Reflections from the One-Room Schoolhouse

“A shield around stove distributes heat more evenly. Perhaps not necessary while school is small.” – County Superintendent’s Report to Teacher with Accompanying Suggestions. Clay County Kansas, January 25, 1911

                  This helpful suggestion was provided to my grandmother, Emma Pocock, 110 years ago as she taught in a school house in Clay County Kansas. She was also told it was “better not to have such a long study period for the entire school. Class instruction brings far more results than individual help.” Over a century later, the conventional wisdom is less whole group and more individual help. I expect the pendulum has swung back and forth on that issue more than a few times in the last hundred years!

Check out these contracts

Vintage Teacher’s Contract

                  Emma (interesting how that name made a comeback a few years ago…Pocock, not so much!) Pocock signed on to teach in that rural county in Kansas in the early days of the twentieth century. I have her teaching contracts for 1908-1910. Here are a few highlights:

                  1908- for seven months commencing on September 14th, for the sum of $40 per month.

                  1909 –for seven months commencing on September 13th, for the sum of $55 per month. Wow! How about that 37% raise in one year! But it came with an interesting caveat. “In case of epidemic or for other cause the school is closed, Teacher’s salary to cease until school is reopened.” And that’s not all, “Said teacher agrees to do all janitor work for said term for the consideration above mentioned.” Along with the big raise came more work, and reason to hope the community stays healthy!

                  1910- for seven months commencing September 12th, for sum of $60 per month. Less than 1% raise, no mention of closing for epidemics (probably understood), and the contract included the notation that teacher was still responsible for cleaning the school house and the agreement that the teacher would not charge the district for holidays.

Some things change…some do not!

                  Some aspects of school, students, teachers, and learning remain the same. Some challenges appear constant. Mrs. Pocock’s 110 year -old report also included the suggestion that she slow the pace of her math lessons. Sound familiar?  It seems both the art and the science of teaching require the discretion to know what practices to hang on to, and which new approaches to embrace.

                  The closing comments on the Superintendent’s Report caught my eye. “People in the district office commend you for your industry. I am so pleased when a teacher does work hard and secure good results. I trust your efforts are appreciated.”

A teacher’s influence…

                  Teachers have remarkable influence in the lives of students that can extend on into eternity. When I conduct my individual interviews with our seniors and ask, “What is one of the best things about LCS?” the overwhelming majority immediately list their teachers. I am involved in Christian schooling at LCS today because of the influence of one of my 9th grade LCS teachers. He was far from perfect, made lots of mistakes, but loved us, and was passionate about our education and our spiritual growth. That made all the difference.

                  I am grateful for our teachers. Their perseverance is remarkable. Their resilience in the face of rising expectations is admirable. The private decisions they make when they are alone pouring over their lesson plans, trying to figure out a better way to present, to facilitate, to connect, while praying over their students- those moments are difference makers. Their work with one another and prayer with one another, enrich the whole process.

If you can read this…

This Thanksgiving week we usually take some time to share what we are thankful for. If you can read this blog, thank a teacher! If you want to put this message into action, express your thanks to those who teach your student(s).

As the Superintendent wrote to Miss Pocock in 1911, “I trust your efforts are appreciated.”