Photography lesson

A New Jersey Teacher Teaches A Complex Lesson Of Acceptance Through The Simple Symbol Of An Empty Chair

Let me tell you a short story about a very important teacher I had, the one who basically led me down the path of writing in the first place. On every occasion throughout the school year, she would write all of her students a short poem. Something to highlight the celebration itself, something to honor its subject, something to let us know that she cared about us and wished us well. I still saved them all.

It’s the little things that make the difference for a student. So you can all thank her for being able to read my little writings, because these little words inspired me to create my own. Today we are going to look at another amazing teacher, who always had a spare chair in his classroom throughout the 52 years he taught.

Before we dive in, be sure to leave your memories of your teachers in the comments below, upvote the story if you like tales like these, and, of course, follow the author to make their day a bit better!

More information: YouTube

Daniel Gill has kept an empty chair in the middle of his classroom throughout his 52-year teaching career, but what’s the story behind it?

Image credits: CBS New York

Teachers are like magicians; with their bag of tricks alone, they somehow manage to get important points across. If one does not work, another technique should be used. But one was used by 75-year-old teacher Daniel Gill throughout his 52-year career.

Since the 1970s, her classroom at Glenfield Middle School, Montclair, New Jersey, has had an extra chair located in the center of the room. It is not a method of punishment, nor is it a reserved seat for the administrator or a parent. But it serves as a reminder, both for Dan and his students. A reminder to stay kind.

“Each year I give lessons around Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on the civil rights movement,” Dan told TODAY. “I wanted to connect the students in a personal way to what it meant.”

This comes from when he was himself but a 9-year-old schoolboy, going to celebrate a birthday party with his best friend, Archie

Image credits: CBS New York

In the 1950s, when Dan was 9 years old, he and his best friend Archie went to a birthday party held in the same apartment building where Dan lived. Gifts in hand, the boys arrived and knocked on the door, eager for the festivities to begin.

The mother of the birthday child opened the door and invited Daniel in but glanced at Archie and told him that there were no chairs left.

Dan, confused by the situation, offered to sit on the floor, share a chair, or get more of his own apartment. But the woman just repeated that there were no more chairs.

The mother let Dan in, but Archie was told there were no more chairs available. Although Dan tried to find a solution, the woman’s answer was always “no”.

Image credits: CBS New York

Then he realized Daniel. The only difference between him and Archie was that they had different skin colors: Dan, white, and Archie, black. The two left together that night in tears, but it would be a moment that inspired the teacher, leading him to where he is today.

He moved to Montclair from New York as a new teacher and worked to transform Glenfield Middle School, where he teaches today, into a magnetic school for the arts.

The school became a model for the desegregation of other schools with the help of Daniel, who at 25 was convinced he could make a difference. He played a pivotal role in implementing the house system, where students stay with the same head teachers during their three years of middle school.

The only possible reason was the woman’s bias against Archie’s skin color. Both boys left in tears, shocked by what happened

Image credits: CBS New York

“We have to be an opportunity class,” Daniel said. “Archie was denied the opportunity to go to the birthday party because of a bias the woman had.” This is where the empty chair comes in. “I put a chair in my class so that anyone who comes to my class filled with anticipation, like a party, feels welcome,” he said.

The chair, and what it symbolizes, has been Dan’s guiding principle as a teacher and as a person. “We can’t all become president, we can’t all become senators, but if we all do our due diligence in how we treat others, then it will be a better world.”

Is the chair really empty, when it carries such an incredible weight of injustice, inequality and discrimination? However, the simplicity of it could be the strength of the symbol. “One of my jobs is to take complex ideas and make them meaningful to children. Kids do well with symbols,” Dan told the Modern Met.

“It’s a reminder that they can do better — better academically, socially and emotionally — but also to make people feel welcome and make this a better place to live.” He knows his message resonates when visitors come into the classroom and children ask newcomers, “Do you know why we have this chair? »

The moment has continued to inspire Dan in his teaching career, and through a simple symbol of the empty chair, he aims to teach unconditional acceptance to his students.

Image credits: CBS New York

Dan plans to retire from teaching after the 2022-2023 school year, but that won’t be the end, as he is determined to spread the empty chair message far beyond Montclair. He plans to write a book dedicated to Archie, who died last year. The two had lost touch decades ago, but Dan reunited with his loved ones on social media.

The book will be called “No More Chairs” and Dan hopes it will inspire other teachers to keep an empty chair in their classroom. “In my wildest dreams, I hope this teaches kids how they can be better and how they can treat people better. I hope they will be decision makers in their own classroom,” Dan said.

The 75-year-old teacher will retire after the 2022-2023 academic year, but that won’t be the end of this story as he will write a book dedicated to Archie

Image credits: CBS New York

“I’ve spent 52 years doing what I love,” Dan admitted. “It kept me young, to be around young people who energize me and teach me how to be a better person all the time. I’ve never had to work a day in my life.”

His love and dedication to teaching has not gone unnoticed, as Daniel has received two Weston Awards for Teaching Excellence as well as the 2013 Montclair NAACP Teaching Award.

His main goal as a teacher – to help his students be a little more curious. He told Patch, “I’m not good at getting the answer right. […] I ask a lot of questions. I try to create an atmosphere where curiosity is rewarded and no questions are silly. And I try to get them to apply that curiosity to themselves and their world.

Daniel believes that “if we all do our due diligence in how we treat others, then it will be a better world”

Image credits: Kevin Wong (not the actual photo)

Curiosity and acceptance are two of the lessons we can learn from Daniel Gill and we can do more than hope that there will always be enough chairs for everyone.

Let us know what you thought of the story in the comments below. Do you have memories of a special teacher? Was there anything they did that taught you valuable lessons? I look forward to reading your responses and wish you a wonderful day or evening!

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