Rural Schools

By Mrs. Theo.  (Marian Nelson)  Stone

On a day in early September children could be seen walking the country roads, carrying lunch baskets or shiny tin pails that had once been full of molasses.  Some who had far to go might have a pony or be brought in a car.

Their destination was the schoolhouse.  It was a white, box-shaped structure with rows of windows on the sides, and the American flag flying from rooftop or flagpole.

Getting together after the summer work and play was fun.  After a bit of chattering (girls) and scuffling (boys) the teacher would appear in the doorway, bell in hand, to call the students in for the first day of school.

Inside were the usual furnishings.  There would be an entry with hooks for outdoor clothes, a water cooler and a place to put the dinner pails.

There was a blackboard across the front of the room, with chalk and erasers.  Across the top of the blackboard was a display of the alphabet, big and small letters from A to Z, written in perfect Palmer penmanship.  There was a map case holding a set of maps to be pulled down for the study of Geography.

On the walls were pictures of Washington and Lincoln, a framed copy of the Ten Commandments, and perhaps the schedule of classes for the day.

Some schools were equipped with a Victrola or piano.

The teacher's oak desk was usually at the front of the room.  The children's desks were arranged in rows facing her.  At the front of each row were seats where the members of a class could sit for recitation.  In this way the teacher could discuss the lessons of the day and keep an eye on their desks.

With all grades from one to eight it took a lot of planning to keep them all too busy to start any mischief.  Morning and afternoon recesses were fifteen-minute periods when the students were allowed to play outside.  Some of the schools had swings, a giant stride or seesaws, but other activities were also popular, such as baseball, king of the hill, ante-i-over or drowning gophers.

When the bell rang they would come in, rosy-cheeked and puffing from their exercise in the fresh air, taking several minutes to settle down to their lessons.

These country schools were like a large family unit, with children ranging in age from 6 to 14.  In the hours they spent they learned more than reading, writing and arithmetic.  They had to learn to get along with one another, and to be resourceful and helpful.

The teacher was often young; not many years older than the eighth grade pupils.  The requirements for a teaching certificate were minimal.  Six weeks at summer school were enough to begin with.  But by following the prescribed course of study with the help of an understanding and helpful County Superintendent of schools the children were taught.

There were some hardships to be faced by the rural schoolteacher.  In a rainy fall and wet spring there was a lot of mud tracked in to be swept out by the teacher janitor.  In winter there were fires to tend after a cold walk to school.  There were sometimes emergencies to face, wounds to dress, and discipline to maintain.  Salaries were not high.

But when the years of teaching were done, that first week of September was hard to live through.  There was an irresistible desire to go out to that little schoolhouse, ring the bell, and greet them with a hearty, "Welcome back!

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976 Page 12

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