Posted by: Erica | November 4, 2009

Notes on “A Jesse Stuart Reader”

I finally have computer access at work!  Thank goodness.  I finished another book today, an anthology of Jesse Stuart prose, and was destined to spend another long afternoon staring at the gray, foam-board walls of my cubicle.  But, luckily, those days are now behind me.  As you can infer, my work, or lack there of, is not as engaging as it could be.  And, the combination of supressed ambition and wise words from Mr. Stuart has yielded another stirring of emotion.  Here are a couple of passages from “A Jesse Stuart Reader” that stood out to me today:

     “It was the time that bothered me, and it bothered others.  There was that eternal tension of keeping up with time.        It was harder than the work.  It geared one up until he lost his slow stride.  I lost a part of the way I had lived on the farm.  I watched people walking in cities.  First it was very strange to watch everybody walking in a hurry, and I laughed.  Even the city dogs, I thought, walked sidewise to keep from flying.” 

To me, this sentiment applies to, not only city life, but the current society we live in that is so career driven.  This summer, when I had the chance to focus on family and self, my life did slow down.  And I got a chance to see what life I had been missing by being caught up in the pace and demands of full-time work.  I wouldn’t trade anything for the two weeks I spent in Kentucky and the opportunities to have my coffee on my father’s back porch.  I grieve for the way of life our grandparents experienced, where at least one person was at home to balance out the shortage of time. 

     “I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to teach, write, conserve land, and work with American youth.  I believe that educators, with their way-over-the-head theories, were missing the point.  We must start from the practical bottom and work up, instead of starting at the theoretical top, and, perhapts, tumbling down.  It didn’t take a deep thinker and a smart man to observe what I had.  I wasn’t either of these.  I was a country schoolteacher with a little experience and a dream.”

Jesse Stuart was a forward-thinking advocate of education reform.  By suggesting that teaching methods be adapted to meet students where they were at, he literally turned educational philosophy on it’s head.  But, what hits home with me about this passage is how specificallly it articulates my own ambitions.  Like him, I want to strive toward the goals of being a teacher, working a piece of my own land, expressing myself through written words, and dedicating myself to the shaping of and caring for our next generations.  It is easy to be inspired into a teaching career by ready Jesse Stuart books, but this is not the case for me.  Instead, I feel embarrassed and admonished that I haven’t started my life’s work.  Being a teacher is not something I should aspire to, it is what I was made to do.  The gifts it takes to be effective in this role I have been blessed with all of my life.  Why haven’t I made better use of them?  Money and the keeping up with time.  In  23 months my position as a scientist will end.  I am determined to make an exodus from this career and head towards a more meaningful existance.

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