one room schoolhouse i know a story m5

The author remembers teaching in a one-room school, in the Conestoga Valley School District, in the early 1960s.

I taught grades one through four, for three school years, in a one-room school from September of 1961 to June of 1964. It was called Pleasant Valley, and it was a public school in the Conestoga Valley School District. Today, it is a private school in farmland along Pleasant Valley Road, southeast of Ephrata.

I had 28 students, in four grades, my first year in that school. They knew Pennsylvania Deutsch, and English, thankfully. And, thankfully, they were disciplined and respectful. I taught reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic, mostly.

I taught one subject at a time, starting with the first grade and continuing to the fourth, before starting the next subject. Each grade had homework to do between classes.

But it’s the interesting side events that I remember most about my first year of teaching in that one-room school.

During autumn, I enjoyed driving through farmland to the school and seeing farmers harvesting corn and an occasional horse and buggy on the roads. All was peaceful.

But one morning late in October, I drove up to the school and saw a couple of broken windows. There was glass on a couple of desks and the floor, and a few apples. Pranksters had come to Pleasant Valley School!

That evening, I hid my car behind the school and waited, in the dark, down the steps to the basement. Sure enough, here came the only car while I waited. It stopped at the school, engine running, and I heard breaking glass.

I ran across the front porch and jumped onto the road. Two pranksters jumped into the car and peeled away. I ran after them, memorized their license number and reported that incident to the state police in Ephrata. A couple days later, we had new windows.

Those farm children were hardy. Some came to school in bare feet until early November. And I had to wear long underwear under my coat and tie to be comfortable.

In winter, I tended a coal furnace in the basement each morning and afternoon. In the morning, I put coal on the fire, shut the top door and opened the bottom door, which created draft and a hot fire. In mid-afternoon, I put more coal on the fire, kept the top door open, but closed the bottom door to kill the draft. The fire simmered all night, until morning.

At recess in winter, when the fire died down, I took our lunches of foil-wrapped raw potatoes and hot dogs to the furnace and placed them on a rim inside. At lunchtime, I retrieved those items for all of us to enjoy.

I learned a little Deutsch, but I didn’t let the students know. It was interesting what I learned, including what they thought of me at times!

I received several presents from my students the day before Christmas vacation each year. Steak, a dozen eggs, homemade cookies and pies, and sausage were some of the wonderful gifts from my scholars.

I remember seeing birds around Pleasant Valley School my first year there. During a winter recess, I heard buzzy chickadee calls from a tree. Looking up, I saw a boreal chickadee, the only one I ever saw. During another recess in April, I heard the lovely singing of a vesper sparrow perched on a roadside wire. I would see flocks of horned larks low in flight over fields, or a rough-legged hawk perched handsomely in a lone tree in a field.

The last day of school my first year, we had a picnic in a tree-lined meadow, by a covered bridge along the Conestoga River, about a half-mile from school. Along the way, barn swallows swept across the sunny sky after flying insects.

The pupils and I played games in the pasture, and ate picnic lunches. I heard a male Baltimore oriole singing, and saw a striking red-headed woodpecker chipping at a dead tree.

These are some of my memories of my first year teaching in a rustic one-room school. They are pleasant to me, and, I hope, enjoyable to readers.

The author lives in New Holland.

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