Baby through the window
One of my Austrian colleagues told me that her cousin’s mother was on a train being taken to a camp in the war. She knew she would not survive so, as the train slowed down in a village station, she threw her baby out of the window of the train into the arms of a German nurse, saying, ‘Look after him!’
The nurse looked after the baby and brought him up.
After the war relatives within the child’s family tracked him down and demanded him back. The nurse did not want to give him up as she had looked after him for 8 years. The relatives took her to court and won. They argued that the family had been almost entirely wiped out and it was essential to bring him back into it.
My colleague told me this story…she wondered whether we could use it in our workshop on the use of stories in language teaching.
Here was my dilemma.
Such a story would certainly ‘stimulate authentic and meaningful discussion and offer opportunities for language development’. But it would also dredge up human bilges of emotion, better for driving the pulling of triggers than articulating a search for understanding.
One faction would see the child as a part of a genetically determined group as much as a cog is part of an engine.
The other faction would see the child and the woman as two individuals who created a group through years of shared and worked on experience.
I knew which side I would be on and I felt appalled at how my finger was quivering to start the conflagration.
I asked the teacher to forgive me. ‘Its a wonderful, wonderful story but I don’t think I can cope with what it might reveal if you were to tell it.’