When I was in the third grade, I was one of 18 girls who made life miserable for a new, young teacher. Miss Ross had just graduated from college, and apparently her inexperience and lack of command were obvious to a collection of lively eight year olds. The lower school classrooms were in small separate buildings, so she was not in close contact with her more experienced colleagues. She was kind and, I think, pretty. But she spoke as a person having no authority, and she ended up with girls climbing in and out the classroom window, running off to the playground located so conveniently close by or wandering off to walk the wooded paths on the school property right behind our classroom.
Someone had taught her how to teach reading and math, but no one had taught her how to have authority.
Mr. BigMan was one of my childhood heroes. I first knew him when I was a very little girl. He was a very junior partner in my father’s law firm. The office had been converted from a pair of townhouses, and Mr. BigMan had the furthest rear office in the hardest to reach corner of the second floor. I loved going to see him, because when I poked my head around the corner, he would roar like a lion!! I was a little scared, but mostly delighted!
It was a few more years before I realized that two of my little friends were also his daughters. As we grew older, I spent a lot of time at their house. The summer when I was 15, I stayed with them for several weeks while my parents were on a trip to Russia.
Now, I’m sure I started off as a perfect house guest, but as time went by and I became more comfortable staying with the BigMans, I was a little less careful about my behavior. One night at dinner, I talked back to Mrs. BigMan. I will never forget how it felt to be reprimanded by Mr. BigMan. I was ashamed to have spoken disrespectfully, but more than that, I was deeply sad to have lost favor with someone I admired and loved so much.
He had authority. I believed what he was saying was true. I wouldn’t have considered arguing with him. And even though I didn’t like what he was saying, I trusted him.