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Two Years as an Amish Schoolteacher–A Preview of my New Book, part 2

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(An excerpt from Two Years as an Amish Schoolteacher, continued from previous post….)

The families soon began to trickle in–parents, babies, grandparents. Some came by car with a driver, many came by horse and buggy. Some of the men carried in with them the benches they used for church services. I always marvel at how many people are able to fit in one of those little Amish buggies. They used those same squeezing skills to fill the benches. If an Amish school had a fire code, we blew past the legal number of occupants in a short time.

We didn’t have any sets, costumes, or anything that would indicate a Christmas program. In fact, I had been instructed by the school board that a recent Amish trend of hanging a curtain across the front of the classroom and having the children come out one by one to say their pieces was not acceptable.  It was too theatrical, attention-seeking, and too much like the English way of doing things, they said. (It’s easy for us to snicker over the concern for a simple curtain. But it’s those little touches that compound and turn a simple Christmas program into an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza with costumes, rehearsals, and sets that exhaust children, teachers, and parents alike.) So the children stood in the front of the classroom and took turns stepping out of the choir arrangement in between the songs to recite their poems.

It’s difficult to describe, but Amish sing with an Appalachian-like lilt, unlike any singing I’ve heard before or since. Amish schools are judged in part by the quality of their singing. Loud singing is good singing, and the more booming, the better. The bonus of singing on key is just a happy bit of luck.

me and some of my scholars

After the program, the nervous tension of the morning completely dissipated. The children exchanged their gifts with each other and I passed around my gifts to all the children. None of the gifts were expensive or elaborate–coloring books, small games, puzzles, marker sets, flashlights, etc.–but that didn’t lessen the excitement. Some of the parents brought treats, like popcorn balls or candy canes to share with both the school-aged and preschool children. All of the families presented me with small gifts, such as a glass candy dish, a handmade doily, or some homemade candy. The parents had also taken a collection for one larger gift for me. One year I received a table with four chairs, and the next year a chiming wall clock, which still gives me a reminder of my Amish school days every fifteen minutes.

My Amish school days were good ones. In the excess that makes up much of modern life, the simplicity of an Amish school Christmas was a refreshing reminder to me that more activities and stuff doesn’t mean increased happiness.

My new book is now available! For the next several days, you can get it for the introductory price of $2.99. I hope you enjoy it!

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4 Comments

  1. matty says:

    I am so excited to read your memoir! It has such an interesting beginning! I am intrigued by the sense of community and support for the schools in each area. Where I live, the Mennonites and Amish school together and have semi-annual fundraisers for the school. Such. Good. Food. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Amalia says:

      I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

      Oh, yes, to the food! So good and there’s always SO much of it!

  2. Sharyn says:

    I purchased and read you book over Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it. As a teacher at a small rural school in Australia I teach multiage classes of around 30 students. I know how hard that can be with all the modern day conveniences I have to hand.
    I have always been fascinated by the Amish people and when we went to USA 3 years ago we especially travelled to an Amish area in Pennsylvania to experience the life for ourselves. We really enjoyed our time there.
    Once again thankyou for a wonderful insight into your time as a teacher there?

    1. Amalia says:

      Thank you, Sharyn! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and that it added a little to what you already knew about the Amish culture.
      Your job sounds fascinating too! I spent some time in Australia but stayed in urban areas–next time I want to explore the rural areas! 🙂

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