Thursday, August 6, 2015

Teachers Had It Tough In the Good Old Days!

Regina Scott here. It’s that time of year when people start thinking about their children returning to the halls of learning. You’ll see “back to school” sales cropping up, and stores carry backpacks and sweatshirts even though it’s still hot in many parts of the country. My mother taught kindergarten for many years, and I have nothing but respect for those who share their knowledge with future generations.

But, as I discovered when researching my August release, Frontier Engagement, teaching in 1866 on the frontier was a whole different game.

For one thing, a teacher taught all grades and all subjects, in one room, at the same time. For another, supplies like paper and pencils and resources like books were rare. School board expectations ranged from keeping the schoolroom neat and tidy to, in some cases, chopping wood for the fire, whittling pencils for the class, and shooting any varmints that happened to claw their way into the school.

But those weren’t the only expectations. A teacher’s behavior was examined in detail. Here are some of the “rules” some teachers had to live by:  
  • Never fraternize with the opposite sex. 
  • Teachers who married during their term were summarily dismissed.
  • Dress in somber colors.
  • Under no circumstances dye your hair. Avoid pool halls, barber shops, and ice cream parlors. (As my heroine, Rina Fosgrave said, “Who knew they were such dens of iniquity?”)

Yes, it’s tough to be a teacher, then and now. Here’s to all those who instruct our youth, whether homeschooling or braving the classroom. You are the true heroes!

Regina Scott owes much of what she knows about writing to the teachers who instructed her over the years. The author of more than two dozen historical romances, she’s currently working on a series set in Seattle’s early years:  Frontier Bachelors, bold, rugged, and bound to be grooms. Sign up here for a free e-mail alert with exclusive bonus material when her next book comes out, or visit her online at her website or Facebook.


Pamela Tracy said...

Sometimes teachers rotated living quarters, actually staying with their students' family. Ack

Danica Favorite said...

Love it, Regina! I find it fascinating to read all the old rules for teachers.

Regina Scott said...

I've heard that, Pamela. Talk about close quarters!

And thank you, Danica!

jcp said...

do you know the reasoning behind avoiding ice cream parlors?

Regina Scott said...

I don't, jcp. I wondered about it at the time myself. And I can't imagine why barber shops were forbidden for the male teachers.

Keli Gwyn said...

I lived on a remote U.S. Forest Service ranger station when I was in seventh and eighth grades and attended a one-room school. Between the Forest Service kids and the kids from the nearly town where the school was located, a bustling community of 42, there was a whopping student population of around two dozen. Talk about a unique experience. It had a few pluses, but for a child in the early 70s, it lacked a lot too.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Congratulations on your latest release, Regina. I look forward to reading it.
No ice cream parlors...yikes! I admire the writers who also homeschool their children.

Jackie Smith said...

Very interesting, Regina! Looking forward to reading your book!

Pamela Tracy said...

The parlor might have been seen as a place courting couples went or a place that put you in contact with singles of the opposite sex. It wasn't always easy to find a teacher (most really wanted to be married). It was in the school boards best interest to try to keep teachers away from places where they might find a potential husband. (didn't really work)

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Jill and Jackie! Very interesting Keli--like you said, I can see some of the pluses--you might get great interaction with the teacher.

Good idea, Pamela! I never thought of an ice cream parlor as a courting (as in today's dating) scene, but it certainly makes sense!

Jennifer said...

That is an interesting set of rules teachers had to adhere to. Life must have been kind of lonely for a teacher as far as a social life was concerned. I can't imagine living with one of the families. That would be a hard rule to follow about not going to an ice cream parlor. :):):)

LeAnne Bristow said...

Imagine getting fired because you got married! Of course, married women weren't expected to work back then. I'm just glad that I'm not expected to do all the cleaning chores at school anymore. I can't keep my house clean, much less my classroom. The janitor is my best friend! :)