It was a normal class; as usual, we were checking homework at the beginning of the lesson. The students’ task was to answer questions including a new grammar point have to/ don’t have to.
Does your mother have to do the shopping every week?
It was Kate’s turn to read her answer from the workbook. She said: ‘No, she doesn’t.‘ I nodded and wanted to go on but somewhere at the back of my mind I realized that the answer was a bit unusual – it was not what I would normally expect a girl to say about her mum. As I wanted my students to provide true answers, I decided to look into this discrepancy. My own daily routine ran through my mind and I listed the arguments; first of all, I definitely need to go shopping every day. I can’t imagine a situation when doing the shopping once a week would suffice provided I need fresh food. Maybe if I lived somewhere off the beaten track, I would only go shopping once a month, for example, and stuff the food into the freezer. Maybe if someone did the shopping for me, I could say that I don’t have to do the shopping every week. One way or another, I stubbornly expected Kate to say that her mum has to do the shopping at least once a week. So I asked her a few additional questions in English to cast doubt on her original answer. She answered patiently, but rather curtly. The interrogation had only taken a few seconds before someone shouted out gravely: She doesn’t have a mother. At that moment I realized how stupid I was. Of course, I knew Kate’s mum had died. Kate’s class teacher had informed us discreetly at a staff meeting. And only an idiot can forget such a thing! All I was capable of was: Oh, I’m very sorry, Kate. But I could see her eyes were already flooded with tears. And so were mine. She didn’t burst out crying, though. This 11-year-old managed to control her emotions. I think it’s because she’s so brave and never talks about her sorrow, one fails to remember its existence.
One tends to forget that Kate had lost her beloved mother because at first sight, Kate is a happy girl. She’s a self-motivated, enthusiastic and disciplined kid, never demanding extra attention. However, when observing her closely, one notices she is somewhat different. Although you can often see her smile, she’s more serious than other kids of her age. The other day we watched a cartoon in class. Shaun the Sheep is fun and the kids regularly burst into laughter. But Kate never did. She obediently watched the screen and whenever the kids laughed out loud, she just looked around, a little puzzled. At that moment it occurred to me that she simply doesn’t need fun to be happy – she needs love and care, something that the other kids have and take for granted and that’s why they can laugh, have fun and enjoy life so easily….