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Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Ol' Rural School Days - The Teacher

At the heart of the one-room rural school was the Teacher.  This was what life was like for someone interested in the job.
Teacher training:
Michigan Normal School opens in 1853
Teachers trained at the nearest Normal School.  A Normal School was a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose was to establish teaching standards or "norms."  Most such schools are now called teachers' colleges.  The first Normal Schools were established in Massachusetts in 1839.  Here in Michigan a decade later the legislature chose what would become Eastern Michigan University to be the first Normal School west of the Allegheny Mountains. It wasn't until 1892 the second Normal School at what became Central Michigan University was created.  By this time Michigan was behind nearby states, so more were soon added, ultimately becoming Northern Michigan and Western Michigan Universities.  Promising teenagers went from being students themselves to the Normal and then became teachers in their own or a new community.   That first Normal in Ypsilanti offered a two-year "English Course" for $3 per term to students at least 14 years old wanting to teach in primary schools and a three-year "Classical Course" for $4 per term to students at least 13 years old wanting to teach at the secondary level or go on to college.
Certification and Testing:
Teachers were certified by either a county official's exam, State Board of Education exam or by city systems to teach in their schools for a limited duration. In the 1890s, numerous efforts were made to raise qualification standards by creating tougher tests. The State Board of Education raised exam standards under Superintendent Henry Pattengill's administration.

While this is from another state, by 1886 this Teachers Examination would have been comparable to such examinations nationally.
  1. Define Grammar.  How is it usually divided?
  2. Define declension and conjugation.
  3. What is tense?  Name and define the tenses.
  4. Name the classes of pronouns.  Decline a personal pronoun.
  5. Correct the following sentences and give reasons for the corrections:
             - Who did you send you for?
             - They that help us we should reward.

    6. Classify sentences according to structure and give an example of each class.
    7. Write a sentence having for its predicate the potential, present perfect, third plural       form of the verb write.
    8. What parts of speech admit of comparison?  Compare a word from each.
    9. Give five rules for the use of capital letters.
   10. Write a sentence containing an adjective clause.
And that's just the test for Grammar!  There also were courses in the Three Rs, geography, and even art and music because the ability to play an instrument or teach drawing helped students more readily get a job.
Classroom Management was not a specific course, but must have been implied.  Discipline and order were the hallmarks of 19th century education.  All children were required to write with their right hands, so many students were forced to work with their left arms tied behind their backs.  One student remembers, “Corporal punishment was very much a part of school discipline for noisy or unruly students.  Boys got licked.  If a girl was real bad, she might get whacked on the palm with a ruler.”  A hickory stick, birch rod, or switch was commonly kept available.  A dunce cap and stool was also a method that could be used.  Another form of punishment was being put in the schoolroom closet for misdeeds. The sound of a ruler could easily get a class's attention. 

Alternative Training:
Throughout much of Michigan's past virtually anyone was allowed to teach, particularly in rural schools. Normal Schools represented an important and eventually dominant trend in teacher education, but throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century substantial numbers of teachers entered the teaching profession without the benefit of a normal school education. Low teacher salaries made it economically difficult for many future teachers to expend large sums of money obtaining teacher education.

The two most common alternatives to attendance at a Normal were Teacher Institutes and "County Normals." Institutes were frequently sponsored by the Normals themselves during the summer months. Institutes offered short, intensive periods of study in which rural teachers could obtain or refine their skills. Although some Normal School faculty frowned on these "quick courses," through the 1920s they offered prospective teachers a quicker, less expensive way to begin their career.  Typically a teacher had 25 hours of training.
Branch County Normal School, 1908
County Normals were similar to Institutes but were usually organized by the county school commissioner with the assistance of the school districts in the county and the state. County Normals were organized annually during the summer. They were ad hoc creations that offered very short courses focused on practical skills. County Normals were often taught by only two "faculty members," an individual who delivered the "academic" instruction deemed necessary and a "master teacher" who offered practical advice. Because the courses were short, close to home, and often free if the student promised to teach the next year in the county, many young persons who could not afford to attend even a summer Institute at a Normal School gained entry into the teaching profession through the County Normal. County Normal graduates were authorized to teach only in the county which had sponsored the normal, however in at least some instances counties recognized each others Normal School as acceptable training and allowed graduates from one county to teach in another.
Teacher pay:
In rural districts the pay was always low and the school teacher was often a young, unmarried woman, frequently still in her teens. Although some women made teaching their career, a substantial number of women taught for only a year or two, then married and moved on to new challenges. This pattern, as well as the relatively low pay given most one-room school teachers, led to very high turnover among teachers.  Rural school teachers received neither vacation nor sick time. After state laws mandated a specific number of school days to be taught, rural teachers made up any absences by teaching extra days at the end of the school year

