Good Morning, Class of '64
In addition to teaching, the teacher was usually responsible for janitorial work - keeping the snow shoveled, the building clean, the stove clean and fired, and the kerosene lamps cleaned, wicks trimmed, and filled. Teachers sometimes hired older students to help with the janitorial work paying them out of their pocket.
The pot bellied stoves created problems. Building the fire an hour or so before school was necessary in cold weather. Carrying the coal and hauling the ashes were daily jobs. The stoves produced a lot of heat, but it didn’t circulate throughout the room. The students closest to it were too hot. The ones farther away were cold. The youngest students were usually seated closest to the stove.
A major problem was what the students concealed in waste paper and threw into the stove. Small bird and animal carcasses and animal droppings created some bad smells. Water saturated sandstone rocks exploded loudly.
Mason once concealed a thin, flat sandstone in waste paper and threw it into the stove. When it exploded, it blew the door open and blew hot coals out onto the floor. It even blew the stove pipe off the stove. The teachers didn’t even get hazardous duty pay!
The teaching method was pretty simple. The teacher worked with each grade each day. Most teaching was interactive with reading aloud, doing math problems and diagramming sentences on the black board, and doing science and history questions verbally. Each grade had assignments to do the rest of the day. Good teachers tried to schedule time between grades for individual instruction.
As in any classroom, good teachers made it work. The best part was the repetition. Each student heard the teacher and each class, all day, every day, for 8 years. The instruction was not as broad as we would like, but the depth was outstanding. Students from those schools didn’t know anything about quadratic equations, but they could make change without a computer. They didn’t know much about evolution, but they knew how the Constitution was created.
Both Dad and Mom had only an eighth grade education in a one room school, but both were very well educated. My sisters and brother had only an eighth grade education, and they were also very well educated.
We, as a society, made the mistake of letting educators design and run our schools. Standardized test scores dropped precipitously in America starting in the 1960’s and have never recovered. Since we were unable to get students’ performance back up, the standards were lowered to match the students. They called that “re-centering.”
It’s interesting that test scores dropped as requirements for education psychology degrees for teachers became more wide spread. Most one room school teachers had a one or two year degree from a “normal” school, a teacher’s college focusing on subject matter content not education psychology.
How good were they? Practically all of the great thinkers in American history were educated in one room schools. I cannot identify any great thinkers who were taught by teachers with education psychology degrees. By the way, my degree is in education psychology so my criticism is from the inside.
|School's Out - Samuel S. Carr|