Barrouallie: Tales of different eras
February 8, 2013

Educational Tales cont’d

As promised, we shall follow yesteryear’s youngsters into their classrooms and see what transpired. Here we are once again, on the steps of the “old school”.Before we go inside though, I must mention two other teachers who taught here several years ago, namely “Zack” Francis and Mr Leroy Jackson. I shall keep updating this list as time goes by and as the memories of the elderly folks permit.{{more}}

In addition to teacher G.M. Sandy, who was a stern disciplinarian, the teachers of yore were respected. Those teachers ranked as supernumerary and grade teachers and worked for menial wages (that’s how I see it, but that was “plenty money” in their era). Back in the day and, depending on the teacher’s grade, he or she worked for $6.00, up to $21.00, and was expected to deliver the school’s curricula to those who were put in his or her care. In addition to delivering the curricula, those teachers had to attend centres for the purpose of training.

As the years progressed, there were additions to the curricula and by the 1950s, 5-7 year olds were taught reading, writing, number (tables everyday), health and hygiene, social studies, musical movement, creative activity, sense training, environment study, singing, nature table, stories/poetry etc. The older children were taught additional subjects. There was also a great emphasis placed on children’s written work (formation of letters) and teachers were equipped with erasers at their tables. Thus, as each piece of work was submitted, many had to return to their work desk to re-write, even if it meant doing it 100 times! It is no wonder, then, that they boast such legible writing and excellent “fists”.

Depending on the era, some children started at ABC then went to stage 1, 2 then 3, before going on to standards 1 to 6. School for many ended at standard 6 and mostly at the age of fifteen. However, I was told that children who were well behaved were allowed to return for an additional period of time, but their names were taken off the register for the duration of the overtime period.

At Teacher Sandy’s school, there were open classrooms. The only division was the chalkboards which served as partial partitions; yet the children were always quiet. You don’t have to ask why they were so quiet. Teacher Sandy himself occupied a table in the hallway and monitored everything which transpired. As was expected, there were those who tried from time to time to engage in behaviours which were out of the norm.

An elderly resident recalls how one of the classes was taking liberty on a young teacher one day. They giggled and giggled and the noise was getting louder and louder. They seemed to have forgotten where they were. They were so engrossed in their activity that they, for the moment, became oblivious of what was happening. Suddenly, they stopped, as hasty footsteps echoed on the wooden floor of the school building; you can imagine it, can’t you? Teacher Sandy was making his way to the “classroom”. All “man Jack” became silent, but the damage was already done. The disciplinarian and most revered was there and he was visibly upset. He spoke to the teacher, then proceeded to erase what was on the chalkboard.

The look on Teacher Sandy’s face made them quake and the classroom was transformed from what it was a few minutes before to one that was as “quiet as a mouse”. He then drew one of the “biggest clocks” you can think of. He went through for thirty minutes, the time, “going to and after the hour” (concepts which were taught to them previously); then he erased that information and began his rounds, questioning them about the time. Almost the entire class got the rod of correction, as they stumbled their way, some repeating the questions asked, while others were dumbfounded even before they started. It reminded me of tables time at the Stoney Ground School in my day. I recall that if the teacher asked 7×8, you had to give the correct answer right away. Repeating the question was a no-no.

The children that day “learnt their lesson” and I supposed they never disturbed the school in such a manner again. That is just one instance out of many. Sometimes I wished that there were more Teacher Sandys around today. I am reminded, though, that this is a different era a different generation. However, we cannot throw up our hands in despair. What I do know is that Teacher Sandy and the parents of yore “sang from the same song sheet”……..Today? Well, that’s a different story for another time and with that we shall visit Teacher Sandy again next week, by God’s will.