By 1880, Michigan schools employed 13,949 teachers. Of these, 9,877 were women; 4,072 were men. Pay for men averaged $37.28 per month.  The average for women teachers was $25.73. Teachers often boarded in homes of residents near the schools.  They did their share of the household chores and tutored, too.  The arrangements for each situation was different and some teachers stayed where they had to pay room and board.  Schools with graded systems paid the teachers considerably more than ungraded (one-room) schools.
.Teacher standards:
Marriage was seen as a critical event that many local school boards tried to discourage until at least the end of the academic year. Many school boards required teachers to sign a contract granting the board authority to discharge a female teacher who married during the school year. Some contracts regulated the teacher's social life, required that she be at home by 8:00 p.m. unless later hours were explicitly approved by the school board and forbidding her from attending social functions other than those sponsored by the school itself or a church.
                                        Rules for the Teacher: 1872
            1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys, & trim wicks.
            2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water & a scuttle of coal for the day’s sessions.
            3. Make your pens carefully, you may whittle nibs to the individual tastes of the pupils.
            4. Men teachers may take 1 evening each week for courting purposes, or 2 evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
            5. After 10 hours in school, the teachers spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
            6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemingly conduct will be dismissed.
            7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
            8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls or gets shaved in a barber shop will have good reason to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity, & honesty.
            9. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully & without fault for 5 years will be given an increase of 25 cents per week in his pay providing the board of education approves.

Even that list takes for granted many of the teacher's duties like arriving early to get the stove warm enough to heat the classroom, sweep the floor, and, a chore often given at day's end as a reward to good students, cleaning the blackboards and erasers.

Whether in Michigan Month or not, I enjoy reenacting the old-time School Teacher. There's always something new to discover. It's truly an education!

For more on schools of the past, this post ends this series.  The previous four posts were on the various Resources about the schools of the past, the Buildings, the Curriculum, and a Typical School Day.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Good Ol' Rural School Days - A Typical Day

This series has looked at Resources for knowing more about the old one and two room schools; the Buildings themselves; and the Curriculum.  Now the school bell's ringing and  it's time to enter the school for A Typical Day.

Even before the students arrived, the teacher arrived early to heat the building and maybe plan the day.  Heat near the stove was too much, but further away would be cold and drafty.  (Is it any wonder those improvements recommended later for school buildings put the furnace in the basement to warm the entire room?)  The teacher's desk might be raised to both avoid drafts and oversee the class of students from 5 years into their teens.  Later in the day, the stove might also thaw out the students' lunches brought in a covered bucket called a lunchpail.  Ink might freeze in the inkwells, but setting them on a stove wasn't a good idea as it could explode splattering everywhere.  School families were expected to provide the wood or coal. 

Some schools separated the boys and girls right away at the door and cloakroom areas.  The cloakroom held coats, toys and other belongings, frequently including lunch pails. 

Seating varied from individual or shared wood and iron desks to benches.  Seating put the youngest students to the front, with the older children at the back and also separated boys and girls.  Recitation took place at the front.  The term "Go to the head of the class" meant the highest honor to be standing at the head of the class at the day's end as students were sent to the back of the room when they made a mistake.  Blackboards might simply be boards painted black or actual slate.  Pull-down wall maps for Geography and possibly a globe, supplemented by a portrait of George Washington and possibly Abraham Lincoln plus a flag indoors for the daily Pledge of Allegiance.

