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Nostalgia for the Past in a One Room School

Nostalgia for the Past in a One Room School

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Published by Paul Richardson

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Published by: Paul Richardson on May 12, 2010
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05/25/2010

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Nostalgia for the Past in a One RoomSchool
Canada Settlement School, Oneida Twp, District No 1 Fractional, Eaton County,Michigan Yes, the name is almost as big as the school.
Paul Richardson
 
PrefaceI am a fairly unusual person. I don’t know many people my age who attended a rural,one-room school. I consider myself fortunate because I had that experience for K-6
th
grade. I am fortunate not only because I got an excellent foundation during my timethere in math, reading, writing, grammar, geography, social studies and history, but for many other reasons as well.I have been concerned for years that our education system is not working well. Far toomany kids are passing through the system without acquiring the skills they need for success in the real world of work. Too many children are put in a position of limitedpotential because the system failed to prepare them to succeed in the increasinglyrigorous global competition. I have studied the education system in great depth for over six years and have found enough problems to fill an encyclopedia. This will not be anencyclopedia but will point out the biggest problems I have found.If you look at the picture of the school you will see a large stump in the foreground.During the time I spent at the school the tree was there. It was a large and spreadingPoplar. It gave great shade during spring, summer and early fall. It is too bad that it isno longer there. Of course, the school has been unused for decades too, which in itsown way is also sad. Society has traded a very low cost and effective educationalternative for a much more expensive one with a huge fleet of fuel-guzzling busesranging far and wide over the countryside, big schools, bureaucratized structures andcertainly less care and commitment to the children’s individualized education needs.
 
MemoriesOn a bright September day in 1948, my Mom and I walked down the rural gravel road tothe one-room school for my first day of kindergarten. I had looked forward to school for years it seemed. School was important to my parents. My Mom had graduated fromhigh school but my father had finished 11
th
grade when his father and brother died of strep infection complications and he was left as the only one to work the farm for hismother and sisters and was forced to drop out. They both had good fundamentaleducations though and they realized the importance of education for their children. Iwas an only child that first day of kindergarten but knew that wouldn’t last long as Momwas expecting.We walked along with other kids my age who were starting school that day too. Therewere six of us which represented the vanguard of the coming baby boom. The CanadaSettlement School was a substantial brick building which looked large to a five-year old.Mom kissed me saying good bye and to be good at the front door. I climbed up thethree concrete steps to the door and went in. The hallway had coat hooks on both sides(unused on that day), and entrances to the boys and girls bathrooms on either side of the hall. At the end of the short hall was the entrance to the “one room” of the school.The front of the room was to the right. There was the teacher’s big desk and a filingcabinet to the right center of the front area. Also there was a big coal stove centered inthe front area. To the left were blackboards on both the front and right wall around thecorner and the teacher’s recitation table.I need to say a bit about the coal stove. The teacher would come very early in the coldweather so that she could get the fire going and the fire box fed with coal to get thetemp to an acceptable level before the kids arrived for the school start. The teachers inthe one-room schools were a “one-man-band” to be sure. They were the janitor,teacher, principal, superintendent, curriculum and admin department all rolled into oneperson. There was no communication problem between the different functions unlessthey resided in the head of the teacher which was not something I ever experienced.Luckily, by the time I was in the second grade the utility company put a gas line downthe road in front of the school and the school board decided to put in a gas furnace withducting and thermostat which was a big burden off the teacher’s shoulders.The desks were all in rows facing the front of the classroom. At the rear was the libraryin one corner (actually a floor to ceiling book shelf about ten feet wide). In the other rear corner was a sink where we cleaned up after doing art (painting, cutting, gluing, etc.)and washed up before eating our lunches. Kindergarten was mornings only so wedidn’t have to bring a lunch that first year. Most had lunch pails with room for a smallthermos in one end. The classroom had big windows on three sides and had an airyfeel with its very high ceiling.

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