elements of a code 4

Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1903

She was not a new teacher but she had lost control of these young adolescents. As their form teacher, she had tried being a disciplinarian, a gentle mother figure, even a friend. She had gone through her notes from University, she had consulted the greatest classroom managers in print. Nothing seemed to work.

Today was going to be different.

“What I want you to do, is to clear the tables and chairs to the back of the room, leaving Tom and Danny’s table at the front.”

With much grumbling and slothful movements, the boys took their time to obey.

“Now, I want you to get into pairs and form two lines from the end of the desk, each partner facing each other. Hold hands in a cross-over fashion.”

This was the sticking point,

“I’m not holding hands with him”, said Henry, gesturing to Alex.

“Yeah, we’re not girls you know” shouted Christopher.

She calmly responded. “You’re not girls, you’re young men, and this is an exercise done by managers all over the world; it’s a management exercise – of trust of strength of character, of cohesiveness that I know you all can be part of if you choose.”

“The aim of today’s lesson, more precisely, is to learn how to trust each other. We are going to take turns standing on the edge of the table falling backwards on to the arms of everyone else. Because you will be holding hands, you will see how easy it is to support one another as a team.”

There, the objective was established. The boys’ curiosity piqued… she took the lead.

“Because I trust you, I will go first.”

Positive modelling she kept on repeating to herself, project your expectations. She climbed up onto the edge of the table and after establishing that the boys were ready, faced away from the drop.

“OK… ready to catch me? Don’t let go now!“ She crossed her arms over her chest and fell back.

The first thing she felt was the floor. Winded, she lay there in disbelief. Only Tom remained at her side.

“Miss, I tried to catch you but everyone stepped back.”

 Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1899

Text: Elements of a Code 4 by J. L. Nash ©

Images: Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864 – 1952)


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