Pioneer education in Canada, Part II

Taught to the tune of the hickory stick…

sod school - Winona School (1908)  forty miles west of Saskatoon
sod school – Winona School (1908)
forty miles west of Saskatoon

It was difficult to find teachers for all the one-room schools that were built on the prairies. In order to qualify for a teaching certificate, a person had to go to school to be trained. The amount of time spent training varied. Some went to school for a couple of months. There were teachers (including my sister) who were sixteen years old, as old as some of their students.

One teacher taught many grades in a rural one-room school. The main subjects were the three R’s : reading, writing and arithmetic. Older students helped with the younger students. Text books and supplies were lacking. Some students could not speak English.

One-room schools were cold and drafty in the winter. A teacher in the early days was expected to do many things besides teaching. The school was to be kept clean. There were extra duties for the teacher such as: filling the oil lamps; cleaning the chimney; bringing in water for drinking and for washing hands; bringing in firewood; keeping the classroom warm; sharpening the pens.

All this for between $26 and $35 per month.

J.L. MacDonald, teacher, and students, School District #3, Glenelg, Ontario, 1910
J.L. MacDonald, teacher, and students, School District #3, Glenelg, Ontario, 1910

Rules for teachers 1872

1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, trim wicks and clean chimneys

2. Each morning 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.

From the 1920s to the early 1960s, children who lived in remote parts of northern Ontario went to a very special school. Their school came to them once a month or so and stayed a week at a time. School was part of a railway car pulled by a train. Half the car was the teacher's home, the other half was a classroom. It had desks of different sizes for students of various ages, blackboards, maps, textbooks and books to read. Most of the schoolchildren's fathers worked for the railway, others were trappers, miners and farmers.
From the 1920s to the early 1960s, children who lived in remote parts of northern Ontario went to a very special school. Their school came to them once a month or so and stayed a week at a time. School was part of a railway car pulled by a train. Half the car was the teacher’s home, the other half was a classroom. It had desks of different sizes for students of various ages, blackboards, maps, textbooks and books to read. Most of the schoolchildren’s fathers worked for the railway, others were trappers, miners and farmers.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they attend church regularly

5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the bible or any 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 or 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 labour faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five pence per week in his pay, providing the board of education approves.

In the early years men dominated the teaching profession, retired soldiers, etc.. According to beliefs of the day, a woman’s place was in the home, and besides, there was no way a woman could be expected to maintain discipline in a classroom full of unruly students. However, by mid-century, rising immigration, ballooning birth rates, and rapid territorial expansion had caused a crisis in education. There were simply not enough good teachers to go around.

A single teacher taught five to eight grade levels, all subjects. In many cases, the teacher would arrive very early to start a fire in the pot belly stove, and prepare a hot meal for the students, and clean the classroom. All this was in addition to their usual duties of preparing lessons and grading papers. While one-room schools were responsible for graduating many successful Americans, such as astronaut Alan Shepard, the teachers themselves rarely earned any significant recognition or income (“One-Room School”). Average wages for teachers was between $26 and $31 dollars per month.

School Days

pioneer education - boy coca-colaSchool days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate
“I love you, so”
When we were a couple of kids

Nothing to do, Nellie Darling
Nothing to do you say
Let’s take a trip on memory’s ship
Back to the bygone days
Sail to the old village school house
Anchor outside the school door
Look in and see
There’s you and there’s me
A couple of kids once more

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate
“I love you, so”
When we were a couple of kids

‘Member the hill
Nellie Darling
And the oak tree
That grew on its brow
They’ve built forty storeys
Upon that old hill
And the oak’s an old chestnut now
‘Member the meadows
So green, dear
So fragrant with clover and maize
Into new city lots
And preferred business plots
They’ve cut them up
Since those days

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days.
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate
“I love you, so”
When we were a couple of kids

logo - gerry burnie books - couple

       

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