In honor of the first week of school and our hard-working teachers, this month’s history bit takes us back to a time when school was held for all grades in one room heated by a wood stove, writing was done on slates, and the “drinking fountain” was a metal pail and cup.
The first school recorded within the township of Webster was a log cabin at the corner of Salt and State roads in 1813. In those days the school year was typically divided into summer and winter terms. Usually a woman would teach girls and young children in the summer, and a man would teach the older boys in the winter after they were released from farm work.
It was a tough job with some pretty strict rules – and not just with regards to classroom management.
Consider this list of Rules for Teachers from 1872:
- Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys
- Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session
- Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
- Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
- After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
- Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
- Every teacher should lay aside from his pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
- Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
- The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.
See the list for yourself at the Webster Museum, where it’s posted just outside the museum’s classroom, which emulates how an actual one-room schoolhouse might have looked in the early 1900s.
The museum, located at 18 Lapham Park, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org for more historical tidbits about our town’s schools and teachers.