committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SCHOOL DAYS.

        When I was nearly fourteen years old, an Episcopal minister, who was at the head of a ladies' seminary, about fifty miles from my home, made us a visit. Father was a member of that church. I recited the catechism and some hymns to this preacher, and he urged father to send me to his school. Money was very scare, but he would give me the privilege of working for part of my board. This was good news for me. Mother arranged my wardrobe as best she could and soon I was seated in Mr. Killikelley's school, amid a class of fashionably dressed young ladies. From their looks I thought my coming was an intrusion. Some of these girls knew how to sneer very slyly at the awkward dress and manners of a country girl. Perhaps I was over-sensitive, but I know it was not all in my imagination. The teachers did not allow it and in the general lectures such rudeness was severely rebuked. I said it was a fashionable school. There were only a few girls there, if any, who were doing work which might be called drudgery except myself. My dress was neat and comfortable, but not in style. I did not ever wear a corset. I am ashamed to think now that I cared so much for the criticism of those thoughtless girls, but I must tell it, if only to let the reader know I have great sympathy for country girls who haven't learned all the foolish fancies of the city. It seemed to me that this trouble would kill me. I was too timid to tell the teacher and too anxious to get an education to write home. But God, who has always cared for me so tenderly, raised me up a friend. After I had been there about two weeks, some one knocked at the door of my little room. I was in tears, but I dried them as best I could, and opened the door. It was the teacher that heard most my classes. I was trying hard to keep back my tears. The teacher drew a chair beside me and put her arms around me, saying, very kindly, "I know the cause of these tears; you have been a brave little girl and I love you." Then I cried harder than ever. She held me close to her heart as tenderly as any mother could have done, and kissed my wet cheeks whispering, "Do not feel ashamed of these tears; they are not wrong. The girls that tease you do not understand you. Some day you will have a better education than they have. God has given you a beautiful form and a sound mind. Be strong and make use of what God has given you." These are a few of the words by which she comforted me. I do not think I said anything in reply, but my hungry heart fed upon her love and caresses, as a child does on its mother's milk. Dear, blessed teacher. She never could know how much comfort and help she was to that sensitive child, and yet I was not as happy as I should have been. I often said, "I wish I knew as much as these other girls and could dress as well as they do," and a great many other foolish wishes. And yet I went on with my studies. The teachers were kind. I am glad I had this experience, because it taught me the teacher's power to help and it gave me sympathy ever since for poor, awkward, ignorant country boys and girls and for city children who have never had a chance.

        The spring before I was fifteen years of age Mr. Rockey, one of our neighbors, who had a large family of children, called at our home. Mother and I were busy ironing in the next room. When I heard him say, "I want Joanna to teach our school this summer," father said, "She has not sufficient education, nor would she be able to control the school." Our neighbor replied, "She can teach all that can come in the summer and we will see that our children obey. I've been around among the neighbors and they were all agreed." This was to be a private school so I did not need to be examined. Mr. Rockey came in to tell mother and me of his plans and have me write my name, to show how well I could write. "Do you really think, Mr. Rockey, that I can teach school?" I asked with great earnestness. "Oh, yes," he said, "the children are all delighted, and you must be ready to begin school on Monday." When he was gone I danced for joy, saying, "I'm a teacher, I'm a teacher, I'm a school ma'rm." I was fairly wild with delight. I did not know then the great responsibility connected with being a teacher, nor the sad effects of poor teaching, or I would not have been so eager to begin, poorly fitted as I was for my task. During my experience as a teacher, I often remembered the good teacher that comforted me, and I longed to know how to study my pupils, so that I could see what they needed without being told; know where to wisely encourage and just as wisely rebuke, at the right time; know as that teacher did. Oh, how far reaching has been her influence. I was very proud of that first school. I seemed to walk on air, my feet scarcely touched the ground. The school was considered a success. I taught again the next summer, but it was only because my patrons did not know what it took to make a good teacher.

 
 
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