Read the first part of this two-part series here.
It was 9:35 on my first day as a teacher in a one-room Amish school and the detailed lesson plan that I’d been promised I’d find in my desk wasn’t there. For what seemed the longest moment of my life, I stood by my desk and stared at 25 pairs of curious eyes. My knees felt weak. What had I been thinking? How could I teach eight grades when I’d never taught one for a single day?
And then, in the sea of identical white prayer kapps, a rosy-cheeked 15-year-old with bright blue eyes smiled. I smiled back. Immediately, the girl rose and began handing out McGuffey’s Readers to the four lower grades. The older students took out reading workbooks and texts. There was no confusion, no talking, and as I was to learn, no discipline problems in the classroom. Ever. The girl returned to her seat and middle-school aged girls came forward to assist me with the first and second graders. They held up flash cards and translated my English for the youngest ones.
That set the tone for the day. Geography and science, I taught to the entire school, with various levels of work for different grades. I had pull-down maps and illustrations, but no video aids, of course. Our science lesson, a student informed me, was to be about honeybees, and one boy whose family kept bees had brought a honeycomb for everyone to see. He shyly answered questions about beekeeping and explained how the bees pollinated the flowers and crops.
Before I knew it, it was lunchtime and recess. Although it was bitterly cold, everyone bundled up after they’d finished eating. Older students helped young ones into boots and mittens, and soon they were all outside swinging, running, wrestling, building snowmen, and playing skip rope in the snow. Inside, the kids had been so orderly and quiet. Outside they were loud and rambunctious! No child stood alone; boys and girls mingled freely, and an older brother or sister was always there to pick up a younger who’d taken a tumble. And when I rang the bell, they all immediately stopped what they were doing and filed quietly into the schoolhouse. On their way inside, each of the boys carried in a piece of wood from the shed, and one of my 8th grade boys carefully added logs to the stove and stoked the fire.
I’d been dreading math, but again, the older students found their books and workbooks while two different girls came to assist me with the first and second graders, handing out supplies, wiping runny noses, and whispering encouragement. For the first time that day, I forgot to be nervous and began to teach. As I saw the eagerness kindle in each child’s eyes, I lost my heart to them. Once I felt that they had grasped a new concept, I left them under the watchful eyes of my helpers and moved to oversee the work of the older classes. The system shouldn’t have worked, but it did and before I knew it, my first day had come to an end.
Once the students were gone, I returned to my desk to prepare for the next day only to find that the missing lesson plan had appeared. I smiled. Whatever the test had been, I knew I had passed.
Emma Miller lives quietly in her old farmhouse in rural Delaware amid fertile fields and lush woodlands. Fortunate enough to be born into a family of strong faith, she grew up on a dairy farm, surrounded by loving parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Emma was educated in local schools, and once taught in an Amish schoolhouse.
When she’s not caring for her large family, reading and writing are her favorite pastimes. She’s the author of the Hannah’s Daughter’s series and The Amish Matchmaker series, which includes her latest release, A Match for Addy.
Look below to win a copy of her upcoming book, The Amish Bride, before it releases in stores!
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