The Thread That Runs So True

by Jesse Stuart

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Last Updated on August 2, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 390

The Thread That Runs So True was written by Jesse Stuart and published in 1958. This tale is based on the author's own account of his teaching career. When Stuart is just seventeen years old, he decides to take a year off from high school and teach in a one-room schoolhouse in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. This experience is very much a trial by fire; he encounters suspicious townsfolk who shoot at him, and is physically assaulted by students who are older than he is.

After his year of teaching in Appalachia, Stuart finishes high school and goes on to earn his college degree. Once he graduates, he accepts a job as the only teacher at a small provincial high school. Although he runs into some difficulty, he quickly gets the hang of the job and is hired on as principal of that school the very next year. He stays in this position for a year and then goes to grad school, only to lose a draft of his master's thesis in a house fire. Discouraged, it is at this point that he is offered the job of superintendent of the whole entire school district.

Many of Stuart's anecdotes seem so far fetched as to make them seem unbelievable, such as the story of Stuart hiking 17 miles to get books for his students. In any case, Stuart has to think on his feet and learn fast. Most of his parents of his students work in the tobacco industry and are quite poor. Because the students are unruly, Stuart sometimes has to resort to corporal punishment, the descriptions of which are a bit startling to the modern reader. He also had to find new ways to teach; once he begins to use visual props instead of words, he finds that it greatly helps his students learn and retain information.

Stuart is so passionate about education and so willing to do whatever it takes to get the schools in the area cleaned up, staffed and in good working condition. Unfortunately, in many cases neither the parents nor the school board are willing to help him; in fact they are often actively obstructionist. Stuart eventually retires from teaching and goes on to other fields. But he remains a teacher in an informal way throughout his life and never loses his passion for education.

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