Schools of the Past: Greene Road One, First School (1925-1932) – Part II

This week we will continue with Mrs. Thompson’s documentation as follows.

“Learning to write taught us Palmer Method script from the outset. As soon as we could form letters into words, rules began to appear. Writing words immediately brought strict rules of spelling, soon followed by more rules for sentences-grammar, punctuation, and all the rest. Our efforts were promptly marked for correction if we erred, and we practiced the corrections long enough to aid retention. Alt those rules were seen just the tools we needed to put writing on paper ourselves, where not in any way resented. Some parent of pupils in the school could not do that very well. My own father had only elementary education, but was able to own and manage a country store.

Although my father’s schooling was limited, he was very good at doing arithmetic – unfortunately a gift that I did not inherit. At District 22, we absorbed those infamous, memorized ‘tables,’ along with much other rote learning. But we frequently practiced arithmetic in a recess activity used in bad weather when we could not go outside. We had a cardboard box with holes of varied size cut in it. A number marked above each hole was its point value, with the smaller, harder-to-hit holes counting more. Bean bags were what we tossed at the holes, and used our arithmetic to keep score and compete toward winning. All that tossing wore out the box periodically, so it had to be mended or replaced. This is just one of the crude but useful devices that served to supplement our learning-costing nothing but some effort and ingenuity.

We learned ‘facts’ about history and geography, as there were then understood, sparsely illustrated by a few colored maps and some black and white pictures. Some of those ‘facts’ may have been less than accurate, or even untrue. Yet we glimpsed other times and places, where people lived lives very different from ours, and the differences aroused interest to seek more information. Books were the main source available then, and I learned to cherish them very early.

Certain advantages and disadvantages naturally went along being ‘the teacher’s kid.’ Charges of favoritism did not arise, because my mother was a strict disciplinarian, and she showed me no favors. My greatest advantage probably was that we went to the library in the Village of Greene at least every couple weeks. That kept a supply of good books for reading to the school by my mother-and helped me become, and remain, an avid reader. I caused the librarian some distress because I had read my way through all the children’s books by third grade, and wanted more. My mother had to do considerable persuasion before I was allowed-under close supervision-to venture into the adult stacks. Fortunately we found enough ‘safe’ books to satisfy both my interest and the librarian’s cautious concerns.

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