Talking About Grace


I gave a public lecture this week at the Frontenac County Schools Museum in Kingston. My topic was Grace and her life as a teacher. The Schools Museum is one of our city’s hidden gems. Anyone can visit. Teachers bring classes there to experience the school life of children a century ago. The students are expected to write on slates, obey the rules, and learn something too.
Half of the museum is a one-room school with blackboards, a large teacher’s desk, and rows of smaller desks. The other half is a room with exhibits and artifacts from actual schools in this area. What’s depicted is our history, as lived by ordinary residents of Ontario through many decades of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather attended one-room schools. So did I. My mother taught in one until 1968.
The museum classroom was decorated with apples, in celebration of the fall. After my talk, we enjoyed delicious home-made apple pie. A social time with desserts was a feature of school events in rural Ontario.
One man told me a story from his own one-room school days. On the first day of classes after Christmas holidays, a new teacher arrived at his school near Bancroft. He and other students decided to give her a test. At lunchtime, they went sledding in a field out of sight of the school. When they heard the bell indicating it was time to return, they ignored it. After about fifteen minutes, they wondered what was happening and returned to the school. Much to their surprise, they found their young teacher sitting at her desk, head down, working diligently. After a few minutes, she looked up. “Oh, you’re back,” she said, rising from her chair. She walked to the clock, reached up, and turned the minute hand back to one o’clock. “Well then, let’s begin the afternoon.”
Millie Morton