A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Little One Room Schoolhouse Perseveres

The sprawl of suburbia in New Hampshire is threatening a real treasure:a one-room school that's been continuously used since the American Revolution:
Go slow when you drive through Croydon, N.H. It's a tiny place with a general store, a town hall, one church and a red brick, one-story school. Croydon's school was built in 1780 and has been in continuous operation ever since. But change is coming. It's a matter of growth.

Most of America's one-room schools are threatened with closure because of lack of population. Croydon might lose its school because it has too many people.

Today, only first-, second- and third-graders attend Croydon Village School. From fourth grade on, they take a bus to Newport, the next town down the highway.

Citizens of Croydon are happy with the arrangement and support it with their tax dollars. At a town meeting every March, they scrutinize the school budget line by line. Lifelong resident Harry Newcomb sums up a prevailing attitude: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

For nearly a decade, the Croydon teacher has been Lynn Touchette. Making the most of the multi-grade setting, she finds ways to get older and younger students working together. This kind of education distinguishes one-room schools from more typical public schools, and the citizens of Croydon think it makes for more confident, secure kids.

"They have a tight bond with the teacher, a tight bond with each other and a tight bond with the community -- and they take that right through life with them," says Carol Marsh, who was a student at Croydon and now serves on the school board. Her daughter Katie attended Croydon, too.

Croydon's population varied only a little for many years, hovering for a long time between 600 and 700. Now a lack of housing in nearby towns and cities is bringing people here. Two new subdivisions have broken ground.

Last spring, there were 18 students at the school, and most agree that's near the upper limit. If more come, the residents of Croydon will have hard choices before them: renovate the old, historic school, build a new school, or send more kids down the road to the next town.

"We want our young ones here," says Marsh. "We want them to know their neighbors."

My grandmother taught in Oklahoma in the state's early days when she was barely out of high school herself, and her stories always fascinated me. Apparently NPR has had a series of stories about these cherished institutions, and I recommend you check out all the links. It obviously takes a special teacher to make this work.


At 4/19/06, 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom was taught by her mother at a one room school until Grade 8. I wonder how the mixed age model would work in regular public school? Mini one room schools taught by the same teacher for 6 or 8 years? A little bit Montessori perhaps, but I think it could work.

At 4/19/06, 5:10 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, they're right about the size-- must keep it low to keep everyone from losing their marbles.

At 4/19/06, 6:41 PM, Blogger Jenny McB said...

I can't recall where, but I recently read where those one room classrooms did it right! Multi-age, but everyone being taught to their ability, not to their ages. And so the pendulum swings.....

At 4/19/06, 7:07 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

My dad attended a one-room schoolhouse in Mississippi. At some point his family moved to Tupelo, where his placement tests determined that he was well ahead of the grade he should have been in.

I suppose y'all have read The Thread that Runs So True. It's about a teacher in a one-room school, and despite the snarky reviews, it's a pretty good read.

At 4/19/06, 10:38 PM, Blogger EHT said...

This community is doing what fits for them. When are we going to remember that each community in this great country is different---with different strengths and needs. As long as we attempt to create a national one-size-fits-all educational system the problems will remain. I'm for smaller districts, and more local control to solve our own local problems. I love the idea of the one room school but I don't think I could pull off the multi-age thing.

At 4/20/06, 1:08 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

You said it!

At 4/20/06, 10:09 PM, Blogger Smithie said...

The series is worth looking up on the NPR site. It's all good stuff.


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