Teaching school was my occupation for 36 years. I received my B.A. degree in 1949 from Iowa State Teachers College (University of Northern Iowa) at Cedar Falls, and my M. A. degree in 1950 from Colorado State College of Education (University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley, Colorado. My first teaching position was at Meeker Junior High School in Greeley in the fall of 1950.
I taught there for three years and then moved back to Iowa, to Mason City at Roosevelt Junior High School.
This article was created with a photo from “Old Geezer’s.” One picture was of a blackboard, pulls down maps and across the top was a series of written out alphabet. Many of you witnessed the same in your classrooms of yore. The classrooms of today are really different, and the students use laptop computers, whiteboards and projectors. The classes I observed now were much smaller but my early classes had at least 32 to 38 students. If we could stick with 32 students we had it made. While attending college at Cedar Falls, my student teaching was at Hudson. There were four of us and a class of 15 students. To say the least it did not prepare me to become a teacher.
The principal at Meeker Junior High escorted me to my classroom and showed me my textbooks, desk and the students’ desks. I didn’t panic but was close. School started and my classroom soon filled up with seventh graders, all 33 of them. I had class rosters and worked out a seating arrangement. The seventh graders had come from grade schools so it was both their and my first experience in junior high. My assignments were two classes of American history (eighth grade) and three classes of geography (seventh grade) and a study hall at the end of the day. My lifesavers were two nice ladies on the faculty who were teaching the same subjects. They took me under their wings and taught me how to teach. I had been in World War II, traveled clear around the globe. I’d been in India, Burma and China had my degrees but was not really prepared. The first month was a struggle, but I made it through and I loved to teach American history.
My students were really great and I got along well with them after we got acquainted. Greeley was a very mixed area and about one-fourth of my students were Mexican. Many lived in a little settlement northeast of town and the rest in Greeley proper. We got along great and the Mexican students were always trying and coaxing me to eat some red peppers. They could bite off a bit and chew it up so one day I tried a bite and was very grateful for the glass of water on my desk. The kids thought it was a kick.
I used the pulldown maps quite often and especially in geography. We used worksheets produced on a mimeograph machine. The master had to be submitted two days before you got your copies and here again my two lady teachers supplied me with enough copies for my students. The classes were not divided by ability and they varied in comprehension. I recall one boy who really struggled. He really tried but his comprehension was limited. I assigned my geography students to plan a trip in cars made out of cardboard. Most sat in the car and they proceeded to tell where they were — scenery and history. Kenneth was in one group and they took care of him and recognized his abilities so they put him under the hood of their car and when they traveled he had a tin can full of rocks and rattled them to sound like a car moving. Kenneth was on top of the world as he was included in the program. I was so proud of those kids I almost cried.
We were also provided lunch for our job. The food was great, too great, as it was for the growing kids, not adults so I had to watch what I ate as I had only two suits. There was no written law, but the men were expected to wear a suit, white shirt and tie. We were also expected to shine our shoes and have a good haircut. Times have changed, but I still remember a wonderful fellow teacher saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Students need to respect you in order for you to teach. I soon learned that “learning requires listening.”
I taught school for 36 years and enjoyed working with the students. In all the years I taught, I don’t recall any principal telling me how or what to teach but left that to my discretion. The teachers that I worked with did a great job, and they supported one another and showed respect for each other.