Teaching Challenges of 99 Years Ago

22 Jun

I listened this week while a teacher discussed the recent challenges of disruptive students in the classroom.  I was reminded of the challenges that Elsie had in her  first year teaching in Arizona. One of Elsie’s students, Dale Girdner, wrote and illustrated an interesting aricle in 1977  that was published in Westward magazine. At the time he wrote the article he  was a senior citizen in his eighties, and like Elsie he obviously had vivid memories of the one-room school in Cornville.  He described Elsie in this article:

Elsie Hayes  lighting the stove.

 “…They hired two young teachers fresh from Los Angeles who were of the impression that they were away out in the wild and wooly west and that the people were just as wild as most anyother kind of varmints…. Since all of us bigger boys liked the idea immensely and certainly did nothing to distract them from their firm belief. I reckon we sorter looked and acted the part, without changing our regular way of conducting -or should I say misconducting ourselves?

We had tried a good many ways to keep them entertaining their belief, and was thrilled to see how well they responded to our tricks. They fell for nearly all that we tried. …

Well, one morning Glen found a couple of flat pint whiskey bottles and filled them with tea and stuck one in each hip pocket. On one he put the seal back on the cork and it looked  quite convincing…. He was very generous in sharing with the larger boys  who had previously been instructed to keep the secret. … Miss Melick arrived on the scene. Needless to say she was hocked and humiliated. Glen had even given quite a few of the older girls a shot around and they were becoming quite unsteady and just a little bit on the noisy side.

Glen went into the smaller room where Miss Hayes (Elsie) was kneeling down on the floor in front of the big old heating stove, trying to build a wood fire. .. He walked up and waved his bottle with the words:”Shay Miss Hayes, don’t you want a dlink of Whi’kkey? It shore is good stuff,” gulping down another generous snort.

She looked up with a horrified look, and said,”Oh, no thank you, I just wouldn’t care for any.” As soon as Glen had gone outside Miss Melick came running in the door with her hands in the air, with the information that half of the kids were drunk….It wasn’t long till some of the little kids got the message that it was a put up job and proceded to let the cat out of the bag; whereupon both teachers  put on a bold front, called the school to order, and within half an hour the color had come back into both teachers’ faces. …Things did take place, as they always will around a country school where there are lots of kids with a lot of excess Vim and Vinegar who feel the need to teach the teacher as well as being taught. I felt better about the whole ordeal in a few days of recuperating -when I was capable of resting in a sitting position.”

In the book there is a delightful letter Dale later wrote to the teachers. It is obvious this trick and others they played on these “greenhorn” teachers did not change the fact that these teachers remembered these fun loving students with fond memories .

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