Days typically started with the class reciting the Pledge of Allegiance after it was created in 1892.  The Pledge was revised four times up through 1954 when "under God" was added.  It also was quite common then to follow the Pledge with a Bible reading and a hymn or patriotic song, then began the various reading groups and other classes.
Students were expected to help one another and often they shared books and even desks. The previous post on Curriculum mentioned what classes were taught for this wide age and grade span.  Testing might be done with recitation or quizzes using the spelling bee style to keep it interesting.  Teaching specific facts in Geography like the states, their main products, and capital cities or in History such basics as the presidents and the Revolution made recitation and contests easily judged.  To bring the week to an interesting close, after the last recess the remaining time on Fridays might be spent in spelling bees, and geography or arithmetic contests.  Reward of Merit awards might be given exemplary students for industry, punctuality, and good conduct.  The teacher might include a bit of singing, even in parts, as it worked well for the annual Christmas program.  Art was also a possibility.

It wouldn't be until the 1920s and 30s that the privies or outhouses would be replaced.  The other sanitary provision was a basin and dipper of water that usually came from a nearby pump.  While that and the cast iron stove was usually the teacher's responsibility, boys could be expected to pump the water.  Equipment inside and even outside the building might vary as the community raised money to support their school.

The flagpole outside was an easier guaranteed item. During recess there were a variety of games: Alley Over the Roof, where a ball actually would be tossed over the school between 2 teams; Red Rover; Blind Man's Buff; Crack the Whip (on the grass as well as ice); Drop the Handkerchief; and a homemade form of baseball called One-Eyed Cat where a stone wrapped with yarn from a worn-out sock made a ball and a branch or sapling was shaped into a bat.  Hoops and other toys such as dolls would also be brought from home.

Schools were community social centers, providing town meeting halls, sometimes church facilities on Sunday, and such entertainment as the annual spelling bee sending a contestant on to compete county-wide, the Christmas program, monthly fundraising box socials, and the school picnic.  Older girls would decorate a box like a shoebox from Sears and Roebuck, letting the boys they wanted to bid on it know which was theirs.  After the auction, the top bidder ate with the girl who made the box.  Inside might be hard-boiled eggs, pickles, such desserts as cookies, cake or pie, and other food items that were special and also could safely sit in the box for a while.

At first families paid for their children to attend as it wasn't covered by taxes until much later.  The families involved also chose their own school boards to hire and supervise the school.  When school began to be legally enforced, counties hired Truant Officers to prevent children "playing hooky" or families keeping their children out.  Sometimes a parent would refuse to send their children until the County Prosecutor had the parent spend a few days in jail.  The Truant Officer might also be the Probation Officer for incorrigible boys sent to Reform School.

Whether in Michigan Month or not, I enjoy reenacting the old-time School Teacher. There's always something new to discover. It's truly an education!

For more on schools of the past, the next post will end this series with a look at the School Teacher.   The previous three posts were on the various Resources about the schools of the past, the Buildings, and the Curriculum.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Ol' Rural School Days - Curriculum Requirements

The 1907 song's chorus starts out with "School days, school days, dear old Golden Rule days; Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic, taught to the tune of the hickory stick."
Curricula throughout history are always changing, but the Three Rs remain basic.  How they are taught, however, also may change.
Hornbooks and embroidered samplers introduced ABCs and 123s. Personal slates and a blackboard followed. Younger students did lessons with a slate and slate pencil. Older students still might use a slate for practice work, but they also learned to use steel nibbed pens, an ink sponge, and practice paper.  Yes, that means inkwells for dipping a girl's hair and also learning to minimize ink splotches.

