In pioneering days, as now, there were four things essential to a good school. They were the material equipment, parents, children and teacher.
The idea was by no means general that girls needed an education, and because of the cruelty and hardship of people they thought any place was suitable for a school house. Sometimes it was an abandoned building. It might have been an old corn cob. In one case, at least, it was an old stable. Little attention was paid to heating, light or ventilation. If they don’t burn or freeze, that’s enough. They were not seated comfortably and no attention was paid to the beautification of the school room or the surrounding areas. Even a heating stove was a rare thing. It is usually a place for a fire with one side being grilled by the disciple while the other is freezing. A hole made by cutting a log on one side served as a window and when it was very cold the window was either closed completely or at best covered with greased paper. Window panes were so rare that one is mentioned as the first and only in the state to have “true stained glass windows”.
One of these, which I believe to be a model school, was held for many years in an old church house. It was a frame building much larger than average, perhaps about thirty by forty feet. I stood on poles. There was no support and the pigs who were allowed to run free often submerged under it. The noise they made provided great amusement to both boys and girls. The floor was so open that the wind could blow through. If a pencil is dropped, it will surely roll through a crack and if a boy or girl’s finger rises, it means that the individual wants to go out and crawl under the ground and get the lost pencil.
The benches were long benches only, sometimes arranged to face the fireplace or sometimes arranged in a square around the hearth. The benches were often just logs split open and pegs in the rounded side for the legs. Four was the maximum number of desks they had, one for big boys, one for little boys and the same number for girls. It was, of course, homemade. All they had was a board which was probably a square yard, made of planks, and all they needed, they thought. One box of crayons will last many years. Instead of a crayon, they sometimes used a type of clay that they called turnip. If they have a map of the United States and another of the two hemispheres, they think they are well supplied along that line.
The Bible was often the only reader in school. They used the “old blue-backed spelling” written by Noah (Noah Webster), and the advanced account was considered the most important of all.
It was a matter of pride for the boy to go into arithmetic, for his education was then complete. The teacher could not “teach” him anything more and he could drop out of school. As we say now, you graduate. There was no library in the school and there were only a few books in the community. In fact, the textbooks were not well rated.
The teacher taught them how to make quill pens and ink balls which they got from young oak trees in the forest. Put the copy for them to write. Here is one of them, “Copy’s delicate luck.” You see, he hadn’t mastered the spellbook and by no means knew everything about grammar. With that “everyone declared how much he knew,” his scholarship was clearly not going to work now. They used homemade soapstone (talc) boards and pencils. “The teacher boarded,” that is, people took turns ascending to him. They paid too much for each pupil, or “scholar,” as they called it. A little later, the ‘deestrict’ (district) school was organized by law and the teacher was paid partly from public funds and finally everything was paid in this way.
Kids loved chewing on the corners of their books and throwing spit balls. Sometimes they got wild and a “free for all” bout resulted, or sometimes it was a “fair field and no services” between a teacher and a bully from school. If the teacher flogged all was well and he was respected from then on, but if the boy emerged victorious he was a hero and the teacher left in disgrace. Boys often prided themselves on being able to take a lot of punishment and say it never hurts. One of their favorite sports was the “lap jacket”. In this the boys would have had the best keys they could get, and two would have gathered their left hands and struck each other with these keys. The one who failed at first was, of course, the loser and was laughed at by the whole crowd. The victor must then go through the same ordeal with another person who was sure to challenge his championship.
In one case a tree of ‘gum’ (sweet gum) stood a quarter of a mile from the building, and at noon several boys and girls, who had had their supper, would rush into their baskets, and hold in their hands full of food and make a ‘bee-line’ for these tree, and they stood around it like “raccoon dogs” around the “raccoon tree.” They would each pick up the wax, and put every little particle in their mouth until they got a good chew. Then he abandons his place and goes to exchange his own candle from his mouth for someone who is not so fortunate enough to reach the tree. They weren’t completely selfish. Sometimes, the big boys would collect a good “chow” and give it to the big girls, in return receiving a kind smile. Other times they would lend their wax. It was common to hear a young child pleading:
“Let me drink wax until the recess.”
“boo!” said a little fellow.
“What’s the matter now?” said the teacher.
“I swallowed my wax,” said the little man.
“It won’t hurt you,” said the teacher.
“But I borrowed it from Bill and he’ll lick me
said the little man.
So, in the school room, good discipline was not always to keep quiet, but sometimes to keep the noise down. To make sure they studied, the teacher asked them to study out loud and if it was quiet, the teacher would say, “Spell, spell!” On Friday afternoons they often had spelling matches, where they picked sides and spelled or it might be a “program,” as they called it, which consisted of “saying pieces ‘taken by heart’ from some old book. Sometimes On Friday nights they would have a spelling bee game between different schools or they might have had a debate which the seniors were very interested in. All of these things were important factors in the education of people at the time.
In earlier days a teacher was always a man and ought to be a man physically, but circumstances have changed and many ladies have been employed. Most of them had high ideals and their ‘inside tour’ served a good purpose in educating parents as well and in securing interest in the school and the interests of society in general. The memory of the pioneer teacher was a sacred memory for the children of the pioneers. They have served their generation well and done their part in working for the evolution of man as it shall be when the time is up. Waller
One-room school: similarities and differences.
This is a furnished school run by rich people
from the aforementioned community.