Education on the American Frontier was a little spotty and it usually depended on how settled your area was as to how much your children received. And because of the shortage of women, most teachers were men. In that case they were called school masters. I know this won’t come as a huge shock to you, but the men had it a lot easier as you’ll see.
But back to the schools. If a town or community had one it was generally a one-room kind with all grades thrown together. First of all, can you imagine the chaos the teacher had to deal with having teenagers and first graders learning in the same room? Good Lord! That was recipe for disaster right there. But they didn’t have a choice. It took a strong teacher and a whole lot of patience.
Because most communities didn’t have money to build a house for the teacher, they were required to stay in homes with their students. They’d move from place to place at two-week intervals. Nope, not me. I couldn’t do that. No telling how uncomfortable that must’ve been, especially if the child’s parents disagreed with her teaching method.
Now, what proof did a teacher have to show that they were qualified? None beyond being able to read and write. That’s it. In the larger cities they had to pass a test but not out in the countryside.
So, you could show up and SAY you were a teacher and if they needed one, you were hired. It was the same with doctors, lawyers and every other profession. No one cared and furthermore they had no time to check you out. They were in such great need of people to fill those roles. My thoughts are whirling here. I might need to put a teacher in another story.
But most of the time, the teachers were students who’d gone to the eighth grade (which they considered the equivalent of 12th now.)
The teacher would arrive before daylight because they were required to put in a full day before the pupils arrived at 8:00.
Okay, so here is the list of rules for 1872 schoolmarms.
- Light a fire, fill the lamps, clean the chimney, clean the blackboard.
- They will bring a bucket of water and a one of coal.
- Sharpen the pencils.
- Male teachers were allowed to take one evening a week for courting purposes. They got two evenings a week if they were regular churchgoers.
- Schoolmarms were not allowed to court and were dismissed if they did or got married. (See what I mean? Such double-standards even back then.)
- Once school let out, the teacher would go clean the schoolhouse and go to their assigned home. They were then required to help the family with their chores. Before bed, they were supposed to read an hour from the Bible.
- Each teacher was required to put aside a good portion of their salary for lean times so they wouldn’t be a burden on society.
- Reasons for dismissal were: smoking, drinking, gambling or (get this) getting a shave in a barber shop. I assume that pertains to men. But why? Makes no sense to me.
- If they perform their duties and have no marks against them for five years, they got a .25 raise…if the school board approved. Wow!
- Schoolmarms had to wear at least two petticoats and wear no bright-colored clothing. The dresses could not show her ankles.
Still, for women it must’ve seemed a pretty good deal. Jobs were extremely scarce for them. Teaching was a lot better than prostitution.
What do you consider the worst part of being a teacher back then? What was the best? I’m giving away another $10 Amazon gift card to one person.