The progression of the Three Rs in the 1800s into the 1900s and beyond still seems very familiar, especially mathematically.  Arithmetic traditionally progresses from knowing numbers, to addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, then on to the more advanced fractions, decimals, and percentages, ending with the mysteries of word problems.  Reading, writing, and grammar progressed beyond the alphabet with word families, and on into readers.  Just as students by the seventh grade in a rural school in 1890 did not use the same supplies as today's students, they didn't necessarily study the same subjects. Courses in 1890 included reading, spelling, penmanship (remember this was what we would call a Middle Grades student), grammar, physiology and hygiene, arithmetic (mostly with an emphasis on practical math used in business and on the farm), and geography. 
Students used textbooks, often sharing their books. Free textbooks statewide were approved by law in 1889, and 520 school districts implemented it in the first year. The McGuffey school textbook series is the best known. It was created by William Holmes McGuffey, a Pennsylvania teacher, preacher, philosopher, and university professor. It was the standard textbook series for schoolchildren from 1836 through the 1920s. The books -- a primer and 6 “eclectic readers” – emphasized the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, with lessons stressing the importance of honesty, thrift, and hard work. Next to the Bible, these books were the most important force in shaping the minds and morals of their young readers. Learning methods included repetition and memorization of verses such as the popular “Mary’s Lamb” found in the First Reader. They were not the only readers used as others were chosen, too, especially beyond the first three by McGuffey, but they certainly were a staple for a long time. Nationwide, it is estimated at least 120 million copies of McGuffey's Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960, placing its sales in a category with the Bible and Webster's Dictionary. The Wikipedia article on McGuffey Readers is fascinating and I heartily recommend reading it for even more information than this blog has room to mention.

By the 1900s the curriculum expanded greatly with civics, history, drawing, literature, language and grammar, including orthography, which is the diagramming of sentences, nature study, sewing, and agriculture.  By this time, penmanship generally was the Palmer method with endless circular spirals and straight line groupings of even height and space.  Penmanship put those inkwells, steel nibbed pens, and ink blotters or sponges to use.  The world of ballpoint pens must have seemed like science fiction!  There also may have been singing and Bible teaching every so often as enrichment. 
By the late 1870s, the State Teachers Association and State Superintendents for Public Instruction began to make recommendations outlining a uniform course of study specifying the subjects to be taught each year. The first version of this outline was presented in 1881 and defined a daily program for the schools, listed textbooks required and accessories needed by the student, teacher, and schools. The outline was modified in 1883 and a new course of study was adopted in 1890. About the only major change to the course of study for rural students between 1881 and 1890 were the additions of hygiene and physiology as mandated by law. The late 1880s also saw more civil government emphasis as part of the U. S. History courses.

Irregular attendance made it difficult, it not impossible, to follow a rigid plan of studies. Despite a state law passed in 1871 mandating compulsory attendance, enforcement was minimal at best.  The average length of the school year was 7.6 months, but this figure varied widely, especially in rural districts. Country schools often had two terms during the year. Winter term had to be at least three months for the school district to receive a share in the distribution of interest from the primary school fund. In 1883 the Michigan legislature firmly decreed that all children between eight and fourteen must attend school at least four months a year.  (The Truant Officer is mentioned later in this series.)

While the school year varied over the years and by a school's location, the school day's length seems fairly consistent.  School might start at 8:30 or 9, have a 15 minute morning and afternoon recess, an hour lunch break, and end at either 4 or 4:30.  Some schools had large bells for the teacher to ring, otherwise a handbell called the students back to class.

It's time for a "recess" now on the topic of Curriculum.  Whether in Michigan Month or not, I enjoy reenacting the old-time School Teacher. There's always something new to discover. It's truly an education!

For more on schools of the past, "recess" ends with  the next post here.   It's on A Typical Day. The previous two posts were on the various Resources about the schools of the past and the Buildings.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Ol' Rural School Days - The Buildings

Many rural one-room school buildings are easily viewed through the Resources section of this series.

Even in territorial days, Michigan in 1809 provided for school districts in its settled section.   By 1819 each township board was required to divide the township into school districts.  In the pioneer 1830s, schoolhouses commonly had dirt floors and only a few small windows with waxed paper to permit light while keeping out the weather of a spring or fall day.  Michigan's first constitution in 1835 decreed "The legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a school shall be kept up and supported in every school district at least three months in every year."  This was Michigan's first "unfunded mandate for education" as taxes were not levied to support those schools, leaving that to the local communities.

