Assume the child is doing his part, and that the seed you have sown will bear fruit in due time

puppy dozes in a hand

I taught her the word 'puppy' and drew her hand over them all

May 8, 1887

She came tearing upstairs a few minutes ago in a state of great excitement. I couldn’t make out at first what it was all about.

She kept spelling “dog – baby” and pointing to her five fingers one after another, and sucking them. My first thought was, one of the dogs has hurt Mildred; but Helen’s beaming face set my fears at rest. Nothing would do but I must go somewhere with her to see something. She led the way to the pump-house, and there in the corner was one of the setters with five dear little pups! I taught her the word “puppy” and drew her hand over them all, while they sucked, and spelled “puppies.” She was much interested in the feeding process, and spelled “mother-dog” and “baby” several times. Helen noticed that the puppies’ eyes were closed, and she said, “Eyes-shut. Sleep-no,” meaning, “The eyes are shut, but the puppies are not asleep.” She screamed with glee when the little things squealed and squirmed in their efforts to get back to their mother, and spelled, “Baby – eat large.” I suppose her idea was “Baby eats much.” She pointed to each puppy, one after another, and to her five fingers, and I taught her the word five. Then she held up one finger and said “baby.” I knew she was thinking of Mildred, and I spelled, “One baby and five puppies.” After she had played with them a little while, the thought occurred to her that the puppies must have special names, like people, and she asked for the name of each pup. I told her to ask her father, and she said, “No – mother.” She evidently thought mothers were more likely to know about babies of all sorts. She noticed that one of the puppies was much smaller than the others, and she spelled “small,” making the sign at the same time, and I said “very small.” She evidently understood that very was the name of the new thing that had come into her head; for all the way back to the house she used the word very correctly. One stone was “small,” another was “very small.” When she touched her little sister, she said: “Baby – small. Puppy – very small.” Soon after, she began to vary her steps from large to small, and little mincing steps were “very small.” She is going through the house now, applying the new words to all kinds of objects.

Since I have abandoned the idea of regular lessons, I find that Helen learns much faster. I am convinced that the time spent by the teacher in digging out of the child what she has put into him, for the sake of satisfying herself that it has taken root, is so much time thrown away. It’s much better, I think, to assume the child is doing his part, and that the seed you have sown will bear fruit in due time. It’s only fair to the child, anyhow, and it saves you unnecessary trouble.

one of Annie Sullivan’s letters about Helen Keller, written to Sophia C. Hopkins
from The Story of My Life
by Helen Keller, John Albert Macy, Annie Sullivan
image – wsilver

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