Recently Allia Shaver, journalism student, and I interviewed Dr. Debra Harrison, Assistant Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, about her experiences attending grades 3-4 at the two-room Hampton School. Last week I shared with you part 1. The following is part 2 of that interview, written by Allia Shaver:
Dr. Almond asked about memorization of subjects like poetry and if Dr. Harrison did that for her teachers. Dr. Harrison answered, “Yes! We sure did. We had to do a lot of memorizations. We would have to stand up in front of the class. Like our multiplication tables, we were required to memorize them through twelves. And then we would have to stand up in front of the group and recite the multiplication tables.”
I asked Dr. Harrison if the students performed school plays or programs for the parents. Dr. Harrison told us, “We really did not, that was not included. We would do dramatic reading, or we would act out a portion of something we were reading. Really, no time was dedicated specifically for that.”
Dr. Almond asked about playing games like Red Rover, Red Rover or sports. “We played games like that outside. And hopscotch and jacks. The girls always competed in jacks. The schoolhouse was also used for fun activities, especially the gym area was probably used for basketball games and things like community activities.”
I asked Dr. Harrison if the school had electricity. Laughing, she said, “I’m not that old, Allia!” Glad for her sense of humor, I then asked if the school had indoor plumbing or an outhouse and was surprised at her answer, “I don’t remember…yes, we may have, I believe we actually did. Can you check that historically? I do believe we had an outhouse!” Dr. Almond assured us that we have the floor plans of all of the schools and we would research the outhouse question for history.
When asked if the students helped the teachers with chores after school, Dr. Harrison explained, “Yes, and typically it wasn’t after school, but we had roles and responsibilities because the teacher was taking care of three classes of children at the same time. We were all responsible for keeping our desks neat, keeping the room neat, helping. And what we did, as children, was because what we were taught to do in our family is that you automatically helped out. When something needed to be done, you did it. And you loved your teacher, so you just wanted to do good things for her.”
I wondered what kind of discipline the teacher used for misbehaving students. Dr. Harrison said, “As I think back on that experience, I never think anything negative. I don’t remember there ever being any real issues. I’m sure the boys got into trouble because boys will be boys, but I don’t remember any serious issues, any serious conflicts, because we had to work too hard. She kept us busy constantly, and we were actively engaged in the learning, and so we didn’t really have a lot of time to kind of mess around and get into trouble.”
When asked to compare her Hampton school to schools today, Dr. Harrison pointed out, “We live in such a different world with technology and individuals wanting to be actively involved in the learning processes. Our schools are completely different. The one big piece is the emphasis on technology, but I think the thing that is the same is that we have highly dedicated teachers who work very hard at preparing our students to live in the world we exist in. And so, that’s the common thread, that commitment to providing our students with the best education we could possibly provide them. And it changes based on the needs and what we have available to us, for instance, technology. Our kids are so blessed because they have the world at their fingertips with that device, that tool to help them really learn about the world. Our world was narrower because we didn’t have that. We only had what was in the textbooks and what was immediately around us. Now, we can experience the world, and our kids can experience the world because of the technology we have.”
Dr. Harrison told us life lessons she still holds in her heart and mind, lessons learned from being a student in the two-room Hampton School: “That hard work pays off! I believe in that two-room school, as a third grader, I began to understand the value of a good work ethic. Because lessons were fast and furious, because my teacher had to teach three grades at the same time, and as a student, you had to constantly be on task and committed to your work.”
Thank you, Dr. Harrison. I do believe from small beginnings come great things!