Photo taken by Jon Harper
I got called to the room to because two boys had pushed each other. Nothing major and nothing serious. The substitute just didn’t want things to get out of hand. Neither boy came willingly at first. But after a little while I had them both in my office.
Normally I would not take the approach that I did. But I had had enough. These boys were better than petty pushing and shoving. And I needed them to know it. So they saw a side of me today that rarely comes out. The side that is a little louder than normal. The side that is more animated than normal. And the side that let them know that this wasn’t going to be a hand holding discussion.
I knew there was no real reason for their argument and that they held no animosity towards each other. So I took a chance. I told them that they were going to return to class! That they were going to sit next to each other for the rest of the day! And that at the end of the day they were to come share with me how successful they were!
All of this took place early in the day. So these boys were going to have the rest of the day to spend sitting side by side and working out their differences. My day went on like any other day. The life of an elementary school administrator is always busy and there is never a dull moment. To be quite honest, within a few minutes of sending the boys off, I had forgotten all about it.
But then one of the boys came looking for me and found me in the cafeteria. He yelled, “Mr. Harper, do we have to play together at recess?” Wow! I hadn’t thought of that. And wow! These boys were really taking this seriously. My plan just might work!
I yelled back in the sternest voice I could muster, Yes!
Once again, I went about my day. It went by very quickly and before I knew it, there was only ten minutes left in the day. As I was heading back to my office, for what was probably the last time before dismissal, I saw both boys walking towards me. With proud smiles on their faces.
They did it! They really did it! They even brought me little gifts. They had each made me little art projects they had obviously made in class. There was even a little gift from another student in the pile they gave me. I’ve heard Simon Sinek say that just the act of watching someone perform a kind deed has the power to make us feel better. Maybe that is why I got the gift from this other student. Maybe she saw how hard these boys were working and was inspired herself. I don’t know.
I was so excited I told them that we were going to take a selfie together. Kids always love them and they are a cool way to celebrate. I got my selfie stick, that my nine-year old daughter is letting me borrow. Set my phone in and…
The battery on my phone was dead! I couldn’t believe it. I promised them that we would take one tomorrow. And we will. I can’t wait. What a great way to end the day!
As I look back on it all I realized several things. First, that this strategy won’t work in every situation. Sometimes this unorthodox strategy would be plain crazy. Second, maybe I just got lucky. Maybe tomorrow they will be at it again. I hope not. But, it is possible. Finally, kids have more resiliency in them than we often give them credit for. And that oftentimes we need to show them how much we believe in them.
Either way, the proud smiles these boys had at their ability mend their differences made my day. After they had left I looked down at the paper art projects they had made me. They were cute and I could tell that they had spent some time on them.
And then I noticed something else. On the side of one of the boy’s projects were the words
I love you Mr. Harper
And he knows I love him too.
Everything’s gonna be all right tomorrow.