Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 332
Jesse Stuart was a poet who also worked as a teacher, principal, or school district supervisor for many years. More than a job, teaching was to him a calling. The Thread…, first published in 1949, recounts his early teaching years and conveys both his frustrations and optimism. Working under very difficult conditions in rural Kentucky, Stuart was challenged to be creative and to understand how his students’ larger life situations affected their learning. His approach was both idealistic and pragmatic.
Stuart expressed his belief in the potential of students and the need to consider each of them as an individual. Using the metaphor of trees in a forest, he contrasted crowding with open spacing:
Our pupils were like young crowded trees growing up in a vast forest. They grew up very much alike. While in a forest where there were not so many trees, the growth was different. Trees grew up-with originality, because they had not been patterned. This was the way it should be with young lives. They should be given the chance when they are young, to grow up individually and originally.
Stuart also realized that successful education depends on coordinated efforts and deep dedication from students, their families, and the whole community, as well as the teachers’ actions. He told community members:
I used to think when I first started teaching school that it was all up to the teachers and the pupils. I have changed my mind. The little island of humanity that is each one of you must unite with other islands and become a mainland if we are to have a successful school.
Ultimately, Stuart became firmly convinced that teaching was the noblest profession.
I told [the teachers]…to walk proudly, with their heads held high, and to thank God they had chosen the teaching profession—the mother of all professions; that they were members working in the front line of American democracy. that they were the ground roots and not the brace roots of American democracy.
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