What School Used To Be Like

As the girls begin a new school year-my mind wonders at how much school has changed since I was a student-and the startling differences that occurred between the years of my school days and Pap’s.

  wolf creek school nc

Wolf Creek School

  (courtesy of Cherokee County Historical Museum)

Perhaps the biggest difference being the school buildings. Outhouses of yesteryear have morphed into toilets with automatic flushes. Potbellied stoves have been replaced by central air and heat which is usually controlled at some centralized location-a location that may be miles and miles from the actual school.

Other differences that come to mind:

~walking to school, changed to riding a bus, and in many cases has changed to parent pick up lines

~school lunches-changed from packing a pail or sack to standing in the lunch line-and recently in our area the lunch line has become a fat free lunch line

~curriculum-where to start-basically the 3 R’s have turned into a global curriculum

~recess has been erased in many cases in favor of guided exercise and mini-bathroom breaks

The most drastic changes in schools have certainly occurred between the years of Pap’s school days and today’s. But as I look at the changes between my school years and Chatter and Chitter’s the biggest one that stands out-is the end of grade testing.

I remember taking Achievement Tests-and I do recall the teachers encouraging you to try your best-but I don’t ever recall being pressured into out scoring my fellow students, the neighboring schools or being threatened with retention if I failed the test. Maybe the whole end of year testing is just a pet peeve of mine-maybe the girls eog testing experiences are not the norm. I just cannot fathom more emphasis being placed on the few days of testing instead of the growth a student makes during an entire school year.

What about you-what do you see as the biggest change since your school days?


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Dennis Price
    September 3, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    You are right on the money. They are teaching the achievement test for the better part of the year. No room for the real education to take place in that environment. No wonder kids have problems. Pappy

  • Reply
    Pat Workman
    September 1, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    My mother was a Public Health Nurse. Every fall she made the rounds in Macon Co to give shots at all the one room school houses tucked deep in the mountain coves. The smallpox shots were easy but oh those typhoid shots were painful to the max. Before I started school, I got to visit all the schools with her. I felt so sorry for those kids standing in line for their shots. Every school had outhouses and a spring close by.
    Looking back, I don’t know how we made it without air conditioning. But we didn’t know any better at the time.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    My girls classrooms have air conditioning, smart boards and big screen TV’s. Which we wouldn’t have dreamed of. There has been more cultural than physical changes in our schools over the years since I’ve been.
    All of the drama surrounding year end testing is a bit trying. The lack of respect for authority in actions and speech in schools today really bothers me, but not as much as when my daughter comes home mimicking this behavior! Many of the children have foul mouths and have been oversexualized.
    Overall I believe my daughters are getting a more thourough education than I did in school. Good or Bad? Both.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2009 at 9:56 am

    School has changed so much like you said that I try to look back at my earlier years and compare them to my son is in 1st. grade this year.
    I am suddenly having the feeling that certain things when I went t school were a bit outdated.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I was in the middle of leaving a comment, hit the wrong key and disappeared, so if you get this twice I apologize.
    Anyway, I was saying that your girls testing experiences are very normal for these times and that it is completely insane. It seems that the testing now is all about the ratings of the school and the teachers themselves which is why the students are pushed so hard to perform. Our kids are being taught to be so stressed out over school that they are putting so much pressure on themselves and creating other issues such as teenage depression and such. It’s absolutely horrible what is happening to our kids. They need to be let to be kids again.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Add us to the list of homeschoolers who read your blog, lol! Actually we are UNschoolers which means we do nothing that resembles traditional “schooling” in any way. My 13-year-old daughter just finished reading the Twilight series and my 16-year-old son is an avid fisherman and guitar player. They are currently on an “adventure” vacation with my parents near Burnsville(closer to Celo actually). We met yesterday in Tuscaloosa to hand them off. I love not being tied down to the school system and its oppressive rules.

