Education in America

Reviving the Idea of a One Room School House

Recently, I started teaching in a private school setting. While this is not my first foray into this type of classroom, it has been a LONG time. My last private school adventure took place in a third and fourth grade class. This year I am teaching kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. How, you ask, is that possible? I don’t know. I still haven’t figured it out. Originally, I thought I could handle this without a problem. Three grades is nothing, I can totally do that!! I was wrong. I said, “I have done child care for 20 years, this will be fine.” I wasn’t that far off the mark.

My years of crowd control and early learning help. But I constantly worry about the kindergarteners getting left behind, or the first and second graders won’t get what they need. Teaching is a stress. In my two years away from the classroom I forgot that. I worry: Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Should I have taught it that way? Should I have said that? I honestly don’t think parents realize how much teachers take on in order to teach their children. Or, maybe it is just me. I want perfection….and that doesn’t happen. Despite all that, I love what I am doing.

Back to my multiages and multigrades. Do you know that in one year  span you can have three developmental years? Times that by three and you get my classroom. You want to ask: So how are you managing? Not sure. I keep tweaking in hopes that I hit perfection, trying to make it better.

I spend way too much time online, researching and looking at what others are doing and how I can implement those methods into my class. You thought pintrest was bad for mom’s thinking about what they should be doing or people drooling over organization and creativity? Well, Google is just as bad for teachers. Thank goodness for Google, though. It has been a great help with my searches, in all areas except one. I want to find out how one room school houses did it. They had success, there are one room school houses out there even today. How do they do it? How can you instill kindness, consideration, and respect in the children that they want to help and naturally do it? Mostly, I found the rules for a teacher in the 1820s and the 1900s:


Rules for Teachers, 1827

1) Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys
2) Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
3) Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
4) Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
5) After ten hours in school, teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
6) Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly 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 and public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.
9) The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Rules for Teacher, Early 1900s in the United States

1) To keep the school room neat and clean, you must:
a) Sweep the floor at least once daily
b) Scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water
c) Clean the blackboards at least once a day
d) Start the fire at 7 AM so the room will be warm by 8 AM

2) You will not marry during the term of your contract.
3) You are not to keep company with men.
4) You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.  unless attending a school function.
5) You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores
6) You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
7) You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
8) You may not smoke cigarettes.
9) You may not dress in bright colors.
10) You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
11) You must wear at least two petticoats.
12) Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.

We laugh and scoff today at the extreme limitations that teachers had so long ago. But what did they do in the classroom that worked? What lessons in instruction can we pull and use today? It couldn’t have been all bad, doctors, teachers, and lawyers all budded from this form of instruction. Why are schools today making the move to one room school houses? The Wall Street Journal published a wonderful article on one room school houses today. I contacted one of the teachers and hope that she may have time in her jammed pack day to answer some questions and provide me with insight on how to run my class the way I envision.

A multiage classroom can be successful, I just have to figure out how.

By Trulybst

Pursuing life to its fullest. A woman, a mom, wife, and struggling teacher who knows the importance of treating myself right.

5 replies on “Reviving the Idea of a One Room School House”

I started out with 13 students and am down to 10. I have 10 different levels and am loving every minute of it. I have a student in each grade that has progressed to the next grade level academically because that is what they can do. I have one that started the year behind and I am still trying to get her on grade level.

How interesting. Juniper Junior is in a similar-ish setting, in that he’s in a composite (which Wiki tells me is the same as multi-age) P1/2 class in the same room as a P2 class. It’s an odd arrangement due to the extension of the school that the two infant classes have a space completely to themselves, but they also have – essentially – three teachers for the two classes. And, well, it works.

Hmn, I realise that “And, well, it works.” may come off as a little flippant, but it’s more the feeling that for all the concerns, the set-up really does work well and the kids do fantastically.

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