Twelve mighty oaks

A golden ocean of wheat rolled gently toward an unseen shoreline. A mountain range off in the distance jutted majestically toward the sky. Twelve giant oak trees, standing like ancient sentinels, were at different intervals across the fields.

Beneath the first oak, her yellow hair dancing in the breeze, a group of tots repeated nursery rhymes as she led the class. She taught them how to brush their teeth. They held hands everywhere they went. Their quilts in place, a noontime nap was precluded with a Bible story. Each told what they had learned at the end of the day. The others encouraged the few who were shy. A kiss on the cheek sent each home for the day. Someone cared.

The second oak held the same atmosphere of fun and enjoyment but tempered with a certain seriousness about learning. Two plus two equaled four, although two times two equaled four. The first in a long series of complex problems that would be encountered in mathematics. A series of acorns moved from one line to another and then to a circle. Each child was taking a turn.

She was an elderly lady. Patient and understanding, for she understood the complexity of the subject.

A quiet proper English gentleman conducted classes beneath the third oak. Proper pronunciation and penmanship were the keys to communication. No matter how smart you are, if you cannot convey your thoughts in simple terms for someone else to understand, you cannot pass on your knowledge, he would explain.

Young and debonair, he referred to their experiences beneath the third oak and his friend the English professor. Besides refreshing the math and English, he dwelt on neatness and cleanliness. Leading by example was a lesson well taught beneath the fourth oak.

Laughter was always the mood of the day around the fifth oak. Curiosity about nature kept the elderly gentleman on his toes. Yet he never stumbled, he always had the answers and the time to give them. Occasional trips from the shade of the tree to surrounding streams and creeks; they were taught how to give back to nature as well as take. Caring was the theme. Leading by example was also a lesson of the fifth.

Compassion was taught beneath the sixth tree. For those less fortunate, for slow learners, and for understanding the outside world. This teacher was nearly blind and a slight speech impediment gave her the respect and authority to teach such a subject. Her brilliant mind and tenacious appetite to give of herself impressed all of the pupils. The older students would remember the sixth tree as very special.

Slightly more sophisticated, this group was led by an athletic type individual who stressed, among the other subjects taught, the team spirit and approach. Be individualistic enough to admit you are wrong when you are. The lesson beneath the seventh tree was never to blame “they” for your own shortfalls and be strong enough to admit “I” never accomplished anything with help or guidance from someone.

The eighth tree was the beginning and ending of the process they had been accustomed to. For here, the brilliant mind of the diminutive professor allowed the children to challenge and question his teachings and others. If you complained about a problem, it was best you have a solution before complaining. Discussions beneath the eighth oak were very profound at times and even the birds and squirrels seemed to listen.

Competition was the game beneath the ninth. A spelling bee, a foot race, or a game of chance, competition was the agenda. Give of yourself in every endeavor. You were always a winner if you gave your all. Humility in victory and understanding in defeat was the lesson.

Expounding on all the lessons taught and learned each student was given the freedoms to enjoy giving to each other, examples from past teachers and text. Under the guidance of a very liberal professor, he guided yet never led. Real leaders emerged beneath the tenth and eleventh oak.

He pointed toward the mountains off in the distance. The world waits on the other side and you are prepared. When you reach the top, look back one last time and remember, then march straight ahead. A lesson from the twelfth.

His vision faded. The wheat fields and oaks were only a dream. Reality set in as the haring began. Challenging the system, he knew he would lose but he had to fight. Counsel and the board were against pay raises, against more teachers, as representative after representative marched before them only to be ignored. He figured he would become a laughing stock when his turn came if he mentioned his vision but he was committed. He was a teacher. He would tell of his vision.

The room fell silent as he repeated the vision in depth. All listened. When he was through, he felt relieved yet still nervous that he may have come across as some kook.

Stern and unforgiving was the expression on the president’s face. “You presume to tell me we should teach our children under trees in an open field. What is this affection you have for trees?” he sarcastically questioned. “You miss the point sir,” the teacher explained. “The twelve oak trees represent the teachers and thus my affection”

For the first time in a long time, the board relented and the lesson of the twelve oaks applied even to them as they looked back from the mountain.