In first grade my teacher was trying to teach us the meaning of two phrases: behind, and in front of.
“Would the person in front of Mary answer this question?”
Mary sat in front of me. I sat behind Mary. However, I was in front of Mary from the teacher’s point of view. The words had different meaning depending on where the front of the line was.
I answered the question.
I was wrong.
The teacher’s desk was the front of the line. The teacher wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same mistake again. The teacher wanted to use my mistake as an example to teach the class.
“Pamela, pull your desk out into the aisle. Mary push your desk back.”
I dragged my desk into the center aisle. The metal legs scratched across the linoleum.
“Now Pamela, put your desk in front of Mary. Pamela, now you are in front of Mary. See class, Pamela is in front. Okay now, Pamela put your desk behind Mary again.”
I pushed my desk back in to the center aisle, as Mary pushed her desk forward. I pushed my desk behind Mary again. Mary was in front of me. I was behind Mary.
I can still hear the anger in my first grade teachers voice.
All week I have been thinking about the two phrases, behind and in front. Behind and in front. Behind and in front.
I think of my first grade teacher who sat in front of me and Mary. I think of the six teachers who were in front of their students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, on Friday December 14, 2012 at 9:40 in the morning.
The teachers were in front of their students. The students were behind their teacher.
I don’t remember the name of my first grade teacher.
I don’t want to forget the names of the teachers who stood in front of their students.
Dawn Hochsburg, Mary Scherlach, Lauren Rousseau, Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino, Ann Marie Murphy