The young teacher and former textile worker Hilde Tamm puts up Ernst Machner, a soldier returning from war. She encourages him to also become a teacher. Before he finishes his training, Machner already becomes the head of a village school although he does not feel ready for this job yet. Just when he reaches the point that he seems to get the problems under control, he is named the director of the tradition-rich lyceum Schulpforta. The teaching staff is strongly committed to its old traditions and Machner has still to cover several knowledge gaps. In this trial of strength, Machner more and more neglects his girlfriend. When he meets her again after several years, she has already married someone else.