Do you remember when graduating from high school was as much an accomplishment as graduating from college is today? There was a time when it was the custom to go to school through the eighth grade and then to work.

If you’re of a certain generation, you must get as frustrated (or amused) as I do, listening to the “new ideas” such as all-day kindergarten. Perhaps that practice never ended in your town, or maybe, like mine, it’s being discussed again.

One would think that five-year-olds had undergone some magical change over the decades, but all I hear nowadays is how much smarter kids are than they used to be. Well, if this is true, then all-day kindergarten should be a breeze.

Kids in my generation, most of them, were taught the fundamentals of reading and printing in kindergarten. Some of us learned to read before we started school, and I’ll bet there are some little sprouts out there today who can read at the age of four.

Yes, we climbed onto the school bus early in the day, a bus

filled with all ages up through seniors in high school. And we managed to stay awake all day. In later years, “nap time” became a part of the first year in school, and at some point it was decided that five year olds would go to school a half-day. An school starts later, too. Kids barely get off the bus when a couple of hours later, they’re back on again.

A few years ago I heard about a new concept called multi-age classrooms. We had them 50 years ago when sub primary (that’s what kindergarten used to be called) and first grade were in the same room, with the same one teacher.

I never figured out how Miss Kennard could manage two grades without an assistant or an aide or even a volunteer parent. Regardless that there were 35 or 40 kids, we didn’t get away with anything! We didn’t think of the teacher as our friend, but the teacher. It was drummed into our minds that teachers were to be respected. We weren’t in school to play, but to learn. Remember how it used to be?

Some of you recall things about those lower grades that I don’t. My mother and others of her generation had more grades in one room. I guess that would be multi-multi age classrooms. They didn’t have those neat splashy faucets with the little sinks, they had to dip water out of a bucket. Yuck! Imagine the germs with everyone using one container. Obviously none of them died of

water-poisoning, but who knows, maybe they had more built-in immunity than kids today.

Quite a few years ago, the old school where I started was closed because Windham had a new primary school. Some of us who went to school there visited the classrooms to be quizzed by second and third graders.

“What did they do when you were bad?” was the first query. We had to stand in the corner, facing the corner. The kids thought that was hilarious. They had been thinking “paddles, sharp slaps with rulers”. Then they got warmed up and asked “What did you do for fun?” We played games, I told the kids. We read. “What about TV? What did you watch?” After I explained we had no TV, and no malls – no McDonalds and no Chuck E.Cheese, the expressions on the little faces were priceless. For a few minutes, they felt sorry for me, I think. This was a good history lesson – for all of us.

Now officials are discussing school budgets and ways to cut costs. I heard the phrase “consolidated bus stops” which is an old fashioned notion, but one

which worked. Most of us older people who rode busses to school, didn’t get picked up at our driveway, we walked to the nearest pick-up place where our neighbors also walked. Yes, rain or snow.

That was for the elementary grades, K-8 in the olden days. In high school if we rode the bus, we paid five cents each way. We bought some little pink bus tickets oncea week and used them. We were told there was no state law guaranteeing transportation to high school. And of course, we were not allowed to bring cars to school.

Before the weather is so great that we have things to do outside, some of us old timers are being frustrated – and amused – by watching the doings of the town government boards, as they come up with some more “new” ideas.

One of these which took root recently, was the installation of a

rock-climbing wall. I think it was initially paid for by non-tax funds, but I still haven’t figured out how it relates to getting a good education.

I know what my parents would have said: “Get your homework done and get all A’s and then you can climb anything you want.

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