The Good Old Days – Teacher Requirements

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Yesterday, I received an email from a student who was working on a research paper about teacher certification exams. In her online exploration, she ran across a blog post I wrote about Normal schools (Teaching the Teachers) and asked me for some of the sources I used for that post. As I searched for them, I ran across a site that focused on the requirements for teachers that went beyond their scores on certification exams.

1905 teaching contractSince teachers were in charge of molding young minds, many school boards placed extra, more personal and moral, requirements on the instructors they hired. And some, just tried to get as much for their money as possible. Here’s a photo of an actual teaching contract from 1905 that stipulates janitorial labor as part of the position with no extra pay. Also no holidays were allowed.

But that wasn’t all.

There were all of these stipulations as well:
1. Teachers are expected to live in the community in which they are employed and to take residence with local citizens for room and board. Nothing like a little privacy and a place of your own. Though the free meals would be nice.
2. Teachers will be required to spend weekends in the community unless permission is granted by the Chairman of the Board. Do you get the feeling this school board wanted to keep an eye on their teachers? No holidays, no weekend train trips to visit family in the next county without special permission.

3. It is understood that teachers will attend church each Sunday and take an active part, particularly in choir and Sunday School work. Now as a church goer myself, I’m all for encouraging church attendance, but the cynical side of me is wondering if this is stipulated just so they can force her to teach Sunday School classes in addition to her usual classroom duties.

4. Dancing, card playing and the theatre are works of the Devil that lead to gambling, immoral climate, and influence and will not be tolerated. Theatre is a work of the devil yet …

5. Community plays are given annually.  Teachers are expected to participate. Uh huh. Double standard, anyone? 

6. When laundering petticoats and unmentionables it is best to dry them in a flour sack or pillow case.  (So no one sees them hanging on the line to dry). I have to wonder how anything actually dries while inside a flower sack. And can you get a special dispensation if the family you are boarding with (see item 1) has their feminine underthings flapping on the line? Because, really, what hard-working mother would take the time to hide her unmentionables in flour sacks?

19th century classroom7. Any teacher who smokes cigarettes, uses liquor in any form, frequents a pool or public hall, or (for men) gets shaved in a barber shop, (or for women) bobbs (cuts) her hair, has dyed hair, wears short skirts (could not be any shorter than 2 inches above the ankles) and has undue use of cosmetics will not be tolerated under any circumstances. OK – this time I’m on the man’s side. You can’t get shaved in a barber shop??? Something tells me the local barber was not on the school board.

8. Teachers will not marry or keep company with a man friend during the week except as an escort to church services.  But on the other hand …

9. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly. Not only do they get paid more, but they’re allowed to date. Because men would never do anything impure while dating, but a woman . . . well, she can’t be trusted to remain pure. (Sticking my tongue out here.)

11. Loitering in ice cream parlors, drug stores, etc., is prohibited. Yes, because ice cream parlors are such dens of iniquity. Dens of calories, yes, but that’s not the same thing. Usually.

12. After 10 hours in school, the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books. I’m all for Bible reading, but a good novel is a great way to unwind after a 10 hour day. Too bad my definition of “good books” probably doesn’t match what is intended here.

13. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed. Marriage is unseemly conduct??? Apparently only for a woman (see #9)

16. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay providing the Board of Education approves. Wow! Makes me appreciate the value of a dollar. It takes 5 years of faithful service (and no marriage) to get $1 more a month.

  • So, which of these stipulations would you have the hardest time swallowing?

Excuse me while I loiter in an ice cream shop with a gentleman not related to me, showing off my bobbed haircut. After 5 years of dedicated service, I’m spending my raise and living it up before the hatchet falls at the next school board meeting.

 

(Source: http://www.ameshistory.org/contract.htm)

Back to School

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Here in Texas, our children have returned to the classroom. My three kids were up early Monday morning, making lunches, packing backpacks, and rushing off to the first day of school. My oldest is starting her senior year of high school. Gasp! Not sure mom is quite ready for what that means. But whether mom is ready or not, it has begun.

In the American West, teachers were often little more than former students who had completed the 8th grade and gone on to pass a teacher’s examination. My youngest is starting 8th grade this year, and I can’t even imagine him having enough knowledge to turn around and teach.

As more settlers headed west and communities grew, so did the demand for teachers with a higher education. In the early 1800s, schoolmasters were men. They ruled their classrooms with discipline and authority. Yet in the 1830s when tax-supported common schools made education more widely available, the result was a teacher shortage that left the door open for women.

“God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems…very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price.” — Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849

By the time of the Civil War, women dominated the teaching field. However, if a woman wanted to set herself apart, to establish herself as a professional, she required training that went beyond the rudimentary grammar schooling of her peers. She needed a diploma from a reputable Normal School.

Normal Schools were two-year academies designed to grant teachers a mastery of the subjects taught in the common schools as well as giving them a practical knowledge of teaching methodology. Normal Schools prided themselves on their thorough, cohesive, and “scientific” curriculum. They would provide a norm for all teachers (hence the term Normal School) that would assure a level of quality generally unavailable previously.

The Boston Normal School, for example, was established in 1872. According to a regulation manual published in 1888, a teacher studying there would have taken courses in the following areas:

  • Mental and Moral Science and Logic
  • Physiology and Hygiene
  • Natural Science
  • Study of Language
  • Elementary Studies
  • Principles of Education, School Economy, and Methods of Instruction
  • Vocal Music, Drawing, and Blackboard Illustration
  • Observation and Practice in the Training School
  • Observation and Practice in other public schools

Not so very different from our current teacher education programs, is it?

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The heroine in my latest release is a teacher of exceptional youths, or what we would call today – gifted children or child prodigies.

In honor of teachers across the country who are getting back into their classrooms, I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of A Worthy Pursuit to one reader who leaves a comment.

Tell me about you favorite first-day-of-school memory. What made you excited, what you dreaded. How long it took you to pick out the perfect outfit. Anything related to the first day – kindergarten through college. Or maybe your first day as a teacher, if that is your profession. Anything is fair game.

Have fun! 🙂