“Miss Perry, there seems to be a lot of arguing during recess time about who gets to use the Four Squares. Some kids never get a chance” I was tired of the constant bickering and sought a resolution.
“She’s being a tattle-tale!” Lilly Mason was the ring-leader, always pushing others aside and making sure she and her friends dominated the game.
“Yeah, mind your business!” Tommy Kilroy had nothing to worry about either: he was popular too.
“Settle down, children. Let Beth talk.” The teacher was lounging in her chair as she often did, dipping a chocolate covered cookie into her steaming cup of tea.
“But it has nothing to do with our class!” Lilly persisted. “Recess is our own time.”
“Fair enough,” said Miss Perry, “but Beth is not given to complaining, so if she has something to say, it must be worth hearing.”
What? She said that what I had to say had value? No one had told me that before. I chose my words carefully.
“Lilly, you and and your friends hog the Four Squares everyday, which doesn’t allow for anyone else to get a chance. I’m not suggesting you can’t play, but can we find a way to include everyone?”
Lilly looked at Tommy, rolling her eyes in exasperation. “I guess.”
“Wonderful!” Miss Perry exclaimed, ignoring Lilly’s insolence. “What do you propose Lilly?”
“Well I guess we put a time limit on each game, so my friends can play for half the recess, and Beth and her friends can play for the rest.”
“Does that satisfy the problem, Beth?” Miss Perry looked at me, genuinely wanting my input.
“Only four people can play at a time, so that would still mean someone would be left out.”
“How many Four Squares are there?”
“Only one, and there’s nothing else to do,” Tommy moaned. “All the playground equipment is for the little kids.”
“Could they paint another one for us?” I asked. “Then more kids could play. Or would they mind if we drew our own with chalk?”
“Now we are problem-solving,” Miss Perry said smiling at me. “How might we go about that?”
“I could ask the custodian,” Tommy suggested.
“My father is friends with the principal,” Lilly offered.
“Sounds like a good start,” Miss Perry encouraged us. “So how are you going to resolve the issue for today.”
“Could people sub in?” I asked Lilly. “When one person is out the next could step in.”
“Sure,” Lilly shrugged. “Don’t see why not.”
Miss Perry had a way of making each one of us feel valued. She ignored our petty conflicts and consistently held us to a higher standard. We were only nine years old, when Miss Perry became our teacher, but what she instilled in me has lasted a lifetime. When I grew up, I wanted to be a teacher just like Miss Perry.
That is leadership.