A Presentation of the Talents of Members of United Amateur Press, shared with BAPA. This issue features Edith G. Oldham, Martha E. Shivvers, and is financed by Doris A. Hall, Edith G. Oldham, Gwen Seiber, Martha Shivvers and Ernie Thompson, and Edited by Willametta Keffer, Roanoke, VA 24014 USA
The River Runs This Way
by Martha E. Shivvers
Knoxville, Iowa 50138
It was the County Superintendent of Schools who was speaking, “I would rather you didn’t accept that school this year to teach. It has been our problem country school with the most pupils… And you are SO young….”
That did it! It made me more determined than ever to prove my abilities! Hadn’t I just finished a summer’s course on a college campus to prepare me for those responsibilities? Why, I could and would prove to any doubters that just because the past teacher had thrown up her hands in futility and tears that I wasn’t going to be intimidated! And my mother, who was a school teacher in her youth, would guide me.
The bright September sun was nudged by crisp breezes as I opened the front door that Saturday carrying a basket of books, colored chalk, pencils, colored construction paper, stars, glue, paper, pen and ink, scissors, and a big bunch of sumac that had been gathered along the roadway, and brown cattails from my parents’ pond; the scarlet and brown would look cheery in the hand-painted quart peach can that I’d painstakingly prepared.
Clean smells permeated the room as the door was opened; floors shining from the sweeping compound, slate boards from diligent washings, and fresh chalk along the trough below the blackboards; sparkling windows besides the kerosene lamps in their shining brass-like wall holders told of the many hours labored by some of the school board members to prepare the building in readiness for the new school year. They had, also, polished the big black pot-bellied heating stove that occupied most of the right rear corner of the room, as well as the pipes that led to the chimney. A clean coal bucket and small shovel, tongs (to remove klinkers from the stove, large residue from the impurities of some coal) lay on the metal protector under the stove.
I needed to get acquainted with the surroundings of the forthcoming work-home for the next nine months so I’d come this Saturday to prepare, finding that someone before me had been thoughtful enough to clean the shelves in the vestibule ready for lunch pails as well as the water bucket and dippers; straightened the hooks that would hold winter wraps, and kept the American Flag clean and neat in brown wrapping paper, ready to be flown from the outside flagpole on all clear days. (In those days the revered flag was taken down in rainy or snowy weather and always at sundown.)
Looking around in other areas I found the geographical maps resting against the last slate board against the wall, and a vintage victrola and a few records on top of the make-shift library that held all of twelve out-of-date encyclopedias. The records revealed marching tunes that would provide music to exercise by when the stormy weather prevented out-of-doors activities; that, and for background rhythm for penmanship classes.
With bright-colored chalk a neat box was drawn on the center slate board and a memory verse was written inside using a corresponding colored chalk. Below this was written in large letters:
YOUR TEACHER IS MISS SHERWOOD.
The teacher’s desk, on a slightly raised dais, was put to order with my books of reference and story books, oh, yes, and the Bible. The sumac and cattail bouquet settled down in the corner next to the pen & ink, and the books. The other necessities were tucked away in the drawers of the desk. The all-important grade book and roll-call book took its place in the middle of the top drawer, last year’s brought out to study. Twenty-two students had been in attendance and from the report of the president of the school board, this year would find twenty-four, with grades ranging from kindergarten through the eighth year. It was expected that every subject was to be recited upon each day, with ten minutes allotted for each class.
The schedule was all planned; everything was in readiness; the challenge was ready to be accepted and with thought in mind of the noted achiever, “The river runs this way.” Maybe students would be difficult, but, I was going to show them which way “this river was running.”
Monday morning was bleak with early fall mist; I was at the school by 7:30 re-arranging things again and a little less sure of myself than on Saturday.
Students began tramping onto the yard a little after eight, edging into the room, some bewildered some arrogant, some quite cheerful that school was again in session. Two kindergartener’s mothers came, stifling half-sobs seeing their first born entering a new phase of life. Students were assigned to their seats, by grades. When the fifteen-year-old seventh grader, towering over me, slouched arrogantly to his assigned desk, I thought of the words of the Superintendent, “You are so young, and there are many problems at this school.”
Squaring my shoulders, I thought, “I’ll show them. Even if I am only eighteen and smaller than some of the older boys, I’ll show them I can teach; they’ll not regret the forty-five dollars a month they will be paying me, either.”
So began my first year in the teaching force, which lasted only three years. Oh, not because I did not like it, but because a handsome young fellow had made a proposition to be his wedded help-mate… a union that has lasted these fifty-three years, and four children of our own to teach.
by Edith G. Oldham
Louisville, KY 40204
When in the seventh grade, I said I was going to be a teacher, the class laughed. But I pursued this goal, feeling that God had called me to be a missionary teacher in Africa. Altho health problems prevented, I did teach elementary school for 30 years in an inner-city area, doing weekend and summer mission work in both city and mountain locations.
One child told me, in confidence, that he wanted to kill himself. Another needed food and clothing. Another was abused, unable to adjust to the group. Some lost parents and siblings through death. Many had no fathers. I visited in the homes.
Each day, as I rode the bus to school, I prayed God would use me and show His great love through me.
Sometimes I had to call my doctor at night and tell him I could never go back to the classroom.
He said, “Go back tomorrow.”
Problems multiplied. I was struck in the face, body and limbs by unruly pupils. My desk and purse were ransacked. A radio, pen, money, books, a watch, were stolen. Parents tried, by false accusations, to have me ousted. Pupils ganged up to make things tough.
One boy shot out all the windowpanes with a B-B gun, frightening the children and endangering their lives. I broke up the fights, getting struck doing so.
Sometimes I felt God didn’t hear my cries for help. But He was there, going through it all with me. Most children were receptive and kind, studious and eager to learn. Intangible rewards were reassuring. I received affirmation from some students, parents, faculty, administration. I remained conscious of God’s power and great love. Today I enjoy looking back at the entire experience with thanksgiving.
God is with us wherever we are. He is our refuge and our strength. I can do all things through Christ.