Saturday, July 15, 2017

One-room Public/Catholic School

I haven’t blogged because I’m working on my memoir. Asking for input on rural schools in Stearns County, I received this wonderful description by Bernadette Weber, OSB.
It will delight some; it might dismay others.
Here is just a snapshot of my grade school life.
Attending District 125 Public Country School was a rich experience.
 Being among 50 students in 8 grades with one teacher helped us be creative in using our time.
When in the lower and middle grades, I would listen to the interesting classes of the upper grades.
      We had wardrobes to keep our coats etc. (one for the boys and one for the girls).
When I finished my assigned work, I got to take the first graders for reading class in the wordrobe. Although I wasn’t aware of it, that was my first practice teaching.
 We also had a library, so could spend time reading books.

    In our school all the students and the teacher were Catholic. When I think about it, we were like a parochial school. We had a crucifix in the classroom and had Bible History classes twice a week and The Baltimore Catechism the other three days.
     We probably got more religion than parochial school students. We also went to religion classes on Saturdays.
On Sundays the pastor would ask catechism questions from the pulpit.

We got to participate at the county fair. I remember being in the exclamatory contest. There were also spelling bees.

     Recess time we usually played with our classmates.  The classes had their sections of the playground in which to play their choice of games.
Of course, anyone who could play ball did so. The pump for our drinking water was in the way when we played, so we had to be careful. My sister, knocked out a tooth bumping into the pump.

At the end of the school term we had a picnic. It wasn’t just food. We also had races of every kind: running races, sack races, high jumping., stilt walking.
Name it, we did it. We got our exercise at recess, at picnics and walking to school. My home was 2 ½ miles from school. Think of it: a first grader walking 5 miles a day.

Since we were in school with brothers and sisters, we never tattled. Anyway, with my parents the teacher was always right. Respect for authority was upheld.
We didn’t call it a wardrobe. We called it “the cloakroom.” I was pretty old before I figured out why it was called that. I went to the village school, not a one-room school, but this describes the culture of my childhood. Our school stood next to the church, priest’s house, and parish cemetery. We ate lunch in the parish hall.

Nora Luetmer, OSB, wrote a master’s thesis entitled, “The History of Catholic Education in the Diocese of St. Cloud: 1855-1965.” It shows that public schools in the county were treated like parochial schools. During my school days—in the 1950s—it changed.

During my primary grades, the priest came into school to teach catechism. By my seventh and eighth grades, the public school changed from just acting Catholic to becoming legally a Catholic parochial school funded by the parish. Some parishioners couldn’t understand why they should pay taxes for education twice.