Ralph and Big Dave
By ice rivers
The first bit of advice I got as a new teacher was "make sure you have a seating chart".
For the first couple of years, I took that advice very seriously. As a result, I spent half the time arguing with kids about where they were sitting and why they were sitting where they were sitting. It was all about control.
As I became more confident, I got rid of the seating chart and started to connect with students instead of charts. I learned that 'discipline' was all about connection.
I was starting to get it.
I got rid of the seating chart.
Kids chose their own seat based on time of arrival into class.
The kids who were the most interested sat in the front row. Next most interested sat in the middle aisle. Best seat in the house....middle aisle three rows back.
The kids in the first and last aisle, last row were usually the "clowns". I could keep a better eye on them when I knew where they were according to their own self-identification. Other seats were made for "disaappearance" usually second or fouth aisle four rows back. I knew where they were and never let them disappear.
Big Dave sat in the first row fourth aisle.
Not only was Big Dave big, he had a decent starter beard. He looked to be about 19 in ninth grade. He wasn't that old but maturity had come as quickly as his growth spurt. He was six foot tall and probably about 245.
Very quiet. Didn't do a lot of homework.
Dave was always the first kid to show up. We nodded at each other as Dave took his seat. A nod was cool with Dave, so a mutual nod it was.
Every day, every body coming into class walked by Big Dave. Most of the kids nodded. Dave nodded back when nodded to.
One day I got a call from the office to pick something up from one of the secretaries. I said I'd send someone down. Dave walked in at that moment. I doubt if Dave had ever been asked by a teacher to go to the office on an errand. I was surprised I asked him to go the office and "tell them I sent you." Dave was equally astonished.
He left on the errand.
Meanwhile the class began to fill up. Dave's seat was empty
Just for shitz and giggles, I asked Ralph to sit in Dave's seat. Ralph was about normal size for a ninth grader. Later he went on to become a football star in senior high school.
Ralph wasn't paying as much attention to the situation as I was so he took the seat with no problem.
A couple of minutes later, Dave came back into the room. He handed me the envelope from the main office.
He went to his seat, now occupied by Ralph. The only available seat was a disappearing seat.
Without a moment's hesitation, Dave gently lifted Ralph out of the seat as if lifting an infant from a cradle. He carefully carried Ralph back to the available dsappearing seat. He placed Ralph in that seat with primitive tenderness.
Everybody in the class was watching but nobody got the view that I got.
I'll never forget how wide Ralph's eyes opend as he found himself in Dave's arms. He looked at me not in fear or anger but in wonder.
The room was absolutely still.
Dave returned to his seat, the seat that Ralph had occupied.
He looked at me and nodded.
I nodded back.
Instruction began again as if nothing had happened.
I knew I had a story for the ages.
This scene happened ages ago.
I'm finally getting around to telling this wonderful story.
I can still see Ralph's face.