What is old is new again!


This is a 1916 L C Smith Typewriter.

This weekend, I attended an Arts Fair in Waupaca, WI. They had lots of fun activities for children – drawing, working with clay, and dancing to live music.

One activity area had a large table full of old typewriters. The kind without electricity, headphones or a power cord!

The sign encouraged folks to sit down and type. It was interesting to watch people approach the typewriters. One women sat right down, put in the paper correctly, sat up straight and began typing. She knew exactly what to do. She typed two practice sentences – “The quick brown fox jumps οver the lazy dοg.” and “Νοw is the time fοr all gοοd men tο cοme tο the aid οf their cοuntry”.

A younger girl approached saying, “This is new, I’ve never used a typewriter!”. She tried to type and was immediately confused. So, the older women showed her how to put the paper in, type a few letters and use the carriage return lever. The older women began talking about the ribbon and how to keep the key bars from getting stuck together inside. She also mentioned that the shift key does actually shift things on the typewriter.

The younger girl smiled and asked, “Where is the back space key?”

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Verona Senior Center Memories


In the summer, it’s fun to think about school years of the past. The group that came on a recent Friday morning to the Verona Senior Center was more than happy to share their memories from their own one room schools.

A story was told by a man who reminded everyone that not all kids liked school! He said a boy from his school repeatedly tried to get sent home on purpose. He finally came up with the best solution that guaranteed a trip home. The boy kept crawling down into the boy’s outhouse hole! A neighbor had to be called to help get him out and he smelled so bad that the teacher always sent him right home!

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Dia de los Ninos Con Libros


El día de los niños/El día de los libros
(Children’s Day/Book Day) is a nationally recognized initiative that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds.

At my school, we held a special celebration last Friday evening. Along with a potluck dinner, there was face painting, games, crafts, and musical performances. All children received books to keep and take home.

Mr. Oscar Mireless, who is the City of Madison Poet Laureate read a poem in the library and described his job as a Poet for our city.

Next, I described Wisconsin’s one room schools to a small group. After my talk, one father smiled, nodded his head and said, “I went to a school just like you are telling about – in Veracruz, Mexico. We had bathrooms out in back and had to carry water for washing and drinking. We were all in one room with one teacher.”

He went on to describe a way of learning I have heard from many Wisconsin one room school students.

“When I worked, I listened in to the older grades. I liked listening to the math classes. When I got to that grade, I already knew some of it. It was a good school.”

One room schools in Wisconsin and a one room school in Mexico. Sharing stories brings people close together, not only on one day but every day.

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Robins, Worms and Spring Mud

The robins have returned to our spring playground. We learned the song “Rockin Robin” and watched videos of the original black and white version by Bobby Day and the one Michael Jackson sang.

We also had a wet, recess day with worms all over the blacktop! The second graders proclaimed it a “worm emergency”! Without understanding why the worms had all crawled out of the grass, they proceeded to pick them up and return them to the school garden where where they were “safe” – away from a stray, bouncing square ball. One little girl, however, picked up a large worm and tried to feed the birds. She stood on the blacktop and held it up, calling “Birdies! Birdies!” Did she really think a bird would fly down and eat a worm out of her hand? I think she did!

With spring comes the mud season. Lots of mud. When the students come in from lunch recess, they try to wipe the mud off of their pants and shoes. The boys, especially, are very protective of their shoes. If I would let them, they would spend all afternoon at the sink in our room trying to get the mud off of their shoes. I don’t tell them, “I told you not to go in the mud” because really, it is impossible. Our grassy playground has lots of mud. There is some mulch under the play structure, but the “big field” where kids run around is full of mud patches. So, by afternoon, when it is time to go home, the mud in the room has dried up and there is dirt on the floor. Luckily, there are some students who love to sweep. So, the last thing to do is try to sweep up some of the recess mud before going home. The forecast for this week after spring break is wet and rainy. So, we are not done with mud season yet!

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Back to School


The first two weeks of school are filled with many activities to “get to know” students. Some students know each other from previous years, but things in a new room are always different.

As an educator, I am required to know the standards and teach curriculum in reading, phonics, spelling, writing, handwriting, math, social studies, science, nutrition and social/emotional learning.

Which of these do you suppose is most important to students?

