Education

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The following text is taken from interviews that we did with different people about their education and their experiences in school.

 


 

Mr. Edgar Mudge:

" . . . We had a fairly good school. I think we had a six-room school and for a small community, that's a big school. That went from K to grade eleven. That was about a mile from where I lived. Of course there was no such thing as school busses. They were in the cities but not in the small communities. So you dressed up as warmly as you could and you ran to school. You got out for lunch and you ran home. After lunch you ran back to school and after school you ran home again . . .

" . . . When I left home to go teaching, that was my first teaching assignment. I was all of eighteen years of age. Eighteen years of age I was out teaching making my way in the world. That was in 1960. I was well qualified to teach because I had spent six weeks studying in summer school in St. John's. Six weeks! And I was just out of grade eleven. So I was just a kid. But that's what everybody did then if you were going to teach. Most people couldn't afford to spend years at university so you'd go teaching, you'd save some money because your salary was so great you could save loads of money as you could imagine . . .

" . . . I'm a teacher. Whatever the needs of the community were, you were it. Like I was called on for all kinds of things. Obviously I had to teach and I did the best darn job that I could . . .

" . . . The kids would come in the morning. We had an old pot-bellied stove in the middle of the classroom and the kids would come in with their wood. Somebody would come in and light the fire. Kids would come in from outside and they would hang their mitts around and dry their clothes and there would be steam going up all the time. That was our school. It was indeed a little pot-bellied stove in the middle . . .

" . . . But I had a tremendous year. When I went there in the early part of the fall, at the beginning of the school year, a lot of the adults said, 'You make sure those kids behave themselves. Last year the teacher let them run wild . . . ' I thought, 'I'll take care of them!' So I did something--today you would be run out of town on a rail if you did it. I said unilaterally, 'All of my students at home 7:30 in the evening--unless you're out with a parent--and then I want a note.' I can remember and I can picture kids out playing outside the house running over and looking in the window at the clock to see what time it would be. Seven-thirty and no kids around--everybody gone. Except for one guy. Poor old Tom. Poor old Tom. He was a nice enough kid. Oh, poor kid. He was old. Tom was about fifteen when he was in grade five. And Tom had a girlfriend. And I'd say, 'Tom, you know if you go out, I've got to strap you.' Tom would go out in the night and the next day after school I'd have to strap him. And we did that all year. Because if I tell you I'm going to cut your head off, I've got to cut your head off. Because if I say I've got to do it, I've got to do it. Other than that, you don't trust me. Right? At the end of the day, Tom would stay in.

'Tom, you were out last night,' 'Yes, sir.' Tom wouldn't lie to me . . .

" . . . The strap was used. It's cruel and terrible. Today I wouldn't think of doing such a thing but back then it's the way it was. It would be just as cruel today as it was then and just as cruel then as it is today. But society was different then. I wish I had never done it. But you did--because . . . it was done. That's one of my regrets, actually. I was vice-principal of this school for seven years and the strap was not heard tell of at this school. I wouldn't think of it. I was harder on myself than I was on the kids . . . "

 

Mr. James Langor:

" . . . From my own schooling I started school in a small community of about 200 people. When I started school in grade one, we didn't actually have kindergarten then, there were eleven grades, from grade one right to grade eleven in the one classroom. One teacher, who was very poorly trained, in that he only had high school graduation himself. Here we were with one teacher who didn't have a whole lot of experience. It was his first year teaching--and eleven grades. Every grade was represented. There were about 35 students in the class. Of course the teacher had to teach all subjects in all grades from grade one to grade eleven. That was quite a difficult task,

I'm sure . . .

" . . . Education was often thought of very highly. Unfortunately, kids didn't have quite the same opportunity to succeed in school as you have today. Because of the fact that teachers were hard to get in those tiny communities, often the most inexperienced and less-trained teachers were given jobs there. And often times they had to face, as I mentioned earlier, teaching multiple grades, as many as ten or eleven grades in the one classroom. So, opportunities, if anybody had difficulties and problems with school, they often didn't have a lot of opportunity to get extra help and things like that. So people dropped out of school, sometimes very early--sometimes as early as grade three or four people would drop out because by that time they'd already be fourteen or fifteen years old. And that was a very unfortunate thing . . .

" . . . Now, many families of course, did emphasize education and help kids get through school in those situations. As a matter of fact, the year that I started grade one, in my school where I mentioned about where we had classes from grades one to eleven, that very year there was one person who graduated with honors from grade eleven and wrote public examinations and got through on the provincial standards. That was quite an accomplishment, I think, for a young not-so-well-trained teacher to be able to bring somebody through a situation like that . . . ".

 

Mrs. Ruth Anthony

"I went to Grenfell Amalgamated School. It was, at that time, a large school. There was nearly a class for every grade. I was in the first Kindergarten class. The only reason I got in was because they needed one more child to have a teacher. They probably needed 20 children."

"The subjects we learned in school were English language, English Literature, Mathematics, World History, Geography, French. We didn't learn to speak French though. When I was in grade11 we had a French teacher who sat on her desk and just spoke French. We sat and listened. No one understood a word because we were not taught to speak it. We could read a passage and translate it, but I don't think we could pronounce any of the words. I could never figure out how we were taught French that way."

"We had a gym class. It was called PT for physical training. Girls and boys went to gym separately. We had basketball and badminton and we also had Scottish dancing. I don't think the boys took part in Scottish dancing. Scottish dancing is like the thing you see today with jigs and reels. We wore kilts. We also did home economics. That was fun. We published a cookbook one-year."

 

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