Introducing “Teacher Mahlon”

Introducing "Teacher Mahlon", 9.3 out of 10 based on 53 ratings
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Amish schoolhouses have always fascinated me. The one-room simplicity turns the gears of learning in the most elementary ways. The schools are throwbacks to the old days of blackboard basics, rigorous reading, and multiplication tables.

Mahlon Miller, 31, is an organic farmer and teacher in a one-room school-house in northern Indiana.  He is married with four daughters.  Northern Indiana’s Amish population is the third largest in the world.  And since the Supreme Court upheld the Amish parochial educational system in 1972′s landmark Yoder vs. Wisconsin case the number of “one-room” schools has soared.  In 1969 there were 20 such schools in northern Indiana, according to Mahlon.  Now there are 80.  Mahlon’s school, like most, houses first through 8th graders.

The photo that appears here is of the inside of Mahlon’s schoolhouse.  Some of you may wonder what the little blue containers are hanging from the desk.  Made of fabric, a local Amish woman stitches them.  They are used as mini trash receptacles for the students. Kind of clever.  Next week, I’ll share a video tour of Mahlon’s school.  This column, which we are calling “Teacher Mahlon” (it is what his students call him) is running on a trial basis and will appear each Friday.  After a few weeks, if you like what you are reading, we’ll try to keep it!  I’m really excited about getting to know Mahlon and to read his perspective as an Amish male.  He’ll mainly write about school, but occasionally he’ll veer into a variety of topics including home-life and organic farming.  So, without additional delay, I introduce you to Teacher Mahlon.

“TEACHER MAHLON”

By Mahlon Miller 

                     “Don’t you think Allen could get along all right without you?”

The question caught me off guard. A group of us men had moved  some church benches outside into the shade of a maple and were seated in a circle visiting. It was Sunday afternoon in late June of 2009.  Earlier that year I had quit my construction job to enter a partnership selling grass fed meats.  By late June it was becoming obvious that the partnership wouldn’t work out and I was thinking about casting around for a job again.  It was a rare June day with sunny skies and mild breezes. We had just come away from a Sunday worship service and the job market was the last thing on my mind.  “Yes,” I answered, “I’m pretty sure he could. “

“ A couple of us have got something in mind that you might be able to help us out with,” continued my neighbor Ferman.  ”Perhaps we could come down and talk about it one evening next week?”

I agreed to that and on Tuesday night, Ferman showed up with the other two school board members and asked if I would consider teaching.  I didn’t consider myself a teacher, but since I needed a job and since the opportunity practically tore the door off the hinges I decided to try it for one term. I was naïve enough to think I would stop then and go back to higher paying jobs.  Now four school terms later I’m learning that teaching school is not something you just do from 8:30 to 3 p.m. and from late August to the first of May and then walk away.  In fact, teaching school is something you never walk away from.  At other jobs you rub elbows with your coworkers. At teaching you rub souls with your students and if you can come away unscathed you haven’t been teaching.

Last Saturday I graduated my fifth graders.  Hard to believe that it has been four years now.  My first graders are now in the fifth grade and those little second graders are now sixth graders.  It has been a happy, harried, relaxing, nerve-racking, frustrating, rewarding and humbling four years. I will never be the same.

Perhaps the biggest change in me has been my writing.  I’ve always enjoyed reading, languages and communication, especially writing.  But after a couple of years of teaching grammar and composition I have changed my view slightly. I used to think writing was soothing and relaxing like horseback riding or canoeing. But I have come to realize it is not. It is more like bull-riding or whitewater rafting.  It is hard work and you do it for the challenge, the struggle, and the sweet sense of victory you feel when that last stubborn verb is in place and all of those uncooperative phrases and clauses settle down and say what you wanted them to say.  My hope in writing this column is that it will give me a weekly challenge, hone my writing skills, make me a better grammar teacher, and perhaps eventually pay a part of our grocery bill.

I wrote this poem for this year’s graduation.  Hope you all enjoy it.  I wrote it on the bulletin board. (Editor’s Note: The poem is about three students who are graduating this year…these are their first names, Fern is Edna’s middle name)

LaWayne, Lorene and Edna Fern

Four years ago I came to school, one bright September day

A nervous first year teacher then with nothing much to say

I mispronounced a lot of words and oft my cheeks would burn

Twas all forgiven promptly by Lawayne, Lorene, and Edna Fern

 

They read and wrote and figured out each lesson I assigned

And with my fumbling, bumbling ways they were extremely kind

I taught them basic grammar rules but found out I had to learn

The basic rules for living from Lawayne, Lorene and Edna Fern

 

I taught them metric measurements an area of a square

They taught me to be cheerful and the value of a prayer

I taught the lines of latitude and how the planets turn

I learned respect for others from

 Lawayne, Lorene and Edna Fern

 

In health I taught about the cells and how our bodies grow

They learned it fast and easily but I was rather slow.

Repeatedly I failed my tests. It seems I can’t discern the lessons taught so often by

Lawayne, Lorene and Edna Fern

 

With roses and diplomas now they are standing in a row.

Their shiny shoes and brand new suits and faces all a glow.

They’re at the end of school age years, the lessons all are learned .

Today I have to graduate Lawayne, Lorene and Edna Fern

 

Today they leave the classroom scene, the wider world to try.

A lump of sad sticks in my throat, a teardrop in my eye.

My mem’ries are of precious times, that never will return.

May all the world be nice to my Lawayne, Lorene, and Edna Fern.

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The Discussion

  1. lorraine stoddard says:


    Very interesting column. Looking forward to more articles from Teacher Mahlon! I like the mimi trash recepticles at each desk. Such a clever idea!

