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Typical Day in a One-room Schoolhouse

by Rebecca A. Edwards

In the winter, the teacher, and sometimes the older children, would arrive at the schoolhouse much earlier than the others to start the fire and prepare for the school day. The younger children of Milan Township would arrive and warm themselves by the large vent. The teacher would greet the scholars as they came. The day would begin at about 9 a.m. The teacher would ring the large bell in the bell tower to announce the beginning of the day and to hurry along any students still trudging to school. The class would stand by their seats, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then would either sing a song or listen to a moral story from the Bible read by the teacher. On cold winter days, the teacher may allow the students to sing and march because their feet would be tingly and itchy from being nearly frozen and then warming quickly.

Once these activities were done, the morning lessons would begin. The day normally started with a reading lesson. During this lesson, each grade would have a turn to come up to the recitation bench and recite a passage for the teacher. Other grades would be busy working at their desks preparing for their turn at the recitation bench or doing other assignments. Following the reading lesson would be a writing or spelling lesson, depending on the day. During the writing lesson, the children learned good penmanship, a very important skill. After this, there was a short break. During the break, the children had a chance to use the privy, or outhouse, and get something to drink or just move around. After the break the children would begin their arithmetic lesson. The children would do their work on slates. The teacher would check the younger children’s work and would have the older children recite drills. Once the arithmetic lesson was over, it was time for lunch. If the weather was nice, the children could eat and play outdoors. If not, they would have to eat and play indoors.

After lunch and recess, the children would be back at work. The afternoon lessons generally consisted of history, geography, civics, language and maybe some nature study on nice days. The teacher would decide which lessons would be appropriate. The day would end around 4 p.m.. The students would file out of the school and walk the mile or two home. The teacher, and possibly a few older children or someone who had gotten into trouble during the day, would stay behind and clean the building in preparation for the next day.

I followed the general schedule suggested for one-room school teachers found on page 8 in the Aids to Teachers and School Directors of The One-Teacher School written by the Illinois State Superintendent of Schools in 1927. The rest of this information was fleshed out from what I had written in this book before this section. (Rebecca A. Edwards, NIU, April 2004)

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