I couldn't help but smile as I read the story of the rural Kentucky teacher who took very seriously her job of teaching proper grammar to her pupils.
One day, a cute little first-grade boy looked up from his desk and said, "Teacher, I ain't got no pencil."
"No, no, my little darling," she corrected. "I have no pencil; you have no pencil; he has no pencil. Now, what do you say?"
Quick as a flash, the little fellow responded, "Then who in the heck has got all them danged pencils?"
I pulled that story from a book called "Small Town Tales" that Carolyn Towles of Wheatley, Kentucky, shared with me not long ago. Carolyn was a teacher when she was young, working for a while in one of Kentucky's smallest towns, Jenkins, and later in Kentucky's largest city, Louisville.
It's amazing the impact teachers have on their students. You may have heard the old saying: "Teachers plant seeds that grow in the hearts of children." The Bible says the words of a great teacher fall "as the small rain upon the tender herb, as the showers upon the grass."
Isn't that a beautiful description? I often think back to words from my first grade teacher, Mrs. Elsie York, who told every child in her classroom that they could be anything they chose to be in life. She said that to us with love and conviction in her voice. We couldn't help but believe her. Her words were a constant encouragement to me as I was growing up as a poor kid in one of the poorest regions in the country.
So, when I set my sights on being a journalist and considered some of the hurdles I'd have to get across, I recalled Mrs. York saying "you can do it." When I finished college and started working for the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group, I remembered Mrs. York's words, and I remember thinking, she really knew what she was talking about. Later, when I was working for The Associated Press, the world's largest news gathering operation, I recalled Mrs. York's words again and, again, I remember thinking, she really knew what she was talking about.
Mrs. York planted seeds in the hearts of her students that would later blossom in spectacular ways.
When I'm facing challenges even now, I can almost hear the sweet voice of Mrs. York saying, "you can do it."
She truly believed, as I do today, that there's unlimited potential within all those little children across rural America.
Or, as the little boy who needed a pencil might have said, "Ain't nothing those little rascals can't do."