43. Duos

I once saw, in The Wellesley Townsman, that two children who were great friends when they were in my second grade class were still together. Dozens of duos flashed through my mind – children who had resolved to stay together always. They’d go to the same college, marry two people who were also the best of friends, and their children would be friends. A good forty-five-year old friend of mine is still friends with an elementary school chum. They sometimes have problems, as do those second grade duos. And they didn’t go to the same college or marry people who were good friends.
Let me tell you about Ruth and Naomi, two fictional children who we’ll say were in my class years ago. They were inseparable; whither Ruth went, Naomi went. I thought it was an open, healthy friendship, and I did what I could to make sure they stayed together the next year. But the year after that, they were separated. I saw their tears on the last day of school in June, and I knew right away what had happened.
I tried to console them. They were going to be next door to each other, and they’d see each other at lunch and recess. But that was like telling someone you’ll write, and then moving to California. There was no way to console them.
I’ve heard this wisdom from children and adults: “Don’t let certain teachers know how good your friendship is. If they find out that your friendship is too good, they’ll separate you.” The implication, I think, was that some teachers were actually evil or sick. These teachers had never had close friends, maybe had been tormented or excluded by some duos, and this was revenge.
Maybe there are teachers like that, but there are lots of other reasons to separate children – even children who are good friends. The two may be good role models, and having them in the
same class is not sharing the wealth. The friendship may be getting in the way of schoolwork. It may be that there are children who need friends, and these two are great potential friends for other children, rendered inaccessible by their own friendship.
Like so many decisions made by teachers and principals, class placement is not easy. At the end of the school year, they sometimes have awful decisions to make about class assignments. It makes it easier to tell themselves it’s just a class assignment, it’s not the end of the world, the first day of school, they’ll forget all about it. But that’s not always true.

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