Caught in the Act: When Imitation Doesn’t Work




Attending a one-room schoolhouse is something most people have only read about, but for me it was a reality for the first and second grade in rural Ohio. Eight grades in one large room provided an experience like no other. Of course there were only a few students for each grade and as I think about it, those moms today who home school their children probably have a greater feel for the experience than most anyone else. Even so, to have 25 students in one room at different grade levels taught by one teacher meant you needed an extraordinary teacher. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Queen and the name fit her as perfectly as the smile she always wore. I couldn’t wait to see her each day.


The room was arranged with desks in rows and sections according to grade level. A large coal stove stood to one side and was used to heat the room in the winter. Behind the stove were a row of hooks for coats and jackets. Bathrooms were the more primitive outdoor variety. The playground had one set of swings and an abundance of grass. Somehow it all worked and in the late spring, Mrs. Queen sometimes walked with us down the road to an open field near a creek where we could eat lunch and have room to explore.



I was one of three little girls in the first grade. Our desks were up front in the room, but the front wall’s black chalkboard gave us a glimpse of what other grades were assigned and we could also hear and benefit from the instruction students above us received. The disadvantage for me was my seeming inability to tune out the instruction for other grades and focus on my own work. It sounded more interesting than the work I was assigned. I also am and was a very auditory learner so I would zero in on all sorts of new information long before that material would be given to me. In fact, I learned a lot by listening. (I still do!)


I listened so well to the other girls in my class reading aloud that when it came to my turn, I could read the pages without stumbling over a single word. It seemed like I was the best reader in the class and I got credit for that until Mrs. Queen discovered the truth. I was not reading the words, but imitating. I pretended to read, but had instead memorized the stories in the reading book. It was almost the middle of the first grade and I was caught. My parents were told and I needed to start at the beginning of the first grade reader again. I was mortified.


There are many things I learned by imitation and this may not be a bad thing, but some things do not work that way. I can imitate the way my mother crimped a piecrust. I can imitate how I use my camera lens after I watch a You Tube video. I can imitate a British accent after watching Downton Abbey perhaps.


In the spiritual realm, however, I cannot imitate the nature of Jesus. It is either in me or it is not.


As a believer, I am called to often be and do what is not my duty, to love when it would be easier to resent, to persevere when it would be easier to walk away, to respond with grace when a comment made is less then loving.


If I only imitate, I will be found out as surely as Mrs. Queen detected I was not reading. I will also dishonor the Lord in my life when others discover I was only imitating.


His character cannot be imitated. It only happens by the infusion of His life and Spirit at work within me.

10 thoughts on “Caught in the Act: When Imitation Doesn’t Work

  1. Hi Pam! I wonder how I’d do in a one-room school? I think it’s a wonderful experience for you, and taught you a lot! Your experience of ‘memorizing’ the reading reminded me of my son. It took a while for us to realize too, but he was not reading his homework at all. He’d just grab the questions and start combing through the story for the answers. Sigh…

    As you said, imitation is no way to learn, and I love that quote about ‘either it’s in me or it’s not’. That is a powerful statement. If we know that Jesus is with us, then that’s where we need to trust. We don’t have to fake it to make it…he’s already with us.
    Happy Sunday! Hope you had time for a nap today 🙂

    1. It was a far out experience given how late it was until this one closed. My grandchildren tease me about it envisioning Little House on the Prairie reruns!! I thought afterward that some who read it might wonder if I am 100 years old!! Even so, I feel blessed to have had the experience of it beyond what I learned in what I shared here.

      Yes, I did have time for a nap today!! Hope you did too!


  2. This was such a unique experience to read. It served as a lesson many times over that proved to be priceless. I am so glad you shared it with us all. It is so true that transformed character only comes from authentic relationship with the Lord. Blessings!

    1. It was a unique experience to have. It was the last one-room schoolhouse in the county to go. It was at the edge of the next county in a rural area. I must confess I was excited to go to the beautiful new elementary school for third grade, but cherish the rare experience of that one-room school. My grandchildren laugh about it and can’t believe I had that experience they watch on Little House of the Prairie reruns! Thanks for stopping by Joanne!

  3. What a priceless experience! You look way too young. Your schoolhouse must have been a real holdout! I love the way you explained this, how real change, faith, and action must come from the inside. It’s always about the heart, isn’t it! Happy Easter!

    1. It was!! It was the last one room schoolhouse out in the country in our county and it handled things until a great new elementary school was built. I have been married 52 years and am 73. (The pic is a couple of years old.) Easter Blessings for you as well, Donna!! Thanks for your gracious comments!

  4. I was just reading that passage yesterday that says we must walk in step with the Spirit. That comes from inside our hearts, not external imitation, as you so eloquently said!! I love hearing about the one room schoolhouse. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Kathy!! It was a unique experience. It was the last one room schoolhouse in the county and at the end of my second grade year a new elementary school had been built and it closed. It was a neat gift the Lord allowed me to have as I looked backward into what so many before me had known in our country.

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