I have always been fascinated by the one-room school-house ideology. In this picture from 1921, the kids are present although some are barefoot and others are hiding. In the far right corner there is a girl, reading a book. One glaring difference from a modern-day classroom is the teacher. First of all, she is seated. I worked in a county where a teacher would be “written up” if found sitting, disengaged from the class, during instructional time. The teacher seems to be looking in one direction, while doing some random task with her hands. There are no books or pencils. I don’t see a five-inch notebook jam-packed with lesson plans. What on earth are they all doing? Do they do that all day? Did she have a planning period? Did they have state mandated tests?
I bet there were no fire drills that interrupted the mysterious activities occurring in that photo. Do you think those kids went home buzzing about all the great things they learned that day? I wonder if she sent a newsletter home each week, stuffed Friday Folders with graded, weekly classwork, or took ice cream orders? Or, did she just sit in that chair, wear sensible shoes, and watch the door for escapees?
Little House on the Prairie inspired me. I loved the books and I was completely obsessed with the series. Laura was just spunky enough to keep us all tuned in. The school scenes were my favorite. When Laura fought with Nellie in the mud, my life was complete.
Or, maybe my obsession was with Pa? I couldn’t keep my eyes off of this man, not even for a minute. Who had a dad who looked like that? I digress…
In simpler times, did the kids learn less? Did the teachers get to school early, stay late, and work through the weekends?
Every teacher I know, slides up and down the spectrum of instructional insanity. The mania leaks out into all aspects of our lives. I unsuccessfully will myself not to discuss school with my non-teacher friends. When I see a child misbehaving in public, I do my best NOT to call him to me and ask, “Are you making the right choice?”
The next phase of my school fixation was the show Fame. I was in high school the entire run of the show. Did my mom know about this school? Did they do any math? They wore leg warmers, sang in the hallways, and performed perfect impromptu dances without any practice! Had there been Internet, I would have found my very own FAME school. I took dance for years. I cannot count how many times I practiced the split roll-over and toe touch. When I was suckered into representing the cross-country team in the school pageant, I wore a magenta, spandex, unitard and danced to MANHUNT. I have no pride.
I imagine there was no dancing in the one-room school-house. Debbie Allen was nowhere to be found talking about “big dreams”.
I don’t think I would be a good teacher in 1921. I would feel that there should be something “more” to be done or learned. I would have no colleagues to dish with at lunch. My friends might think that I would create some type of academic compulsion. Maybe, I would re-arrange the benches and color code the girls’ bows. I would possibly go a bit crazy and actually talk to the students-even the one hiding in the back.
Hopefully, one hundred years from now, there will still be teachers. They will study pictures of us teaching in classrooms instead of in space stations, or in Jetson’s inspired flying communities. I can only imagine where their history curriculum would begin.
It is good to think of simpler times in education. More is expected of teachers and students than ever before. I know I make my job more arduous than it needs to be. What I do in three hours, others do just as efficiently in thirty minutes. I can’t stop. Each time I attempt to work smarter, I find some task that needs immediate attention, or a project that needs to be created. Maybe, I can plan a class song and dance routine….with legwarmers.