Teachers have a big meaning in our lives.
They don’t just give lessons on places, people, and dates. They teach us the fundamentals of life like reading, writing, solving problems, learning how to communicate, being a good friend, etc.
Indeed, teachers are some of the most important people in our lives.
Dan Gill, a teacher of social studies at Glenfield Middle School in Montclair in New Jersey considers the impact on young minds to be crucial.
Why Gill Kept an Empty Chair in His Classroom for 50 Years
After 52 years as a teacher, Gill says he knows a thing or two about getting through to his students. One of his roles is to present complex ideas to his students in a simple manner.
Children are good with symbols and this is why he kept an empty chair in his classroom for all of this time. In the 80s, during one lesson about the Civil Rights movement for Marin Luther King Jr. Day, Gill shared an important story with his students.
It was about one troubling encounter he and his friend had back in the 50s. Namely, he, a white 9-year-old, and his best friend Archie who was black attended a birthday party.
When they rang on the door, the mom of the kid celebrating looked at them and told Gill there were no more chairs. He was confused and said he would sit on the floor if necessary.
However, she repeated that there were no more chairs. It wasn’t long before the boys realized that Archie wasn’t welcomed due to his skin color.
The boys were in tears. This moment left a deep trace on Gill and inspired him to become who he is today.
The empty chair in the classroom is so that everyone who comes to the classroom feels welcomed. This empty chair is a symbol of Gill’s principal as a person and a teacher.
He teaches his students about responsibility for how they treat others.
He says that we can’t all become presidents or senators, but if we all show kindness to others, the world would be a much better place.
A Book That Will Tell Archie’s Story
He is proud that his students tell visitors about the meaning of the empty chair. It reminds us all that we can do better and help others feel welcomed.
Gill plans to retire after the 2022/23 school year, but he won’t stop spreading the message. At one literary festival, he proposed the idea of a book named No More Chairs.
This book will be dedicated to Archie who passed away last year. Gill had lost touch with his best friend from childhood for decades.
However, he found his family on social media and will contact his daughter who he hopes would like to be a part of the process of telling her dad’s story.
Gill explains that this will be a book about what he’s spent the last 52 years doing. That is helping children learn, explore, and respect others while believing in themselves.