One Room Schoolhouse

A new school year is just around the corner!  Over the summer, I visited a one room coal camp schoolhouse in Beckley, West Virginia:
Technically, there are very few of what is thought of as a traditional one room schoolhouses still in operation in the United States.  In 2005, there were only 400 left and I suspect that the number has significantly dropped since that time.1 
Three weeks after my West Virginia visit I attended a national educational conference in San Francisco, California. Reflecting on these trips, it got me thinking of the old saying, what goes around comes around.
I've been an educator for 38 years and I've experienced so many fads. (I'll be retiring in the next couple of years with the goal of working full time as a genealogist.)  Some methods lately aren't fads, though, but are practices being resurrected from long before than my days spent in a classroom.
Recent trends in education seem to be towards many of the concepts that were commonplace in the traditional one room schoolhouse that our great grandparents attended.  Today, many "progressive" schools group children based on ability and not age.  Although one room schoolhouses placed children in rows by grade, with 1st graders in the very front and 8th graders in the back, the children interacted on lessons taught based on their knowledge. Multi-age classroom are again becoming commonplace and I'm planning on mixing my7th and 8th graders with 11th and 12th graders this year.  Lucky for me, the 2 school levels (middle and high) are right next door so it's doable.  
Typically, one room schoolhouses held a maximum of 40 students but usually had about 20-25.  In my state, we have an amendment to the state constitution that limits the number of students in a class with some flexibility, usually it's 18 in grades Kindergarten - 3rd, 22 in grades 4th-8th and 25 in 9th-12th. Gone are the days of the baby boomers with huge classes:
My 1st Grade Class (I'm 2nd row, 5th from right)
To accommodate such large amounts of students, baby boomers had to have their desks lined up in even rows:
Hubby's 3rd Grade Classroom
The cooperative classroom of today has flexible settings and sometimes resembles more of a family room than what is thought of as a schoolroom:
Once thought to be a classroom of the future!
The one room schoolhouse had its tablets and my school district has a BYOE (Bring Your Own Electronics) policy that allows students to bring their own electronic devices.  Of course, we don't need chalk with our tablets!  
The teacher in the one room schoolhouse often prepared individual lessons for his or her students and the teacher today does the same.  Gone are the textbook series, like Open Highways, that I used when I first started teaching.  We're lucky to have internet resources available as supplements which I'm sure the one room schoolhouse teachers would have thought was marvelous. 
Due to technology, innovative educational programs are springing up all over the United States as alternatives to the typical school environment. in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Brooklyn, New York was developed by a former Google employee and is a micro-school with a personalized education not very different from what our great grandparents received.  
My next few blogs are going to be about educational history, both in general and specifically with my ancestors. I'm going to share some exams given to 8th graders back in the day to compare what's being given now.  We'll also look at how the role of teachers and types of student discipline that have changed.  In the meantime, I'm going Back to School shopping.

1. "The Return Of The One-Room Schoolhouse." NPR. NPR, Web. 08 Aug. 2015.


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