Diane Prather: The 1st Day of School

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This time of the year, I think back to that first day of school when I was a kid.

I attended the Morapos School, just down the road from the ranch, through the eighth grade. After that I rode the bus to high school in Craig.

The Morapos School was a one-room school, though some of the county schools had two rooms, an upper room for older pupils and a lower room for younger pupils. A teacher was hired for each room.

The Hamilton School was a two-room school.

During my first two or three years, the Morapos School was in an older log building, but then a new school was built.

I can’t remember those first years very well, but I don’t think that there were ever more than 10 students in school. When I was in the second grade, there may have been only two students.

I went to school with my sisters, Charlotte and Darlene, most of the time with Charlotte, who is two years younger than me. I never went to school with our brother Duane, but he was a pupil at the Morapos School and then later at the Hamilton School.

I can remember the excitement of getting ready for that first day of school. After all, we girls had new dresses, sewn by Mom. I’m sure that we had new shoes, too.

For days before school started, we fondled our new school supplies—new crayons, pencils and a Big Chief Tablet. We opened the crayon box to study the colors, but we never used our new supplies; they were for school.

We had new lunchboxes, too. Darlene remembers that we all had Roy Rogers boxes (Roy Rogers and other cowboys were popular at the time). The lunchboxes had thermos bottles that we used for milk and hot soup.

Some years we started school with a new teacher, too, and that was a little scary.

That first morning of school Mom took us to school. She and the other Mothers chatted with the teacher and signed necessary paperwork. Then they left, and we got down to work.

However, Darlene remembers one day that went a little differently. It was her very first day of school.

For years she had watched Charlotte and me go off to school. She waited and waited for the day she’d be in first grade, and finally the day arrived.

Mom had sewn a new dress for her and everything. But at school, the teacher just “signed us up”, and we went back home for the day. What a letdown!

The teacher had a little bell with a wooden handle on her desk. That’s what she used to let us know it was time for school and to call us in from recess.

We hung our coats in the anteroom that led to the classroom. Our lunchboxes went out there, too, and it was where we got cups of water.

The day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and sometimes a song. Then the teacher assigned individual work. The trick was to provide seat work for some students while the teacher worked with others.

Since I’m a teacher myself, I can appreciate the planning that country school teacher had to do to meet the needs of students in several grades.

For example, first-graders might have reported to the recitation bench, a long bench at the front and to one side of the room, to practice reading. That’s when they practiced reading aloud about Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff and Spot.

Then these students finished seat work, perhaps learning color words or letters of the alphabet, while an older student explained what he’d read in the geography book about England or another student got help with math problems.

Older students did assignments in math, literature, grammar, geography, and Colorado History during the day. They completed workbook sheets and answered questions found in textbook chapters.

Everybody did penmanship exercises, too, some of them done in India ink with various pen tips. There were art projects, too, that were sometimes connected to seasons and holidays.

And the teacher graded everything.

The first day of school brings back memories, indeed.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2012

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