Simpler Times at School | Mark’s Remarks - Republic-Times | News

Simpler Times at School | Mark’s Remarks

By on March 28, 2018 at 1:02 pm

My great aunts and my grandmother were all school teachers. They taught in the early part of the 20th century, when things were so simple.  I’m sure they thought things were tough back then. 

Oh, how they would marvel at how things are today.

Their first marvel would probably be me. Not that I’m extraordinary, but it wasn’t too common for men to be lower elementary or even middle school teachers back then. Men were usually upper grade teachers and often doubled as administrators.

One of my aunts and my grandmother lived to see me become a teacher. We swapped stories and looked at photos from their early days of teaching. My grandmother gave me a photo of one of her earlier classes, pointing to a little girl in the first row with a large bow in her hair, a pretty dress that looked too small, and no shoes.  

“This little girl was very smart. I let her skip a grade,” my grandmother recalled as she pointed to the photo.

My aunt recalled living with a family during the week while she taught in a little school several miles north of her hometown. She’d visit home on the weekend. I wonder what that must have been like.

Even in my own 28-year career, I have watched a generation grow up and become parents. It’s mind-boggling to me.  I barely remember using a purple ditto machine as they were on their way out. However, I recall using an old-press type laminator, something that resembled a dry cleaner’s clothes press.

I can remember using an electric typewriter to make up my own worksheets, unable to fathom back then what the internet would bring to us. Now days, you can download plans, worksheets, and videos to enhance a lesson.  

If you want to make your own original worksheet, there are a variety of programs available to do it. We can email people and take care of a large amount of correspondence or contact info in a short time.  

Still, it seems the workload continues to increase and there is more to do every year.

I wonder what types of modern conveniences came along when my relatives were teaching? Blackboards were the norm, but what about indoor plumbing and heating other than a pot-bellied stove? I wonder what they’d all think about our central heat. 

Heck, I remember the day I first experienced an air-conditioned classroom. I wonder if window screens were a luxury to any of them.

I wonder what they’d think of my dry erase board or my electronic smartboard. How about the telephone in my classroom that makes calling the office pretty easy? There probably wasn’t an office in the old days.

I recently read an article in which a man recalled going to a country school in the 1940s and bringing a corn stalk from his father’s field. It was the annual corn stalk contest, and he was sure he had the tallest one that year. He did. He won.

Barefoot kids, walking home for lunch, missing school for farmwork, reciting, reading the Bible in class. Things of the past.  

Still, I often desire a quick ride in the time machine. Just to visit for a day or two. I think it may teach us a thing or two about what we are missing in today’s educational world.

What would it be like if you could send kids home for misbehavior, or know that their parents were on your side no matter what? My relatives would most likely be appalled at behavior and indeed, the responses we sometimes get from parents.

I can see my Aunt Della shaking her head and saying “Mercy!” She taught three generations before she retired.

That makes ME want to say “Mercy!”

Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.