Once Upon a Time
'A Rural One-time School'

by Bob Johnston

February 15, 2017


Once Upon a Time ...
Bruce County Memories

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Miss Ruby Eidt was raised in Saugeen Township. This letter describes her first four months teaching in a country classroom and was printed in “The School,” a teacher’s magazine, in 1915.

I found myself gazing with horror-stricken eyes at a register list of names, numbering seventy two. The next question --- how many classes? Beautiful maple trees surround the very large schoolyard, part of which is on the side of a gently sloping hill. On entering the school, I came face to face with the time-honoured box stove of my own school days.

On the very first day, I made a little speech about the duties of the pupils toward their school. I told them they were running it. I was only there to give advice occasionally. Every two weeks we elect the following officers: monitors, blackboard and brush cleaners, water carriers, fire boys, bell ringer, window-openers and sweepers. The seating was not the best, so I changed some of them. I made some mistakes. The boy with that studious, sober look was the one who thought it to be great fun to shoot peas toward the teaching platform and have me slip on them. He made the other boys laugh so I put him with the quiet ones. Another change was made when I found out the boy who idled away his time with other boys worked like a Spartan when placed near two hard-working girls. Little sisters and brothers were sitting with their older brothers and sisters, apparently a time-honoured custom, but after some tears, I managed to get them to sit proudly with their own age groups.

I have eight classes: two primers, two firsts, two seconds, junior third and senior fourth. Reading is separate for all classes except when I join two classes just for a change. It urges the lower class to “catch up,” to read as well as the seniors while the seniors try a little harder hard so that the juniors can’t. I found fairly good equipment for teaching arithmetic to senior grades but nothing for primaries. I now have a numeral frame with coloured balls, sticks, corn, chestnuts and marbles for building number stories on tables.

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A person as ignorant as I had a great deal to learn about discipline. For forming in line to leave the classroom I ring a little hand bell as we were taught in Normal (teacher’s college training.) One tardy pupil means the rest must wait. This is very effective as the children give him his punishment by black looks.

--- More classroom adventures next month!


Ruby Edit's letter was published in the 1985 yearbook of the Bruce County Historical Society and adapted by Bob Johnston for today’s reader.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017