  • Reply
    Helen G.
    August 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I think the biggest change from the days that I was in school… you know the days where we had to walk 6 miles up hill in neck deep snow and walk back home up hill, 6 miles inneck deep snow with the younger ones tied to us by a rope so’s they wouldn’t get lost…
    No, really, I mean who ever heard of neck deep snow in Oklahoma. But the thing that I see the most different, and it breaks my heart, is to see the disrespect that students show the teachers and each other and their selves and they get away with it. It seems that every state government neglects it’s teachers and the schools. And the parents don’t seem to want to work with the teachers. At least in the larger cities school systems. I’ll get off my soap box now… But in knowing and being friends with so many teachers and hearing things they go through trying to teach… it’s scary.

  • Reply
    Eggs In My Pocket
    August 30, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Yes, so many differences. My children are blessed to go to a rural school where lots of farm/ranch kids go…good kids…good teachers. But I think, violence and gangs are the worst things to pop up in schools. We never had that kind of thing when I was going to school. Occasional fights among boys were common, but nothing with guns or gangs. Enjoyed your words. blessings,Kathleen

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    August 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Kids will come to remember only the trauma of testing and not the bliss of childhood. Going to school will cease to form halcyon memories in the minds of kids and only cause shaking and chattering teeth, with the product person ever fearful that in every turn in Life thereafter someone will thrust a test in front of them.
    I think school was at its peak when the first day of school smelled overwhelmingly like new indigo-dyed denim from the boys’ new bib overalls and the excitement came from opening the new pencil box our parents always got us for the new school year.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Talk about changes…there have been so many I don’t know where to start. I walked to a one-room school when I started grade one. There was no kindergarten. Children minded the teacher and wouldn’t think of talking back. If you got strapped at school, you got a whipping at home that was much worse.
    We had no AC, a coal furnace provided the heat. The teacher read the Bible every morning and read us a story after lunch. We said the Lord’s prayer and toed the line. Today God is absent from our schools. Very sad.
    Outhouses were common when I started school but when they closed the one-room school we then had flush toilets.
    If a child wasn’t paying attention, a pointer came down on his knuckles or shoulder. It paid to focus on what was going on to avoid corporal reprimand.
    Today when I walk through the school, the children are walking around the room, talking and the teacher is doing her/his best to make them listen. There is no respect and the kids often talk back or even swear at the teacher. So sad.
    You brought many fond memories to mind. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    A heavy emphasis on computers and technology mostly. I didn’t use computers on a regular basis until college and never the internet until then. Also, testing drives me up the wall. As a former teacher, I despised teaching to a test. It is so limiting. I think at least here our schools are failing our children. It began while I was still there, probably before.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Ohh, I could go on all day on this subject. I would say that the schools I attended as a kid generally did better on the basics, although the private school my daughters went to through eighth grade did quite well, too. The public magnet high school they went to – not so much. I think parents, teachers, and administrators can all take some of the blame. The public schools in this area have suffered because so many of the administrators are careerists who care more about getting promotions by coming up with something “new” than by actually doing their jobs. Several families with young children in our neighborhood moved out when the local elementary school converted to a “year-round” schedule. My girls have had some fabulous teachers at both schools, but in the public school someone needs to get the courage to fire the bottom 5%. And, yes, parents need to do their part, too. We’ve decided to home-school our younger daughter for her last two years.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    OHHH!!!! How much time/space do we have??? Schools bear no resemblance to what I knew in the 60’s. I tutor students who are homeschooled, public schooled, and private schooled. Each kind of school can have its own problems. Private schools are not an answer when parents look to them to teach, discipline, and amuse the student. Public schools continue to throw money at programs that will never fix stupid schedules, overwhelming curriculum, and apathetic teachers and administrators. Homeschool is a great choice IF the parents are familiar enough with the subjects or have resources to help AND they take the school day seriously. In my humble opinion as a math teacher, all students need practice as homework every night after it’s had a chance to “soak in” from the day’s lesson. None of my public students have very much homework. It’s done in class so that there’s less time to teach. Parents are the key! Parents who don’t expect the schools to do their job of parenting. Parents who hold their school systems accountable for quality not quantity. Parents who don’t make excuses for laziness. Parents who encourage learning that aligns with the student’s ability….not worrying about the honor roll for the parent’s sake. Then there are sports and other extra activities that get more attention than academics. WHEW! I’m exhausted. Common sense when educating our children wins out every time…not Phd’s or whimsical theories….LET’s GET BACK TO BASICS!!! The testing will then take care of itself. I’m with you, Tipper, we never prepared months for the ACT. We showed up and took it because we had been taught the previous years before…Simple!!! Thanks, Tipper for this post. Education is near and dear to my heart because our kids are the country’s future, as overworked as those words may be. Right now with schools, the future isn’t too bright.
    Have a blessed Sunday afternoon!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Tipper, I walked to school and home, but it was not up hill both ways lol! When I see how much homework Chitter and Chatter have I wonder how I could have carried all those books home every day. There was certainly motivation to complete as much homework as possible so I didn’t have to carry all my books home. There was no such thing as a back pack, haha!
    We didn’t have those horrible end of the year tests. We had tests all year long and it was those tests that determined whether we passed or not.
    It is interesting that you have comments from several teachers and they all seem to feel that the lack of parenting is the problem and all the parents think there is a problem when the school focuses all its attention on the eog tests. Guess it is a matter of perspective. I do know that Chitter and Chatter do NOT have a lack of parenting!
    My school supplies consisted of a pencil and a pack of notebook paper—now that is a big change!
    I worked in state government for 25 years and know that our bureaucratic systems have become so top heavy there is no such thing as efficiency anymore, and our schools are part of that bureaucratic system!

