods. She wanted to take Annika away with her. . .
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