24 fourth graders were in my classroom at the end of the school day. Most were packing up their things; quietly getting ready to leave for their bus.
In the back corner of the room I noticed a boy give a mean look and say something to a girl in front of him in a whispered voice. There are many times that I am okay with ignoring off-task behavior if other students aren't distracted by it. But after noticing this situation, something inside of me felt like I should care and give some attention to the situation because it involved the emotions of a boy and a girl.
So I asked the boy to step aside and talk with me. When I asked him if there was something that I could help with, he told me that she was stepping on his untied shoe laces on purpose. He explained that, in response, he gave her a nasty look and said, "You better watch where you're walking next time." His report made me think that there was probably a history of conflict between the two. I asked him, "Do you two sometimes not get along?" and he said, "SOMEtimes??!!....ALL the time."
He only said four words. But it was enough to let me know that he really needed to be taught. He needed someone to tell him what to do when it's hard to get along with someone. And in this case, that someone was a girl.
So here's what I told him:
"I'm going to give you some advice, and it may be that you don't really want to hear it. I won't require that you follow my advice. Not many men are strong enough to follow the advice I'm about to give you. But I encourage you to listen to me...because it's really good advice.
Nathaniel, YOU...are...the man. and SHE is the woman."
He looked at me with a confused look. (which is what I was going for) After inserting a dramatic pause I explained.
"I'm not saying that you have to like her. I'm not saying that you have to be the best of friends. But I am saying that YOU are the man. And as the man you should be the first to do something nice. You should be the FIRST to be kind. You should be the first to help the situation get better. YOU are the man. If you are always not getting along...YOU be the first to make it right.