  • Reply
    August 30, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I guess I’m a little glad to hear that Washington isn’t the only state that has freaked out over testing. The curriculum is even built around the test and teachers are a mess because they are told that their job depends upon how well their class does. Aargh

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    August 30, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Tipper: I can realte to everthing except the school building. I grew up in a city and our school was fairly large and modern in the 50’s. You did walk to school in all kinds of weather. Our Primary school was a mile away and sat on a hill and you climbed that hill regardless of the weather. The junior high school was 4 miles away on another hill. We lived near the river at the bottom of the valley.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I don’t even know where to start. I think parents are different. So many family/drug/social problems that have to be dealt with and the children are just stuck in a bad situation. So many assessments that sometimes I think we spend more time assessing than we do teaching.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I think the emphasis on testing is the biggest change I have seen. Really, those tests are meant to improve teaching. The result seems to be a simplified curriculum and a lot of stress. Ironically, results will improve when schools focus on the children as people and relax a little. I see that up here; finally, social skills are a considerable part of the middle school curriculum.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    So many changes have occurred since I was a child in school, but it seems many more have taken place since I taught in public school many years ago.
    Consolidation of schools, making one huge school instead of small neighborhood schools where the parents, teachers and children were closer, seems to have grown huge problems.
    My niece’s boy goes to a small private school where the children love working on the projects in which they learn all the skills of reading and writing and math, science, geography and history while studying a subject that fits their interests. In a study of the sea, he chose whales and did his research, wrote papers, learned dimensions and weight, and even drew and painted a whale. At the end of the school year he had to take the Big Test as public school kids take. He did well and his school was among the highest ranked. But the parents are involved and they pay for their kids to go so they respect the staff and the school.
    I agree with the teacher’s comment. Parents have changed and they don’t parent the way my mother and father did. Education was so special to my parents that they instilled appreciation in me for good teachers.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    One of the differences in when I went to school and now is that we got paddled! (I never did) I think if they were still allowed to discipline, the kids would behave a little better in school. And, I hate how every 2 or 3 yrs they change their way of teaching, saying this is much better than before. Well, when they were doing it the other way, they said that it was the best way to do it.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    That’s infuriating. Some people freeze up for tests. That alone is a reason that is a bad idea.
    The difference between my years and my daughters’? Homework. Microwaves in the classroom. (Some kids eat Ramen noodles EVERY DAY! We have a small private school with no lunches provided.) Required, all-day Kindergarten. And the fact that NO one holds their kids back a year to let them mature. (Except for me, apparently. But teaching art to K-8, I think there should be several others that have a chance to be a kid longer before dealing with the responsibility and pressure of school.)