After a particularly hot (my school does not have air conditioning) and busy Friday, I finally opened up a letter.
One of my students had given the letter to me right away, as she walked in the room. She must have written it at home the night before. I stuck it in my pocket because I was busy with the lunch count and attendance. I could tell it wasn’t a note from a parent. I forgot about it during our busy day.

Sitting at my desk after students had left, I unfolded her note.

Here is what it said:

“You are nice to me. You are kind to others. Mrs. B. you are cool and nice.”

Apparently, I made an impression on her after only the first week of school. She is a quiet student and I had no idea that she thought I was “cool”.

Curriculum is important, of course. It’s what students are in school to learn.

However, at the beginning of the year, I am glad that this student has found that I will be kind, and make learning cool. That’s what is most important this time of year to students; building relationships and trust so learning can and will happen.

The views on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, vision or strategies of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

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Hay Lake School, Washington County, Minnesota


About 40 area visitors attended my book talk on August 23rd as part of the “Hay Lake School Speaker Series”. Hay Lake School, near Scandia,Minnesota, is part of the Washington County Historical Society. This beautiful, brick, one room school has a front porch, the original school bell, a kitchen area and a library area. It also currently has indoor bathrooms. The school, constructed in 1896 also has a stage in the front behind the teacher desk. Hay Lake School was used by the Washington County Rural School System until 1963.


The building then sat empty until 1970, when a group of citizens decided to clean up the school and give tours of the building. In 1978, the Historical Society purchased the school from the Forest Lake School District.


Class photos along the walls show students from the past when they attended the school. Five Hay Lake School alumni were present at the talk. Arubtis is the little girl in the front row in the middle of the picture.


Arbutis, seated on the left, Elaine, and Laurel sat together and remembered their days as students. I overheard them talking about the stage: “. . . remember when we were in a group on that stage Arbutis? I don’t see how 20 of us fit back there getting ready to come out for the Christmas program. . .” The three ladies were so happy to be back in their old classroom.


The inside of the schoolroom. The stage is in back and has an organ and seating.


Many folks from this Swedish area of Minnesota came to share stories about their days learning in a one room school. Richard shared that his favorite memory is that his parents let him ski to school – pulled by a horse!



On the same property is the Johannes Erickson log house. It was constructed in 1868 by Johannes and his thirteen year old son Alfred. It is a two room house with two small rooms upstairs in the loft.


The inside of the kitchen in the Erickson house.

Thank you to Mr. Brent Peterson, Exectutive Director of the Washington County Historical Society and Dustyn Dubuque, Museum Manager of Hay Lake School and Johannes Log House.

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Reed School



This past Saturday, I gave a book talk at Reed School, a Wisconsin Historic Site. It was great fun to give a talk about one room schools IN a one room school. Alan Hanson,  – Historic Site Coordinator and Barb, a teacher volunteer for Reed School were also there to answer questions about the school

Clark County’s first school was named Pleasant Ridge School because of the view along what is now Highway 10, east of Neillsville. This first school was a log building. Later, a new school was built in a new location one-half mile north on Highway 10. In 1878, the school building was moved to the present location on land donated by Thomas and Lucretia Reed. The name was changed to the Reed School. In February, 1915 the school burned. A decision was made to build a new school with cement blocks and brick. The new Reed School was open in November of 1915. The school closed when the enrollment dropped below 10 students.

Gordon Smith, from Indiana, attended Reed School in the spring of 1939 as a first grader. He was staying with his grandparents. Gordon’s found that the one room school experience was very different from his urban school in Gary, Indiana. The memories of that spring lasted a lifetime. The Gordon V. and Helen C. Smith Foundation supported the renovation and currently supports the operation and interpretive programs for the Reed School.

The beautiful Reed School is an excellent example of a one room school in Wisconsin. The interpretive exhibits in the basement explain the history of education in Wisconsin, and invite guests to try questions from an eighth grade examination on a touch screen computer.

On the day I was there, some young visitors had excellent questions about beginning the school year in a one room school.
How did they sharpen their pencils? How did they get a drink of water? Did you go to school with your brother and sister?

What is the hole in the desk for? On Saturday, one girl was using the “hole in the desk” as a lemonade cup holder! Alan showed her an ink well that fit in the hole and we explained the use of an ink pen.

It was quite warm and I think the little girl with her cup holder had a great new idea for today’s desks! Water bottle holder? That would certainly prevent spills in my classroom.

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