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  2. I’m also looking forward to hearing more from Teacher Mahlon and learning more about Amish schools.
    I’m curious about the pattern on the ceiling- is it for decoration, or is it maybe a map of constellations?

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    • Debbie, oops, thanks for that question. I meant to address it in the text. Those are all “smiley faces” on the ceiling, makes for a very cheerful, welcoming classroom!

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      • What a nice touch to the classroom. :) Thanks!

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  3. well, as long as it is in addition to Lovina and her family and never instead. this is when more is more..
    Thank you,Kevin and Happy Mother-to-be Day for Rachel

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  4. Loved this new column by Teacher Mahlon! The poem was wonderful and brought a tear to my eye. Looking forward to reading more from him!

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  5. Buddy Samuels says:


    what a great column. I went to college to become a schoolteacher, but I didn’t graduate. Teacher Mahlon, your students will long remember you and always love you and hold you in great esteem. Looking forward to reading next Friday’s column.

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  6. Looking forward to more columns from teacher Mahlon!

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  7. Found this a very nice addition! I love the way you are incorporating Rosanna, and Mr. Mahlon into our lives. I hope Lovina doesn’t get passed over! It is refreshing though, to hear of the variety of plain living… thanks Kevin!

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    • Thanks, Rhonda…and absolutely not, Lovina’s column is meant to be enriched and complemented by a variety of Plain voices…I want you to like all three equally!

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  8. Like this!

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  9. Great job, Mahlon (and Kevin). Your writing is really engaging. Enjoyed your article very much. I am a writer/editor and you’ve described the rewards and struggles of writing quite nicely. Look forward to reading more from you. Great job.

    Are there many male schoolteachers in the Amish community? I think you’re the first I’ve heard about.

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    • Shari, thanks for checking in, I hope you enjoy the columns in the weeks ahead. Yes, male school-teachers are quite common in Amish schools…seems maybe counter-intuitive, but it’s not at all unusual – Kevin

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  10. Cindy D says:


    Like this. Looking forward to more!

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  11. I enjoyed this. It is good to have different walks of life.
    Keep up the good work, Kevin

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  12. I too am looking forward to more articles by teacher Mahlon. Thanks for clarifying the ceiling decor too…

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  13. Ron Thomas says:


    Looks good.

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  14. Carolyn Kirk says:


    Really enjoyed reading this article from Teacher Mahlon. Looking forward to many more!

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  15. Linda from KY says:


    I thoroughly enjoyed Mahlon’s first column. His writing style is delightful, and he made me laugh. His poem brought tears to my eyes. I hope we hear from him every Friday from now on.

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  16. Kathy Lorenzini says:


    I loved this column and am looking forward to reading more!

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  17. Kevin, what a nice addition, I read the amish column every week in our Somerset Daily American here in Somerset PA. And I just love the emails.. Only one thing though… Its highly addicting. Not only the column but the food too. I’ve made several of the recipes posted and YUMMY! Oh only one thing though, it doesnt help my hips nor my waist line HA HA :)
    Please wish Rachel a wonderful pregnancy. And a early mothers day! Take care across the miles!

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    • Sue, thank you so much for the kind words! I’ve always enjoyed my stops in Somerset over the years, it’s a beautiful area. And, yes, four more months to prepare for this little one!:) -Kevin

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  18. Dennis Agin says:


    Enjoyed Teacher Mahlon column, hope he joins Rosanna & Lovina with a weekly column. Have followed Lovina & her Mother for many years, you are doing a great job Kevin, keep up the good work. You and your wife will make GREAT parents.

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  19. Enjoyed this column very much and look forward to more. As a public school teacher, I love to learn about other types of schools — would love to have the opportunity to visit an Amish school.

    I loved what Teacher Mahlon had to say here: “At other jobs you rub elbows with your coworkers. At teaching you rub souls with your students and if you can come away unscathed you haven’t been teaching.” He sounds like a teacher at heart!

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  20. Brenda Rife says:


    I am looking forward to weekly ‘visits’ from the teacher and students.

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  21. Mary Neal says:


    Perfect comment: “Teaching school is something you never walk away from. At other jobs you rub elbows with your coworkers. At teaching you rub souls with your students and if you can come away unscathed you haven’t been teaching.” This is exactly how it is! Great column, I look forward to many more.

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  22. Kentuckylady717 says:


    Enjoyed reading about Teacher Mahlon, he’s very interesting…would like to see a close up of the Mini Trash Receptacles tho :) very good idea…..
    Hope you keep his article coming Kevin :)

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  23. As a retired public school teacher, Malcom has won my heart.
    From the desks (the same as I had for years) to the emotions implied, I was ‘with him’ all the way.
    It has been interesting for me to keep in contact with former students via Facebook, They will always be my kids.

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  24. Sorry about Mahon’s misspelled name. I could not figure out how to edit my comments after posting.,

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  25. Dear Kevin, You have added another great column to The Amish Cook! Very enjoyable reading Mahlon! I look forward to checking your site often Kevin. I am not sure how I missed the news that you and Rachel are expecting a baby – CONGRATULATIONS!!! I will be a first-time Grandma December 9, we are very excited!! A newborn baby is a true miracle from God. My best to you and your wife as u become parents – it will be a wonderful time of your lives! Colleen Rohrer

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  26. Mary Kay O'Neill says:


    I love this new addition. Until now I had thought that all teachers in Amish schools were women. How nice to have a man teaching the children. I’m sure his students love Teacher Mahlon. I hope he continues to teach at his school and also that he continues to write poetry.

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