My mother was a teacher. I dabbled with the idea of becoming one, until I realized the incredible dedication and discipline involved. I have nothing but respect for the men and women who instruct and guide the next generations. But when I was researching for my August book, Frontier Engagement, I was surprised to find that expectations for teachers have changed dramatically since the late 1800s. Then as now, schoolboards wanted the best for the community’s children. But what they considered “best” was rather interesting.
Teachers were expected to fill the lamps, make the fire in time for the children to be warm when they arrived, bring in water, scrub the floors, clean the blackboard, and wash the windows. After finishing their grueling days (as long as 10 hours), the teacher might return to quarters that could amount to no more than a single room. Rules generally frowned upon going out in the evenings, particularly to pool halls and ice cream parlors. Teachers could not smoke, dress in bright colors, or dye their hair.
Rules for men and women teachers also varied. While the Fort Worth pioneer school rules dating from the 1880s allow a man to take one evening a week for courting (two evenings if he attends church regularly), rules posted at the Pioneer Farm Museum’s school state that a female teacher is not allowed to spend time with men. Period. And if you married during the school term, you were summarily dismissed. On the other hand, Fort Worth warned a male teacher against getting shaved in a barber shop or he would “give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.” They also advised that every teacher should save up from the miserly salary paid so that the teacher would not become a burden on society when retired.
Rather unconducive to a pleasant learning experience.
And speaking of learning, I can hardly wait to learn new things myself in the next couple weeks. Marissa and I will be heading to New York for the annual Romance Writers of America® conference. We’ll talk with editors and agents, catch up with old friends and meet new ones, and generally celebrate this crazy career we call writing. Look for posts from us when we can sneak away from all the fun er I mean business. And I’ll be sure to catch you up on July 31, when I return from spending a few days with Marissa and her family post-conference.
If you happen to be in New York City on July 22, stop by the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where nearly 500 romance writers will be signing books. The event is open to the public, and all proceeds go to support literacy. Marissa and I will both be signing—come and say hi!
You might learn something.