Labor Day and September always mark the end of summer. A new beginning.
When I was young, a new school year began the day after Labor Day.
One of my granddaughters is in eighth grade. I tell her to study hard and mention that I graduated No. 1 from eighth grade. But my wife is quick to point out that I was the only one in eighth grade that year.
My last four years of grammar school were spent in a one-room schoolhouse. There were 12 to 15 total students in a given year. Some classes had no students, while others had one or two.
Class began with the pledge to the flag. Then three students could choose songs to be sung by the whole school. After a couple of months, you would know what song a student would select.
We studied the basic courses of reading, writing and arithmetic, along with geography, health, history and spelling.
There were desks of various sizes for the students. In the upper center of a desk was an inkwell. We practiced writing using pen and ink and following the Palmer Method of Penmanship. I was not much at penmanship — my handwriting is so terrible, I should have become a doctor instead of a lawyer.
In front of the teacher’s desk was a bench. When it was your class’s turn to recite, you would be called forward to sit on the bench. The teacher would ask questions. If you did not know the answers from the day’s lesson, you would have to go back to your seat and study some more.
You would bring pencil and paper for mathematic problems or a spelling quiz. If you missed any arithmetic problems or spelling words, you would either miss recess or stay after school and re-do it until you knew how to do the missed problems or the incorrect words.
Each morning and afternoon we had a 15-minute recess. This gave us an opportunity to go outside and play if we didn’t have schoolwork or incorrect arithmetic or spelling words to correct and practice.
Or, we could go out to play and stay after school and do the work. I liked recess time, so I spent many an afternoon staying after school.
We all went home for lunch. We would then return to the school yard to play until the bell rang. When we assembled after lunch, the teacher would read to us for 15 minutes from a children’s classic. This is the way I learned many of the classics.
It was difficult attending a one-room school. You had to know the lessons. You couldn’t count on the teacher calling on other students. With only one or a few in your class, you knew you would be called on many times.
The lessons learned in that one-room school prepared me for later life when I attended college, law school and graduate school. I learned how to concentrate and study. Although I didn’t appreciate it at that time, I later was thankful for the lessons I learned in that one-room school.