Miners used to take a canary down the coal mines with them; canaries are far more susceptible to toxic gases than a man and therefore a miner’s canary that stopped singing and died was a warning to the miners to get back up to ground level post haste.
You might think that this was something that went on in the old days; in fact it stopped in 1987, so if you’re my age not so much of the old days after all.
We had miners in the family on my mother’s side and stevedores too (but they had hooks not canaries and that would be another post), and there is an imagined similarity when teaching a new evening class in a certain darkened downstairs room at work that puts me in mind of colliery. Miners and teachers are both, after all, looking for rich seams.
When one of my new learners glazed over for a brief moment this week I was fully attuned. For a start, try as I might, the first induction session can seem a lot to take in and secondly, when I am in the classroom as a student, I am the first to fly out of the door. I sit near the exit on purpose so as not to disrupt the whole class when I take flight.
I thanked the learner/canary afterwards for giving me the valuable visual clue to her wellbeing: all feedback is genuinely welcomed. Take care of them if you teach one. That’s all I’m saying.
Link to a blog reviewing The Little Wooden Horse and Gobbolino: my top two favorite children’s stories when I was young here.