Anne Sullivan Quotes

Anne Sullivan with Helen Keller, 1897

Anne Sullivan Quotes

“How forlorn and weary I was, nobody, not even you can imagine. I remember how the conductor on the train from Chattanooka [sic] tried to comfort me. He noticed that I cried a great deal, and stopped to ask, ‘Any of your folks dead, young lady?’ His voice was so kind, I could not help telling him a little of my trouble, and he did his best to cheer me, telling me that I would find the southern people most kind and hospitable. When the train stopped at Tuscumbia, the thought flashed through my mind, ‘Here I am more than a thousand miles from any human being I ever saw before!’ But somehow I was not sorry that I had come. I felt that the future held something good for me. And the loneliness in my heart was an old acquaintance. I had been lonely all my life. My surroundings only were to be different.”

“I need not tell you, dear, that this has been a hard year; but I do not forget the many pleasant spots in it. I have lost my patience and courage many, many times; but I have found that one difficult task accomplished makes the next easier. My most persistent foe is that feeling of restlessness that takes possession of me sometimes. It overflows my soul like a tide, and there is no escape from it. It is more torturing than any physical pain I have ever endured. I pray constantly that my love for this beautiful child may grow so large and satisfying that there will be no room in my heart for uneasiness and discontent.”

“Thank Heaven, I didn’t have to follow a curriculum when I began teaching Helen. I am convinced she wouldn’t have learned language as easily as she did. It seems to me, it is made as difficult as possible in school for a child to learn anything.

Helen learned language almost as unconsciously as the normal child. Here it is made a “lesson.” The child sits in-doors, and for an hour the teacher endeavors more or less skillfully to engrave words upon his brain. As I look back, it seems as if Helen were always on the jump when I was teaching her. We were generally in the open air doing something. Words were learned as they were needed. She rarely forgot a word that was given her when the action called it forth, and she learned a phrase or even a sentence as readily as a single word when it was needed to describe the action.

Apparently, children learn language more quickly when they are free to move about among objects that interest them. They absorb words and knowledge simultaneously. In the class-room they cease to be actors in the drama, they sit and watch the teacher doing something with her mouth which does not excite their curiosity particularly. Passivity does not stimulate interest or mental energy. The child learns eagerly what, he wants to know, and indifferently what, you want him to know.

I have thought much about methods of teaching since I came here. The contrast between these children’s plodding pursuit of knowledge and Helen’s bounding joyousness makes me wonder. When I go into one of the class-rooms and see little children sitting demurely behind their small desks, while a teacher sits in front of them, holding an object in her hand for their inspection, then slowly speaking the name of the object which they vainly try to imitate, I feel somehow as if they were chained to their seats, and forced to gaze intently at a giantess who made faces at them.”


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