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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Back To School 140 Years Ago

It’s Back to School Time

The hot humid days of summer have given way to fall’s more congenial weather and with it the return of many children back to school.  The basic education that many of us (who are not so old) remember is long gone with the advent of computers, new learning programs, education and social networking, and politically correct behaviour.  But, it wasn’t so long ago that we thought we were pretty modern when we had a calculator that did the four basic functions.

School was part of our ancestor’s past too.  Just like us, the kids returned to class in the fall and stayed until the spring.  Many were needed on the farm for spring planting so would be given permission to leave the school year early.  In the early days the students had few teaching aids.  If they were lucky they might have a slate and a few old hand-me-down text books.  Here is a list of rules for students from 1872:
  1. Respect your schoolmaster.  Obey him and accept his punishments.
  2. Do not call your classmates names or fight with them.  Love and help each other.
  3. Never make noises to disturb your neighbours as they work.  Be silent during classes.
  4. Do not talk unless absolutely necessary.
  5. Bring firewood into the classroom for the stove whenever the teacher tells you to.
  6. If the teacher calls you name after class, straighten the benches and tables, sweep the room, dust and leave everything tidy.

Except for the firewood reference I would think that most of the above points still apply today.  It’s interesting to notice that the schoolmaster is always referred to as “He” or “him”.  Here are the rules for teachers also from 1872:

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean lamp 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, the teacher 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 the benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden to society.
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will given reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labour 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.

Things have really changed for teachers from 140 years ago!  While these rules seem out-dated and even quaint to us now, in their day, they were taken very seriously.  A teacher’s lot has never been an easy one.