By 1913 the School Standard program spread from Illinois to at least five other Midwestern states, including Michigan.  Even "Popular Mechanics" of April 1913 on page 554 mentions that in Illinois inspections take place for: grounds, building, furnishings, heating, ventilation, library, water supply, and sanitation, as well as to the qualifications of the teachers.  The Illinois program looked for:
  • an ample playground
  • good approaches
  • convenient fuel houses
  • a sound, well-painted building in good repair
  • a jacketed stove in the corner of the room instead of an unprotected stove in the center
  • the floor and interior clean and tidy
  • suitable desks for children of all ages, properly placed
  • a good collection of maps, dictionaries, and juvenile books
  • and a sanitary water supply.
Volume 76 of the "Journal of Education" explains in more detail Illinois recognized the one-room school would remain a necessity for a long time to come, but the School Standard program was created to encourage the best possible schools.  On page 515 the Journal states
  • "two outhouses should be as far apart as the grounds will permit.  Each should be screened and vines planted to over-run the screen.
  • A library room in every rural school is another improvement considered practical and really needed.  All the plans and specifications in the circular mentioned in the footnote contain space for such a library room, where children will find interesting and wholesome stories which they can and will read, as well as books which reinforce the regular studies of the schools.  
  • The water supply presents another problem.  Since the common drinking cup has been abolished we find all sorts of curious circumventions, few of which are very sanitary.  Experience shows that individual drinking cups in the care of the students is little improvement.  A bubbling fountain seems the easiest way out.  But the salient point is of course the source of the water supply.

Because of the School Standard program, plans for one-room schoolhouses were made available from the Michigan Department of Public Instruction with windows, especially on the north side supplementing the kerosene wall lanterns.  Ceilings were 11 or 12 feet high and the size of the room was 32 feet by 24 feet.

By 1930 electricity, indoor plumbing, and furnaces had been factored into the Michigan Department Public Instruction's school standards. Work Projects Administration (WPA) funds in the 30s helped upgrade the one-room schools, adding furnaces, indoor toilets, and improved natural lighting.

Michigan's Department of History, Arts and Libraries in 2003 produced An Honor and an Ornament; Public School Buildings in Michigan, a history of school architecture.  There is brief mention there of how schools evolved from one-room schools.  The one-room school was officially known as the Primary District School, not because it taught only the primary grades -- it was ungraded --, but because it was the primary school of an area, usually rural and was "usually located on a crossroads near the center of a district."  That "usually" allows for the fact that the land was donated, often by a farmer wishing to have his own children educated close to home so they could quickly return to helping out on the farm.  I learned two-room schools were sometimes called a Ward School, but they evolved into the Union Schools of the towns.

Miscellaneous things I discovered:
  • While many schools had a cupola or bell tower, if there wasn't one, the teacher had to stand in the doorway and ring a handbell.
  • The teacher's desk might be slightly raised on a platform.  This gave both a better view of the entire class and raised the teacher above some drafts
  • Typically the boys' desks were on one side and the girls on the other, with the oldest students in the back and the youngest in the front.  Even the entrances and cloakrooms might be separate if there was enough room.

Whether in Michigan Month or not, I enjoy reenacting the old-time School Teacher. There's always something new to discover. It's truly an education! 

For more on schools of the past, the next post here is on The Curriculum.  The previous post was on the various Resources about the schools of the past.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Ol' Rural School Days - Resources

May is Michigan Month, so many classes go on field trips to old-time 1 and 2 room schools.  One of my historical reenactments is a school teacher from that era.  I want to share some of the interesting resources and things I've learned about these rural schools.  I've so much information that this will be a multi-part series.

This post lists a variety of resources letting me show how Michigan schools developed from pioneer days into the early 20th century.

  • Mary Keithan's book, Michigan One-Room Schoolhouses provides an assortment of pictures showing the variety of architecture in nearly 100 schools still in Michigan.  Interviews also add some history, but the book's strong point is its photography.  My only regret is she didn't include two room schools as they were quite common, too.  As schools grew it provided an easy way to divide the students.
  • School Days is an excellent overview from the Michigan Historical Museum combining quotes with facts to show the transitions and variety that formed rural schools.
  • One-Room School Lessons is a lesson plan showing those transitions from pioneer schools to the schools of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Since my own rural teacher comes from approximately 100 years ago, I'm delighted to have this site.  Another bit of "our tax dollars at work" we are fortunate to find still available on the internet even after the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries was juggled about in governmental restructuring. 
Whether in Michigan Month or not, I enjoy reenacting the old-time School Teacher.  There's always something new to discover.  It's truly an education!
For more on schools of the past, the next post here is on The Buildings.