by Olive McKenzie
Most school districts were laid out in 2 mile squares with the school house in the center, that meant a child might walk 2 miles to school, and walk we did gathering kids as we went. I walked one and a quarter miles, up hill and down and at times with the neighbors bull following us just across a barbed wire fence.
All children in this 2 mile square area gathered at one school, all grades 1 through 8. The teacher was usually a young unmarried woman. There were always exceptions and some were young men or older married women.
Usually a teaching certificate was from a 2 year college and would be a life certificate. Some high schools had Normal Training. the senior year would be spent teaching the required subjects for a state test. Those who passed were given a 2 year Normal Training certificate that was renewed by 8 hours of college work. You could study on your own and take the state test and get a 2 year state certificate renewable with 8 college hours.
School boards met the first Tuesday in April and hired the teachers. Appling for a teaching position was interesting. The board members were usually farmers. For an interview you went to where they were working; this was corn planting time. There were 3 questions you were often asked: Are you married? Do you smoke or go to dances? Can you play the piano? School terms were for 8 months. If you needed those college hours you were headed for summer school. You could go to a Jr. College, take an oral text from the professor, outline the test book up to where the class was working then join the class and finish the term. You could go to summer school at a 4 year college. Sometimes you did both.
The teacher did all the cleaning, planning, teaching and supervising the play ground. She walked from where she boarded, arriving early to build the fire. The classes were seated according to their ages, the little ones in front, the older ones in back. The desks usually had 2 children sharing. No talking! Classes were called - "Second grade reading", the students came to the front seat. If you didn't call the class to the front the students would tell their parents they didn't have reading. So instead of the teacher walking back and assigning the next lesson and collecting any papers the students always came to the front.
In September I would have a great day inviting parents to the last period. The day before the children would choose the lesson they would like the parents to hear. We would exchange that lesson for the last period lesson. The kids would show off their best and the parents seemed to enjoy that.
Community entertainment was centered around the school. Some school districts had a monthly party. But the fall attraction was the box supper. The teacher and kids practiced for weeks for the program of skits, songs, and recitations. All students were included. There would be contests, a penny a vote, such as the man with the biggest feet, the prettiest girl etc. Then the boxes were auctioned. The ladies would decorate a box the very prettiest they could and fill it with a supper for two. The person who bought the box ate with the lady who brought it.
Christmas was also looked forward to with lots of excitement by the students. Again we had weeks of practice and a program with skits, recitations, and songs. The program would be a mixture of fun, Santa stories, and always the nativity with the bathrobes and towels costumes, Mary and the babe and Hymens were sung. The students drew names and exchanged gifts and of course the teacher gave each one a gift. Santa would appear to help pass out gifts. Santa's identity was supposed to be unknown.
Finally it was the last day of school. The years awards were made, grade cards handed out and maybe a short program. The basket dinner was traditional. Everyone brought their best food and all ate together. The last day dinner was a real feast. Everyone was eager for summer to begin. the teacher was just as eager. It meant a move home, maybe to relax and help around the house but for many it meant summer school and study.