12 Things That I Learned in a Two-Room Schoolhouse That I Never Learned in Our City School System
In honor of New Home School
Today’s topic deals with one and two-room school houses. And I dread writing this because these early school buildings are now nothing more than visible-reminders of a time when education was learning the “Three R’s.” If you grasped this “complex” area of early-education, you were considered a real “Einstein,” who by the way, gained a segment of his early-education in a primitive school building.
Most every state in America has a one-room school house that some historical group has restored and got it registered on the List of Federal Landmarks so it can be protected from lawless-vandals and other criminals for the rest of its life. Hooray, Federal Government and the groups who love our “relics.”
I started my first day of school in 1961 in a two-room school house which was made of wood. It was called New Home. This country school had a man and wife team for teachers: L.J. and Gertrude Ballard, from Hamilton, Ala. Gertrude taught grades one through three, and her husband, L.J. taught grades four through six. New Home was a proverbial “rural utopia” for our school was located in the quiet surrounding of a beautiful rural part of Marion County, the county where I lived.
Did you or someone in your family ever attend a two-room schoolhouse?
Some lessons are best not taught from textbooks
Things besides math, science, and history were taught. Topics such as manners, courtesy and respect—both self respect and respect for others and their property. In 1961, New Home was considered “top of the line” in teaching us farm children for whom all of these early school houses in the state of Alabama were built—giving rural children who had to help work their farms a chance to get a head-start on their education.
New Home and other one and two-room schools were shut down in 1966 by the Alabama State Department of Education and their accreditation ended. All of the rural students were actually “thrown” into the tougher, more-rigid city school systems. Honest to God, I hated my time in the Hamilton, Alabama city school system. I have my reasons, but I will not divulge them here.
Instead, I would love to pay a personal homage to New Home School and all of the rural schools in Alabama with a little ditty I like to call:
12 Things That I Learned From a Rural School That I Didn’t Learn From Our City School System
HANDING PEOPLE—sharp objects such as scissors, knives and other sharp-edged things. Mrs. Gertrude Ballard was very stern about us learning this vital life lesson. “You want to hand the other person the scissors with the point toward you, not them, so you will not hurt them,” she would say most everyday. Our city school system never bothered showing us anything like this.
COMMON COURTESY—“Yes, ma’am,” “No, ma’am,” and likewise with male persons were strongly encouraged in our early education. It was “push come shove,” in our city school system and everyone out for themselves.
SELF-CONTROL—to stay in control and avoid violent confrontations that lead to fights, verbal and physical. The Ballards hated violence, and since we had no school nurse, they stressed self-control the more-frequently.
SPEECH HABITS—were taught to be decent and clean. If we were caught using profanities, we “got the board,” a piece of pine lumber that Mr. Ballard used for lawbreakers. One visit with “Mr. Lumber,” and you learned to “toe the line.”
RESPECT FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S PROPERTY—was very important to the Ballards. Their teaching was: “We need to act as if our neighbor’s property is our own, and then we will not be guilty of damaging anyone’s home or belongings.” You’d think that in 1961, this was an outdated topic, but thank God it was still in-fashion to teach this remedial item to us rural children. NOTE: we boys were even scolded if through fun, we damaged the playhouses that the girl students built near the playground to learn to “play house.”
TEAMWORK—no matter if it was a class project or playing softball, teamwork was heavily-stressed. The teaching was “we” all need each other in life so when we see someone in need of help, we will automatically stop what we are doing and lend them a hand.
LISTENING—as well as responding to questions in class were important for us to learn. Mr. Ballard was famous for saying, “Conversation is not just about being a good talker, but more importantly, a good listener.” And would you believe, all of these mostly-obscure lessons in today’s society, stuck with us all like Super-Glue.
DOING CHORES—at first, didn’t mean that much to us as a school-related subject, but as time went on, and we would all take our part in sweeping, emptying trash cans, and other needed-chores, made us realize that education is not just found in textbooks.
CARING FOR ANIMALS—was high on our teachers’ list for things that would serve us well in life. If the Ballards even heard a rumor that we were mean to any animal, even a stray cat, they did not ask questions, but first asked us why we did it and if we didn’t give a good answer, we were disciplined. I was never boarded for breaking this New Home commandment. I had learned from my parents to love animals before I started to school.
TELLING THE TRUTH—no matter the circumstance. The Ballards did not respect a liar. Yes, we kids were tempted to lie and did tell a fib here and there, but overall, when Mr. or Mrs. Ballard asked us a question, we answered quickly and truthfully. You would come more apt to not get boarded if you were honest than if the Ballards caught you in a lie.
RESPECT FOR FEMALES—in first through sixth grades were taught to the children at New Home no matter what age. I believe that this subject and telling the truth were “the two” most-important things we were taught. Sure, we teased the girls and pestered them, but it was all in fun. There was no vulgar or profane words said to them or any inappropriate movements made toward them or else . . .”Mr. Lumber,” and a visit to our parents by Mr. and Mrs. Ballard.
RESPECTING THE FLAG—and our country. Oh man, did the Ballards get super-serious about us learning this one and respect for God too. I can remember even today how we listened to a Bible story read to us every morning by Mrs. Gertrude Ballard and then we stood, said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, and said a short prayer.
“A personal and sincere thank you to Mr. and Mrs. L.J. Ballard, for these and all of the school subjects that you labored to teach us. May your rewards in Heaven be great for you earned it.”