I don't always get that right. Sometimes I'm stressed or just off in my head somewhere, and I forget to acknowledge that the guy on the other end of my words is a person. Once when I was teaching first grade, I got it right.
His name was Michael and he had a crush on me. He stood about 3 feet 6 inches, with sandy hair and curious brown eyes that could melt a heart at 20 paces. He was the kid who was always ready to help. He was the kid that everyone liked.
I'm not particularly fond of lines, but when you have six-year-olds to get from Point A to Point B, the safest way to do so is in two lines. It wasn't beyond me to use this well-honored tradition to take my class down to the gym, over to music class, or to any number of places I might conjure up at a moment's notice to keep their attention. Michael could be counted on to be right there at my side, leading the line to my right.
Well, he wasn't exactly right at my side because Michael would walk in front of me. It didn't matter whether he knew where we were going, within ten feet Michael would be three or four paces in front of me. His technique was a little disconcerting to this young teacher, who thought she had things under control. It also blew any practical benefit of walking in line--how could I keep him safe, if he was going to cross the street before me?
I decided we needed to talk about it. I stopped the lines.
"Excuse me," I said to the class, when we stopped in the hallway. "I need to have a short conversation with Michael. So I'm going to make myself short now." I got on my knees, so that I could be eye level with Michael.
"Michael," I said.
"Yes, Ma'am" he said charmingly. I took a deep breath.
"Michael, how old are you?" I asked.
"Six" he answered brightly.
"You're six. So you would know." I confided. "Four years is a very long time."
"Yes, it is," Michael said seriously.
"I went to college for four years, so that I could lead the line. Would you let me lead the line?" I asked.
"Sure I would," he answered. Michael was at my side from that day forward.
Sometimes giving a guy a place to stand can mean getting down on your knees.
—me strauss Letting me be