Sunday, June 1, 2014

Most great learning happens in groups. Collaboration is the stuff of growth. -Sir Ken Robinson Ph.D.

Have you ever thought about the difficulty of teaching in a one room schoolhouse?  I have several elderly friends who live in Potter County, PA, and their educations were completed in a one room schoolhouse, grades 1-12.  They have talked about the old days and the lessons they learned about sharing and helping and forming friendships that lasted a lifetime.  I happened to be at home on Sunday morning, June 1, and I was fortunate enough to see a terrific piece on CBS Sunday Morning News – all about the 200 one room schoolhouses which still exist in America.  Did you know so many still exist today?  Most of the one room schoolhouses closed after World War II, but in some rural areas, the school is still the center of the community.  (I will include the link at the end of my blog for the story.  It runs about 7 minutes, and it is well worth your time to watch.)

Just because a school building only has one room and one teacher, no state standards or costs per pupil are lowered.  I believe after seeing this story that teacher expectations are even higher for that one teacher than the teacher expectations of our suburban and city schools.  And talk about a teacher having to be self-sufficient!  The teacher is also the guidance counselor, the principal, the nurse, the secretary, and the curriculum specialist.  Can you imagine teaching the same students 180 days per year for 9 years, kindergarten through eighth grade?  Everyone would certainly get to know one another very well.

I enjoyed seeing this story because it reminded me that every student is an individual.  With small class sizes, the teacher can prepare individual lesson plans for each student.  In the larger classes, the older students work with younger kids on reading and other skills.  An interesting fact presented involved eavesdropping.  Today’s teachers often expect students to work in silence.  Students in a one room schoolhouse almost never work in silence, as the teacher is constantly talking with other students or groups of students.  The story showed one young man who wanted to learn what the older kids were learning, and his interest was sparked through eavesdropping!  

I found a segment of the story to be especially interesting.  In one school, every student has to help to clean the building every day of the school year, thus promoting a solid work ethic and responsibility to oneself and to others.  With such a small group of students, everyone has to learn to get along with others.  Perhaps those life lessons are two of the best lessons anyone can teach or learn.

I hope you have time to watch this story.  As teachers, we constantly strive to be better.  Maybe some of the lessons in this CBS Sunday Morning piece will give you some ideas for your own classroom.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

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