One-room schoolhouses

September 28, 2009

by Jenni Sebora

My parents used to tell me about their school experiences. Trekking two miles to their one-room schoolhouse toting a thermos of coffee in the winter, to drink when they arrived at school to defrost their extremities.

Sometimes trips to school also took a little longer because of all of the learning adventures to witness along the way. Some unidentified wildflower that they had never come across before. A squirrel that was hoarding acorns in preparation for the winter months ahead.

In Jesse Stuart’s book, “To Teach, To Love”, which was first published by the World Publishing Company in 1970, he speaks of his love of learning and teaching, which occurred in one room schoolhouses.

He says, in fact, that the one-room school had some advantages which the schools of today cannot give its students. And one of those was walking to schools over the hills and through the valleys.

He talks about racing to get to the hickory-nut, chestnut trees and papaw groves first to beat the other children in the gathering of the fruits that these trees bore.

Learning about nature and its inhabitants was on the docket of hands-on learning while making these treks to school. Kids could identify various animal tracks and follow them to learn more about where these animals called home.

This one-room schoolhouse was home to one teacher and eager students ranging in age from 5 to what one considers high school age. The teacher taught all subjects to all students.

Attending school was a gift to many of the students; as Stuart says, we must never forget that there was a time when education was considered a priceless gift.

In the last page of his book, Stuart states that we have lost something that we have to get back. Not the one-room schoolhouse, but the spirit of it.

In the public schools, he noted, where all may enter and not be selected for any particular reason, Stuart also learned to agree with Thomas Jefferson’s belief that there is faith in the mass, as exhibited in this quote:

“No one will know from which family genius will come. Educating all is the only way to discover genius.”

As a teacher and a parent, I, too, agree with this statement. We should also not give up on our youth.

For some, or maybe many of our youth, those ideas that were more than just book lessons, may be what and how they should be taught today.

Taking that trek to school; learning lessons along the way with all of one’s senses; engaging in some hard manual work during parts of the year; and viewing education as a gift.

Although we are modernized, there are aspects of the “one-room school” that should never be lost; mission, hard work, excitement, and the love of learning.