Please welcome guest author Jeanne Rountree of Gainesville, GA. Rountree is the author of the Teach. Love. Inspire. blog. She is an English teacher and teacher leader at Chestatee Academy. Between planning, grading, and meeting, she enjoys reading Southern Lit, watching documentaries, fishing in local lakes and rivers, practicing her photography skills, and spending time with her family.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs
Rays of sunshine filter through the tree casting dark shadows on the ground. The contrast isn’t intentional, but it is striking. I think of the shadows as the hard times–parents trying to make ends meet, children up early to work in the field, flour sack dresses and bare feet–and the sunlight as the more joyful ones–the front porch full of family, simple Christmas cheer, laughter of cousins running in dusty circles.
Originally built in the mid 1800s, the house was little more than two rooms. Later additions would bring a front porch, a living room, and an additional bedroom. Nearly a hundred years later, a screen porch would supply an indoor bathroom and storage for a real washer and dryer. Television arrived in the 1960s, just in time for the American daytime soap opera broadcast of Days of Our Lives.
This house settled into the foothills of Southern Appalachia is where I come from.
Allow me to connect the dots . . .
As I begin this blogging journey, I think it is important to reflect on this. My parents’ lives and my life allowed me to travel far from these hills, from the struggle to survive and the life of the mountain folk. In fact, other than visits on weekends, I had very little exposure to this life in the Appalachians.
But still, it never leaves me.
When I look at this house, at the mountains, at the patchwork of trees, and the river that runs through them there is an emotion that overtakes me. Every time, there is a feeling that runs deep in my soul, deeper than the blood of the Scottish and Irish from which I descend, something that even I can’t put in to words. Spiritual? Supernatural? I am not sure. I am simply aware that something about this place is an important piece of me. It is a driving force of my imagination. It is an integral piece of my puzzle. It lives in me. It inspires me.
And that is the focus of this blog–Teach. Love. Inspire.
Now to return to the topic of teaching. In an attempt to overcome teenage apathy and general lack of motivation, I will, at times, find myself on the dreaded soapbox. Here, I encourage the thirteen and fourteen-year-olds in my room to set goals. I remind them that aspiring for something different or more doesn’t mean they don’t love or respect what they have, but hard work and big dreams might allow them to be more successful or have new and different experiences. Their faces will often go lax, and their eyes will start to dull if I talk too long.
But then, I will find them and myself getting a bit emotional, when I tell them where I am from. They understand me when I say I am two generations removed from illiteracy. Though he was intelligent and a shrewd businessman, my grandfather never learned to read or write. They relate when I tell them my parents moved to another place so they, and later, my sister and I would have more opportunities.
They feel my pain when I tell them I saw parents’ hands crack open and bleed from hard, physical labor. They believe me when I say that I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed of my life or where I am from. In fact, I am very thankful for my parents and so proud of the life they provided for me. Even so, I simply wanted more. I wanted a college degree. I wanted a career. I wanted what that life would afford me.
I am fortunate to have accomplished these goals. Even more so, I am fortunate to have people who believed in me and encouraged me. However, there are still goals to be met. I certainly hope I am not finished learning and growing yet. How disappointing would that be? But as I continue on this journey, I never forget that no matter where I go that this place is where I am from. It lives in me. It inspires me. And sometimes, if things go just right, it inspires the thirteen and fourteen-year-olds in my classroom, and I like that.