From chalkboards to smart boards
Charles County Board of Education showcases 100 years of history
Charles County Public Schools opened up its three-part series of lectures last week on the board of education’s 100th anniversary, beginning with a demonstration of the school system’s transition from chalkboards to smart boards.
Last Friday’s talk, “Education: Then and Now,” kicked off at the Port Tobacco Courthouse Sept. 2 with more than 40 people in attendance.
The right side of the room was made to look like an early 20th century schoolhouse; the right side included equipment and technology used in today’s classrooms.
School board member Barbara Palko said that 1916 was the year the commission overseeing schools in Charles County was referred to as a “board of education” in the minutes, which is why the school board marks its anniversary from that date.
“Our current board felt this would be an appropriate year to celebrate and spread the word about education in Charles County,” Palko said.
In 1919, she said, enrollment was 7,467; current enrollment is estimated at over 26,000.
Palko said that while some of the names were different, the same basic subjects taught in the early part of the 20th century are still taught today.
Abigail Wearmouth, a senior at Frostburg State University, portrayed an early 20th century teacher as she described the rules under which teachers of that time period were expected to live.
“In the early 1900s, the teacher responsibilities were you are not allowed to marry during the term of your contract, you are not to keep company with men, you are not to be out between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. You may not loiter downtown, you may not travel beyond the city limits without permission from the chairman of the Board [of Education]. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless it is your father or brother,” Wearmouth said, adding that additional rules existed specifying the color, type and length of the teacher’s clothing.
Joyce Edelen, portraying her mother-in-law, Mary Olivia Keech, a Charles County teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the first part of the 20th century, said the teacher was also expected to bring in firewood to heat and light the school and bring in water from the well for drinking and cleaning every morning before the start of classes.
Edelen said young men would have been taught farming, gardening, tending livestock, carpentry and tool craft, while young women would have been taught sewing, cooking and the care of younger students, even while both sexes were taught the “three R’s” — reading, writing and arithmetic.
Teachers were also permitted to use “the dunce cap” as well as corporal punishment, in order to maintain discipline, Edelen said.
“For behavior control, I am allowed to spank,” Edelen said, holding a ruler.
Wearmouth led a small group of Dr. James Craik Elementary School students through a couple of lessons — reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and math exercises scribbled out on small chalkboards.
The students then transitioned to the left side of the room, where Karen Rowledge, a teacher at Maurice J. McDonough High School, led the Craik students in a brief lesson working cooperatively to break down the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance, using computers and overhead projectors in the process, emphasizing both the role of technology and the change in teaching style between past and modern.
The demonstrations were followed by a period of speakers and personal recollections, and visits to the nearby one-room schoolhouse in Port Tobacco, which is maintained by the Charles County Retired Teacher Association.
On Sept. 16-17, at the Charles County Fair, the school board will hold a discussion by former teachers and students on segregation and desegregation in Charles County Public Schools in the McConchie One-Room Schoolhouse just inside the fairgrounds gates. A schedule will be posted outside the schoolhouse.
On Oct. 1, at the James E. Richmond Science Center at St. Charles High School, the school board will hold a discussion of how the school system has dealt with manmade and natural disasters.
More information can be found on the school system’s 100th anniversary website. Go to www.ccboe. com/100years.
Abigail Wearmouth portrays an early 20th century teacher as she leads a demonstration lesson on the Pledge of Allegiance during the school board’s lecture on education — then and now — in Charles County Public Schools.