I am currently reading a charming book called The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.  It is about a French man called Monsieur Perdu, who runs a bookshop on a barge on the River Seine.  His profession is more of a literary apothecary rather than a bookseller as he has a rare gift for sensing which books will help the troubled souls of his customers.

I have just read a lovely line from the book, which made me think about our profession as teachers.  Just to put you in the picture, Monsieur Perdu is serving a customer called Anna, who tells him she works in television advertising.

“Perdu asked the customer, whose name was Anna, a few questions.  Job, morning routine, her favourite animal as a child…  Personal questions, but not too personal.   He had to ask these questions and then remain absolutely silent.  Listening in silence was essential to making a comprehensive scan of a person´s soul.” (p. 33)

This line got me thinking about how the interaction between teacher and student(s) develops.  Do we know what each of our students really needs to develop into a strong learner?  Do we listen in silence to what they are saying or are we sometimes distracted by our own thoughts clouding our focus?

The story continues with Anna talking about her life answering Monsieur Perdu´s questions.  She comments that no-one has ever helped her and that she has worked far too much in her life.  The last time Anna had really read anything was when she was a student.  José Saramago´s Blindness.  It had left her perplexed.

            ‘No wonder,’ said Perdu.  ‘It´s not a book for someone starting out in life.  It´s for people in the middle of it.  Who wonder where the devil the first half went.’ (p. 34)

Monsieur Perdu describes his gift.  He has the ability to listen, to put himself in his customer´s shoes and he even has a tingling feeling above his lip which he listens to! Based on his extra sensory skills, he then chooses the right book for his “patient” and sometimes gives instructions such as ‘Read three pages before breakfast, lying down.’

So what is the analogy I am trying to get over between Monsieur Perdu and a teacher?  Teachers usually have a wealth of knowledge and are normally curious to learn more.  A teacher is a person who helps others to acquire knowledge and competences.  In the online Oxford dictionary, a teacher is ‘someone who imparts knowledge to or instructs (someone) as to how to do something.’  Therefore, teachers are mines of information who can potentially pass on this valuable source to others and, consequently, contribute to human evolution.  Monsieur Perdu has about thirty thousand stories in his head and a first-aid kit of the most useful eight thousand works in his bookstore.  What is his secret?  He listens to what his “customers/patients” need, susses them out and prescribes the right “treatment” according to his extra sensory feeling, wealth of knowledge and the information he receives from them.

The more we know our students, the more we know what makes them tick.  Consequently, the more we can get to know their needs according to their phase of life, the more we can help them develop.

I would like to leave you with this thought: the Internet is a humungous body of information and knowledge, much more than any human can retain.  However, does the Internet get a tingling feeling above its lip?

Jane Godwin Coury
Jane Godwin Coury é britânica e mora em São Carlos, Brasil desde 1994. Jane atua como professora, treinadora de professores de inglês e revisora, e trabalhou em diferentes países como Brasil, Reino Unido, Estados Unidos, França e Alemanha. Ela é autora de material para o ensino da língua inglesa e publicou um livro para professores de inglês: Exercícios para falar melhor em inglês – Speaking Activities (Disal Editora). Desde 1996, ela é examinadora dos exames de Cambridge. Jane possui mestrado em Linguística Aplicada e TESOL pela Leicester University no Reino Unido.