From the Mother Jones interview:
The range of individuality [in] children is infinite, but every class of children seemed to have the same groups. And there was a chief girl and a chief boy—a girl that all the other girls of that age looked up to and imitated and a boy that all the boys looked up to and imitated. I realized that if I got them on my side and exclusively taught them for a couple of weeks, maybe for the first full term, then I wouldn't have any trouble. Teachers often make the mistake of thinking they’re the boss of the class; they’re not. The boss of the class is sitting down there somewhere.Pullman taught school at the beginning of his career. He seems to have taken a practical approach.