Reflectionary, Relationships

More on Authority

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.

7 thoughts on “More on Authority”

  1. Yes, these two stories did indeed make an appearance. There was also a story about Mrs. Love, the mean and scary babysitter! I used that one for the Time with the Children. She was a real person, and that was her real name. My mother eventually came to believe that she was a bad person and didn’t hire her again.

  2. Ooh, this post reminds me that I’ve been meaning to blog about the sixth grade teacher my classmates and I caused to quit teaching in tears a few months into the year. Like you and your classmates, we immediately *knew* she didn’t have any authority. Ugh, I hate to remember how cruel we were.

  3. One of my favorites, which shows you how mean I could be, was the young French teacher who stood in front of a class of tenth-graders, rolling her eyes at the ceiling, saying, “You guys treat me like a piece of crap on the floor.” That poor woman!

  4. I ended up student teaching a semester after another student teacher who had quit in the middle and basically melted down. The students had locked her out of the classroom. She had no authority, too, but I also think the high school kids had no respect. I had heard the story and had to go in there with serious ‘tude in order to survive.

  5. horrid experiences for the teachers (trainee and otherwise)!!
    makes me wonder what they do teach them in the training colleges though. I’m with you songbird – if you know how to teach to read but cannot maintain discipline, you are probably in the wrong job.
    loved the picture of Mr BigMan roaring like a lion 🙂

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