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    One of the biggest changes I see is the lack of children being held responsible for their own behavior. The building of ingegrity and responsibility is strongly planted in stone when a child learns there are consequences for their OWN actions.
    On to lighter notes…return to school after Labor Day, and the school year ending at Memorial Day.
    Sitting in a class room with open windows because there was no air conditioning.
    Being able to go to bible school, even though the class room was not attached to the school, it was still allowed at a public school! And I gladly volunteered.
    We were taught to be proud of our country.
    I am looking forward to reading Sue Cole’s school experiences!
    I love the photos, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    August 29, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    The first school I attended was 1st thru 12th grades. We all rode the bus together and there was no fights or bullying. The big kids took care the small ones. We had recess, music, art and many other programs that have since been cut out. When we moved to the city everything changed. We were teased because we were hicks and we had to struggle to fit in. For years I was so mad at my dad for making us move. Later I realized he had done the right thing. I’m glad I never had to go though all the testing that goes on now. I watched my kids struggle with it each year, There’s got to be a better way. Hope the girls have a good school year.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I am a public middle school educator and have been for 33 years. I love my school and the students that enter into our building everyday. I have seen many changes in schools both positive and negative. The biggest change has been the parents not the children. All children are children and will always be children. Unfortunately, not all parents are parents.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I agree with you about the end of year testing. What did they work so hard for all year if their advancement only depends on this one test?
    And the disrespect shown from the students and parents toward the school staff is shocking. I know if I had talked to an adult the way some students do nowadays, I would have been picking myself up off the floor.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    August 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    We have mostly homeschooled our children. That alone is a big difference. I don’t know anyone who homeschooled when I was growing up. Now, most everyone I know either currently or has at some point homeschooled.
    And private schools are the second most popular choice. The public schools in our neighborhood are not only pathetic but also dangerous. Sadly, I think that is more the norm than the exception. There are fears of violence and disease at the huge public schools. Almost every one we know who doesn’t homeschool has chosed to send their children to smaller private schools where there is more emphasis on the individual child and they are safer. It’s really sad.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Yii, don’t even let me get started.
    My sister-in-law signed a “contract” for her 10 year old kid, saying that she’d make sure and get him a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast for test days.
    Did you know that this is why so many schools have changed their calendar and started earlier in the year? They want to get as many teaching days in before testing as they can. . .
    Of course, I’ve never known anyone not to take into serious consideration test scores when picking a neighborhood to move into or a school of choice to choose when they were moving or switching schools. The more students you get, the more funds you get. Also, if you can attract the parents that want a school with high test scores, you’re likely to have students that are easier to get high test scores out of. And on and on.
    Loved your pickles and grape juice, by the way. Gonna try for it next year, snow or no snow!

  • Reply
    trisha too
    August 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Don’t even get me started.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I love this post, Tipper. Our church is an old school house. We’ve only had a bathroom in the building for two years, now. The old outhouse is still out back. I saw one in the Ozarks last year that has his and hers outhouses. I noticed that ‘hers’ has electricity run out to it!
    I agree with you on the school testing. It’s really crazy now~kids don’t have time to learn anything because they’re so busy studying for those few days of tests.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    The lack of discipline and the disrespect are so amazing to me. I worked in public schools, retired 6 years ago. Parents not only students to be disrespectful to teachers; in some instances they encourage it. And practice it themselves. blessings, marlene

  • Reply
    August 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I attended a three room school house for a few years. Each room had two grades in it and went to grade six. We had recess outside, even if it was snowing.
    We moved to a city in FL and we no longer had recess. We had PE and competed with other kids.
    My children are homeschooled. Our days are short and they do not have homework after 3:00pm each day. 🙂

  • Leave a Reply