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Teacher Anne Sullivan Writes About Helen Keller's Moment of Profound Realization

From Audio: Little Happier: Teacher Anne Sullivan Writes About Hellen Keller’s Moment of Profound Realization

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station description How to Build Happier Habits into Your Daily Life
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Duration: 02:54
Gretchen Rubin reads the affectionate letter Anne Sullivan wrote to her friend after her pupil's breakthrough, when she learned the word for "water."
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Most people know the story of when Helen Keller learned the word "water," but maybe you haven't heard the moving letter Sullivan wrote, ecstatic about her pupil's breakthrough. #1 bestselling author Gretchen Rubin reads the piece, which includes added facts such as some of the other 30 words Keller learned that same day.
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Last week, I read a passage from Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, in which she describes the moment the morning when she first understood language when her teacher spelled the word water into her hand. This week I'm going to read a letter that Anne Sullivan, her teacher, wrote to Sofia Hopkins on April 5th, 18 87 about that very same incident, because it's interesting to hear her perspective on that life changing moment. And Sullivan writes, I must write you align this morning because something very important has happened. Helen has taken the second great step in her education. She has learned that everything has a name and that the manual alphabet is the key to everything she wants to know. In a previous letter, I think I wrote you that the words mug and milk had given Helen more trouble than all the rest. She confused, announced with a verb drink. She didn't know the word for drink, but went through the pantomime of drinking whenever she spelled mug or milk. This morning, while she was washing, she wanted to know the name for water. When she wants to know the name of anything she points to it and pats my hand. I spelled W A. T E R and thought no more about it until after breakfast. Then it occurred to me that with the help of this new word, I might succeed in straightening out the mug milk difficulty. We went out to the pump house, and I made Helen hold her mug under the spout while I pumped as the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled W A T E R in Helen's Freehand! The word coming so close upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand seemed to startle her. She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed. A new light came into her face. She spelled water several times. Then she dropped on the ground and asked for its name and pointed to the pump and the trellis and suddenly turning around. She asked for my name. I spelled teacher. Just then, the nurse brought Helen's little sister into the pump house, and Helen spelled baby and pointed to the nurse all the way back to the house. She was highly excited and learned the name of every object she touched, so that In a few hours, she had added 30 new words to her vocabulary. Here are some of them Door open shut! Give go! Come! And a great many more ps I didn't finish my letter in time to get it posted last night, so I shall Adaline Helen got up this morning like a radiant fairy. She has split it from object object, asking the name of everything and kissing me for very gladness. Last night, when I got in bed, she stole into my arms of her own accord and kiss me for the first time. And I thought my heart would burst. So full was it of joy. I love to think about this moment of realization and what an extraordinary example of how a teacher can transform a person's entire life.
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