Another excerpt from the book, Reflections of Wentworth One Room Schools 1819-1959, written by the 2012 Wentworth school reunion committee, traces further the history of this era; the first excerpt was printed in the Citizen-Record on Jan. 24, 2018.
The education system up to 1959 had the advantage of local community control where most decisions were made and is a big contrast to the present system in Wentworth, where there is not a school on location, and where students are bussed out of this community to a distant school.
At our 2012 school reunion, we had fun looking back and were still friends with one another, and quite an age range was represented there from the past grades one to eleven.
So here comes the second excerpt from Reflections of Wentworth One Room Schools 1819-1959:
“Inside the schools there were two entryways (one for the boys and one for the girls), the teacher's desk, three blackboards (one large in front and two smaller ones at the side), wall maps, a globe, a wood stove, double desks (two students seated at each desk, or at some schools single desks), and a door in the back leading to a wood shed and a water pump. Light was provided by the large windows during the day and any program at night would have oil lamps, as in the early days there were no electrical systems in the schools.
At 9 a.m. the teacher would ring a bell, have students salute the flag, have a short worship period, and begin the lessons. This one teacher taught grades one (primary grade came along later) to grades eleven and would teach each grade in progression while the rest of the students worked on assignments at their desks until each grade had their time with the teacher. Memorization was a key component in the learning process.
Teachers were required to provide religious and ethical education to students and were expected to be outstanding in their personal lives as well. Teachers could punish disobedient students by scolding them, shaking them, strapping them, ordering them to stand in corners or in the entryway or remain seated during recess. Usually, the teacher had the support of the parents in disciplining bad behaviour in a student. In general, with a reasonably strict teacher, all the students behaved well. Bullying was kept at a minimum because older students would keep a watch on it as often their younger brother or sister could be a target.
Games played at recess included Baseball for all ages and genders, Alley Over ( two teams on each side of the school competing to catch a ball thrown over the school roof), Tag, snowball fights, and Six Sticks (two teams and the team getting six sticks across the line without being tagged won). School Fairs happened with the six schools competing against one another for prizes, and Christmas concerts took place in each school with planks brought in to seat the audience in order to see the concert in front of the room. Arbor Day was held in the spring when the teacher and the students cleaned the school and grounds.
Twice a year a School Inspector (including the famously strict School Inspector B.R. Hall) came to examine how well the school was doing with regard to the teacher, the students and the trustees. Each year a school nurse came to examine each child. Other visitors included trustees, parents, interested citizens, and all would sign the teacher's school register.
One-room schools had their positive sides in that its surrounding culture was local: students and parents knew one another socially and this fact helped to keep a well functioning school. A disadvantage was that the schools lacked science labs, and, when writing provincial exams for grade eleven, students had to board in town for the week, be in a strange environment,and face exam questions about facts never covered at the one-room schools. Students often dropped out in grades nine or ten to take local jobs or else leave the community for other jobs.
The amalgamation of all the six one-room schools occurred in 1959 when grades primary to six were bussed to to the Wentworth Consolidated Elementary School and grades seven to eleven were bussed to Pugwash District High School. A cultural way of life was gone and its advantages, but the advantages of amalgamation proved that more students stayed in school and graduated with grade twelve.
Certainly, there is a big contrast between then and now in the Wentworth school system.