September 2011 Time Capsule

September 2011 Time Capsule

Ancestors in their own words.

Teachers, do not forget that you can add much to the interest and success of your school by making your school-room look pleasant and attractive. It is no wonder that children have a dread to attend school regularly, when they leave their own pleasant homes and enter the cold, cheerless school-house with its bare walls, which ever present an external sameness, with nothing to please the eye or make a variety of the school-room scenery.

We are pleased to notice that many teachers have taken steps in this direction by hanging or pasting up pictures, maps, bunches of dried grasses, coloured varnished leaves, wreaths of evergreens hung about the room; flower vases placed on the table and filled with water, with a vine trailing from its top downward; little mounds of moss with coloured pebbles at their base, placed on the window-sill or clock-shelf; any or all of these things tastefully arranged in our plain school-rooms will add an irresistable charm to your work, and cause children to love and respect you, which no other incentive can produce. Coloured pictures are the most attractive. They are cheap, and can be found in almost any book-store.

This advice, printed in the July 1874 Journal of Education for Ontario, takes us back to a time well before commercial lesson plans, dry-erase boards and alphabet bunting.

Teachers’ journals were an essential tool for 19th-century educators who might not have much contact with other teachers. In America, teacher preparation first took root in the mid-1700s, and it wasn’t long before women outnumbered men at the head of the classroom. Education for teachers evolved from “dame schools” to seminaries, academies and institutes for women teachers; to normal schools; and to colleges and universities.

Despite these resources and training programs, as recently as 1921, 30 states still had no specific educational requirements for teachers; 14 insisted only upon a high school diploma. Even by the late 1930s, a few states still had no educational qualifications, although more and more were mandating at least a year or more of higher education.

Of course, all family trees contain ancestors who were once students. But if your pedigree also includes a teacher, what kind of education did he or she receive? A helpful source to discover more about your educator ancestor is James W. Fraser’s Preparing America’s Teachers: A History (Teachers College Press), which follows teacher education through three centuries.


From the September 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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