Volume I, No. 1, Fall 1973

38 Years in a One- Room School

While gathering information on rural schools the most logical source, of course, is the man who has taught rural schools for 38 years, Mr. Hollen Mott.

What do you feel is hardest about teaching in a one-room school?

Time--of courser that's everywhere, but it definitely is a time problem with the eight grades. I have always been very fortunate in having a number of uppergradesmen who have been wonderful assistants with helping get the job done.

Is there any problem with noise in the classes?

Yes. You will have that problem some. I think that probably in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades that with the smaller classes they are disadvantaged. While on the other hand, first, second, third and fourth will learn a great deal from the upper grades reciting. That has proved to be a point. I read in an article in School and Community put out by the Missouri State Teachers Association that the youngsters learn more in the first four years in the rural schools than they would in a regular school.


Then you think that the younger students do learn from...

Oh yes! As a matter of fact, just the other day I had a little girl in the second grade--we've been working in the third on multiplication tables--and she came up with the combination four times six and said, "Isn't that twenty-four?" She was learning to multiply right there in her seat from observation of the other grades.

I'm just curious about how you manage to keep...

Order! Ha, ha, ha.

Right, that and how you manage to keep eight grades going and working and learning something.

Well, there isn't a minute that you can call your own from the time that you start and you stop. You've got to see that everybody is doing something and you've got to write that into periods.

Is it hard to keep all the kids busy?

That is difficult. But I think that most of the kids that are really interested will keep busy most of the time. Of course now, this calls for teacher planning. This group has got to work silently while maybe this particular group is reciting. But I think that's a big problem everywhere. It depends on the motivation of the student as to whether he is busy and wants to be busy.

How do you plan your classes? Do you have everyone do science on one day?

Right. We have to have science one particular period and all students will be involved. Math is the same, English and any other type that we have, we try to do it all together. I don't mean we'll all be working on the same thing. I mean that in science period we'll all be involved in science and working on science. Some will be experimenting and that gets rather noisy sometimes. There'll be experiments going on back at this table perhaps and other science classes are going on. Sometimes those can be coordinated, all working on one particular thing and that makes it a great deal easier, but there's nothing easy about it either.

I'll bet not. During the reading period everybody in the whole classroom may be reading something. They'd be reading different things but all reading something?

That's right. Over here in this particular group here, of course, we have some SRA kits that we use, and I usually have a book that they use in reading, but we have social studies every year in the upper grades while this other group is reading. What time they're not doing anything, we have library books here and we have a set of about thirty-six books they're supposed to read in a year according to the state department of education. Some of them will read sixty, some of them'll read hundreds. You know, it just depends on the individual reader there. I have found that if a student is reading it doesn't make any difference whether it's classwork or not, but if he's reading, he's going to be all right.


I noticed that in this first grade group down here there's a little third grade girl reading with them and correcting the words that they miss.

Yes, uh-huh.

Does that happen pretty frequently.?

We do some of that now whenever the span of attention of the younger grades is much shorter than it is in the upper grades. In other words, they can't concentrate as long. The span of attention there of the lower grades is shorter than that of the upper grades. They can concentrate, sit down, and read over there.

So isn't using other kids to teach them a way to help this?

I use the larger children primarily for review work. In other words we read this story this morning. Maybe there'll be some words missed. You introduce those but maybe some of them didn't get them. So the larger children help them remember.

They learn from each other.

Yes, definitely. We learn from meeting each other and contact with people and so do youngsters. Youngsters, of course, pick up that kind of thing much faster than adults do, too.

That would seem to me to be one of the real disadvantages of abolishing the one-room school. You have the kids do lots of papers?

Oh, yes, definitely. You've got to. That's another thing that's got to be done in a rural school. I spend an hour or hour and a half every night grading papers.

You mentioned something about education cycle. Could you tell us more about it?

Back in something like '25 there was quite a change going on right then with the letters. Up to that time they had just taught the letter, learn your letters first. And then they'd start phonics. They started using that in the last days of teacher training in the high schools. They got away from the old learning the alphabet, see, and then they started teaching phonics. Do you know we've passed about forty years in that or thirty-five at least arid that trend came right back. This educational whirl runs in cycles and when the pendulum swings, it'll swing too far to one side. If only we could pick out the good of both and put them together ....


This new math is like the phonics?

Yeah, that's what I had in mind.

I guess you're aware of the fact that a lot of teachers and a lot of school theorists, are coming around to the point of view that the one-room school house is in fact the best way of educating kids and are now in the process of coming back to the one-room school concept. Maybe we here in the Ozarks have recognized the value of the one-room school and kept it because we felt it was the best way to teach. Or maybe we're so old fashioned that we are almost "modern''?



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