As we wrap up Teacher Appreciation Month, let’s take a look at an autobiography of a teacher in the mountain regions of Kentucky, set in the early 1920’s. This autobiography tells an inspirational tale about an academic competition between a large city high school and a one-room school from an unknown hollow. The teacher in the story, Jesse Stuart, enters six of the best students from his small, one-room school, so isolated in the mountains, even from roads, that they had to take mules to the competition. No one expects anything from these “backward” mountain kids. They are going against all the biggest and brightest students, from a huge school, with the best curriculum, multiple teachers, and wonderful educational opportunities. It is evident, as the competition progresses, that knowledge, education, and talent, can be universally distributed. They gain the respect and admiration, as well as the awe, of everyone there when they win the academic competition and the right to move on to the districts.
The Thread That Runs So True
“When we left the Landsburgh High School we heard defeated pupils…’a little mud-hole in the road…beat us.’ In a few minutes, our mule cavalcade passed the Landsburgh High School. Faces were against the windowpanes and many pupils waved jubilantly to us as we rode by, our coattails riding the wind behind our saddles, and the ends of our scarfs bright banners on the wind. We rode victoriously down the main street of Lansburgh on our way home. The news of our victory reached the entire county. Everybody was proud of us because we were the smallest of the rural high schools and the only one that had ever thought to challenge the scholastic standing of the large Landsburgh High School.” (Excerpt is taken from the book: “The Thread That Runs So True” by Jesse Stuart).
We are Teachers!
Even though they left the same way they came, they changed the hearts and minds of an entire county. It is the ultimate “feel good” story about teaching. If it were made into a movie, it would be, to teaching, what “Hoosiers” was to basketball. It is the David-beating-Goliath story. A true triumph over less is more. It makes us wonder why that makes us feel good or inspires us. Maybe it is the sense that starting as the underdog is not where you will end. Maybe it is saying; that in the end, your economic, social, and financial status has nothing to do with your intellectual and academic outcome. It makes someone ponder if all teaching is based on searching for the “David” in all our students and helping them to defeat their “Goliath”, which may be poverty, poor health, poor schools, or lack of economic status. Their “Goliath” may be a learning disability, a language barrier, or physical disability. It may be a hindrance because of a gender prejudice or a racial barrier, or another educational inequality. Whatever barrier they are facing, we, as teachers, want to show them their potential, their inner strength, and their true potential, in spite of the odds. Our true inspiration and purpose, as teachers, is in making another soar, especially when someone expects that they can’t. Finding the hidden gifts or potential in all our students gives us the passion and the purpose of our jobs.
“No other profession in America has directly or indirectly affected the lives of so many people as has the teaching profession.” –Jesse Stuart, “The Thread That Runs So True”
Excerpts are taken from the book: “The Thread That Runs So True” by Jesse Stuart, 1949, Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, NY 10022.
Written by By: L. S. Hodgson
Loraine is a tutor at the Plymouth Brainspring Learning Center.
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