In 1945, the young Ernst Machner (Horst Drinda) returns home to start a new life. Although he would like to weave for a living, his comrades persuade him to become a teacher instead. Working in small village schools constantly puts him in new locales and new challenging situations, leaving him little time for his relationship with Hilde Tamm (Lissy Tempelhof), who had kindly taken him in following the war.
At the beginning of the 1950s, he becomes the director of a very traditional Gymnasium, where “Reds” are treated with dismissal both by the predominantly bourgeois faculty as well as by Machner’s class, whose previous teacher left for the West. Machner is no professional match for his predecessor, but he continues to learn the more he teaches. Soon, he wins the attention and respect of his conservative students.