Sitting in This Chair
Again, I draw my inspiration from another well, that of my 32+ years as a professional educator.
As a House Administrator, one of my major tasks was the enforcement of the Disciplinary Code of Conduct. Many students passed through my office and following the District's guidelines, I meted out a range of consequences. So, I ask you, why would a student whom I had just suspended for bullying (not her first infraction of this nature)…why would she reach over to hug me?
You may have your reasons for this contrary-to-popular-belief reaction. And I have mine. It is actually quite simple. I had acknowledged her as a person whom I respected yet whom I had a responsibility to hold accountable. She knew the boundaries and the consequences so she was not surprised by the outcome. What likely caught her off guard was that she was not demeaned, belittled or humiliated. She was shown tough love yet she felt cared for and safe. This middle school girl was simply expressing gratitude and relief for all of the above.
And isn’t that what we educators, we parents and grandparents are supposed to do? Recognize that our charges may have some basic needs that are somehow not being met and offer a modicum of relief from that starvation? Yet, we must do so in a way that shows that we are centered and will hold steady-the-course.
As a struggling student from a disadvantaged background, this second-year middle schooler felt safe at that moment. She felt cared for. She felt that the ‘punishment fit the crime,’ and she was ready to walk the walk.
In Course-speak, I showed that frightened girl that I had forgiven her. That I had seen her light, not the worldly transgression of her developing self. I saw a call for love. And at that moment, when she looked up at me with her swollen red eyes, we shared a holy instant.
Again, I know. I know. I had a job to do and I did it. I enforced the Code of Conduct. Yet, what I felt moved to do was to recognize her spirit beyond her infraction. And at some level she became aware of that. That’s why she reached over to embrace me. I reciprocated.
Before I headed home that evening, I sat down with my thoughts and put pen to paper. When completed, I typed my poem, printed it and placed it where I, or anyone who sat at my desk could see it and be reminded. I hung it on the wall directly above the chair where that 7th grader had sat only hours before. The chair in which the next child, and the next child after that would sit:
Sitting in this chair
Is a child, a
Who is in the process of
Always remember to
Treat this child with
As if this is
Sitting in this chair.