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Inside The Schoolhouse: Then and Now

Another school year has begun. My grandson is a senior. It hardly seems possible. Just a few short years ago he was starting school.

Once children start school the years just roll by, one after the other. I suppose it was the same in my day only because I was the one involved, I did not notice. I loved school. I was a dedicated student. I loved to learn new things then and I still do today.

I still remember most of my teachers. Basically, I got along with most of them. Of course, some were better than others. I started school at School No. 4. When that was ready to be torn down to construct a new school, I transferred to School No. 3. That is where I spent the rest of my elementary years. When I was ready to do my student teaching, I returned to School No. 3 for part of it. I was there when John F. Kennedy was shot. That is just one of the things that I remember.

My senior student teaching was completed under the lady who was the kindergarten teacher at School No. 3. I never had her because I was at the other school. She and I had similar personalities so it was a very good experience for me. I remember telling her that if I was absent, she might check to see if I had caught measles from the students. Up to that point I never missed getting them when they went around.

When I traveled, I was out to learn something. I took several cruises. I took excursions that took you deep into the culture. It was not long until I found out the further you traveled from the ship the better. That way you got to see how the people of the area lived. I remember in Mexico I noticed all of the television sets that were on in some of the most primitive of houses. They hardly had a home, yet they had a television.

I remember when my own little ones started school. We moved to Hickory Heights the year my son was in kindergarten. At that time, I was cooking on a wood stove. I would stoke the stove up to cook lunch, then make sure it was banked to hold the heat while I drove him to school.

Kindergarten was only a half day session in those days. He went in the afternoon. I liked that because it made bedtime easier. We were not early-to-bed people. Work on the farm went on and my husband was still milking cows. When the children went to bed early, he did not see them.

The following year my daughter started school. We had to revise bedtime since her brother had to get up early to be ready for school. At that time the bus picked them up about 7:40 a.m. and they still made it to school on time.

Now, the bus follows the same route, picks up fewer children, and comes 40 minutes earlier. I do not begin to understand why it takes them so long.

When my granddaughter started school some 40 years later kindergarten was still only one-half day. Carly and her family were living with me since their home was open from the second story to the basement while they were doing renovations. Her mother, the babysitter, and I took turns driving her to school. Of course, her little brother had to ride along. At that time, he wished it was his turn to go to school.

By the time it was the little brother’s turn to go to kindergarten, it was a full day session. He went to school on the bus and rode on the bus. My dog, Hannah, got used to having the bus stop. She waited for it even on the days the children went elsewhere. When the bus did not stop, she was sad.

Many things changed about school from the days that I was a teacher. Now, they no longer teach cursive writing. I am not sure how children are supposed to learn how to sign checks or for that matter any legal documents.

Math has always been a subject that they experimented with. I remember teaching the “new math.” Since I tended to be an “old school” teacher, I mixed what I taught to be sure everyone got the basics. Not all teachers did that. I tore up my student booklets and taught all of the measurements at one time. Usually I saved that for the end of the year because it was different and I could keep the students’ attention better at that time doing something different.

Well, guess what? They revised the teaching of math yet again with this class that is now seniors? By the time they reached fifth grade, nearly half of the class tested out of the program and were accelerated.

I am sorry, but when that many children are able to advance there is something basically wrong with the way it is being presented. The teachers were only following what they were given.

How did those students fare? I have no idea. They must have done OK because they are preparing to graduate. Do they have the basic skills? Who knows?

There is so much to teach these days that it is hard to fit everything in. Students still need the basics I am convinced. Those who are the most capable will get them on their own.

Good luck to students and teachers as they make their way through the school year. Most of all, dear Lord, keep them safe. That is a concern we never had in my day.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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