Teaching Then and Now – How Have Things Changed?

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

I recently discovered a fun downloadable from the very popular Teachers Pay Teachers site. This printable listed the rules for school marms or teachers in 1872. Educator and blogger Barbara Evans from It’s About Time Teachers, put the download together, however, it has been printed and shared in newspapers, books, museums and all over the Internet for over 50 years.

1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.

2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.

3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.

9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

I checked Snopes.com for the accuracy and legitimacy in this list of rules. They have it listed as a Legend, saying they cannot confirm the origins. Snopes also notes that this list was probably originally shared and continues to be shared to this day to demonstrate how much better off we are from almost 130 years ago. There is also another list of similar rules from 1915 that also circulates.

Whether or not this list is completely accurate and legitimate from that time period, I thought it would be fun to compare the rules to today’s expectations.

Obviously the old list is outdated. We are better off today than we were in 1872. Right? But then I began to really look at the list and and compare it to today’s teachers. By switching out a few materials and old fashioned political views, this list really hasn’t changed all that much…

1. Teachers arrive at school before their students. They ensure their classroom is organized, clean and ready for students every morning.

2. No scuttle of coal, but teachers purchase a lot of classroom materials and supplies out of their own pockets. Teachers pay for 77% of the supplies needed to keep their classroom full of educational materials for their students. That amounts to about $356 per teacher per year or $1.3 3 billion out of pocket. And that is just for basic classroom supplies. Teachers are also known to purchase snacks, lunches, school supplies and personal hygiene products and cover the cost of field trips for students whose parents are unable to cover these costs.

3. Today’s teachers can skip the whittling of nibs, but do keep a supply of pencils, scissors and paper for their students. Even if the students now take on the responsibility of sharpening their own pencils.

4. Teachers are no longer given time to court, but must work hard to squeeze in a personal life. They have meetings to attend before and after school, classes of their own to attend and don’t forget grading all of those papers. It is funny how students are shocked to discover their teachers actually shop at the same grocery stores and malls as they do. Aren’t teachers only found in schools?

5. Classroom teachers spend a lot of time and long days at school. They spend 6-7 hours in the classroom and then spend time in meetings, grading and planning. A teacher’s day does not end at 3:00 p.m. Many grade late into the night. And don’t forget teachers must continue to learn. By keeping up teaching certificates, they take hours of coursework every school year.

6. Women teachers not only marry these days, but also work incredibly hard to balance raising their own children with educating ours. Teachers miss their own children’s Halloween parades and Valentine exchanges. They aren’t there at the end of the day to meet their kids at the bus stop. These educators and disciplinarians, try as they might, use up their patience and energy during the school day. Their kids tend to get the short end and temper after 20-30 other kids burned out their parent. Teachers do  tend to be volunteered for Girl Scout leaders, enrichment clubs and other extra-curricular activities because they are good with children and love working with them. I enjoy my job too, but the last thing I want to do is go home and do it in my free time.

7. Teachers must set budgets and plan financially. Salaries aren’t through the roof, and many have experienced cuts and scaled back benefits. Teaching jobs are at a premium and many are not permanently employed, even if they are lucky enough to currently hold down a teaching job. These teachers must look every year for a new school or sub job. Tenure isn’t handed out as easily anymore. Permanent jobs are hard to find.

8. Today’s teacher behavior and rules aren’t spelled out as clearly as those from 1872, but teachers must work to maintain integrity and lead by example. Although their private lives may not be held under a microscope, certain behaviors or language can be terms for dismissal.

9. Let’s hope that teachers are receiving more than a 25 cent raise every five years (although it may feel like it.) It’s not the easiest thing to secure a permanent teaching position these days.

To help a classroom teacher with expenses, check out Adopt-a-Classroom so teachers and students can get what they need to succeed in school.

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