Down on the Farm: Teaching School

Amish schoolhouse

John taught at a two-room Amish parochial school in the early 2000s. PHOTO BY JOHN STOLL

By John Stoll

By the time you’re reading this, schools all over the area, including Amish parochial schools, will be gearing up for another term. And as always, there is a part of me that longs to return to my childhood dream of being a teacher.
I recognize that I have been a blessed man since not everyone is given the opportunity to live their dream. I have. And I did. For five enjoyable years in the early 2000s I taught at a two-room Amish parochial school. Today, I see it not as a dream that has passed but as a dream I was able to live.
The following is an excerpt about my decision to leave my dream from the book I’m writing called Stormy Waters: Why He Left, a memoir to be given to my nieces and nephews when I die.
All in all, that last term was a success. Now that the stormy waters of that season of life have calmed, he looks back at that term with bittersweet memories. It was a good year. But he should have tried harder to swallow his issues until the summer. His school, and most of all his students, deserved that.
He tossed. He turned. Big decisions had to be made. Life and career changing decisions he knew.
And so it was one late winter day after school his co-teacher told him she had been offered a job at a new school being built close to her home. She was seriously considering taking it. At this point he told her that he had already almost certainly decided he would not return the next term. And definitely, if she left, so would he. Not much more was said at that time. It was a sad day. He could not divulge his real reason for resigning and she would not ask. The question was in her eyes, but it was a line his professional co-teacher would not cross. He appreciated that tremendously.
A few days passed. At last she told him that she was not going to return to this school, but would take the job close to home instead. He was the first to know. And he understood. He would have done the same thing in her situation. And so, just like that, his decision was made. Standing in his classroom in the aisle of seats closest to the south wall, he decided to leave. She encouraged him to reconsider. He appreciated her efforts and concern but he couldn’t stay. It wouldn’t be fair.
And so that night he dawdled with his work till she had left and all was quiet. The ticking of the clock rang loud, just like it did when all his students’ heads were bowed studiously over their lessons. He let his eyes roam over each individual seat and imagined each of his dear, precious students sitting there. A dictionary lay haphazardly on the shelf, but for once he didn’t get up to straighten it. Tiny dust particles danced in the sunlight. Yes, he was living a dream, HIS dream, and he would miss it tremendously. In fact, he already did! This had been his safe place for three years. His home. A place he felt comfortable and more alive than anywhere else.
He knew, however, that the day he traded his horse for a Ford that he would be dismissed. It was the way of his people. It was bitter for him to swallow but he knew without question that it would happen. Right or wrong, it was what it was. He didn’t want his career to end like that. So, today, he had made the decision to walk away. There in the quiet of his kingdom he lowered his head and cried.

While not employed on the family farm, John does enjoy helping out his brothers during planting and harvest seasons. He is very appreciative of his heritage and is thankful he was given the opportunity to be raised a “farm boy.”
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