The One-Room Schoolhouse



Brown Jug School students lined up along a fence outside a school house. One of the boys is wearing a cowboy hat and bandana.


Image ID: 12108
Creation Date: 1925-09-08 
Creator Name: International Harvester Company
City: Des Moines
State: Iowa
Collection Name: McCormick - International Harvester
Genre: Photograph
Original Format Type: photographic print, b&w
Original Format Number: McCormick Mss 7z, album 266, pg. 18
Original Dimensions: 10 x 8 inches


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Please Credit: Wisconsin Historical Society.

Reference Details

Location: Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, 4th Floor, Madison, Wisconsin


Interviewer: Do you think you got a good education in the one-room schoolhouse?

Mr. McCullough: Well, that depends. I, uh, I think that the one-room school that I had, for the most part, very good teachers and now a one-room school you could have a good education or a bad education depending on how good a teacher you had. And I think for the most part I had pretty good teachers. I remember Mary Allen was an excellent teacher.

Interviewer Brennan: Were you kept pretty busy during the day?

Mr. McCullough: Oh, yes. We, well, actually it was, again, up to the teacher. And the teacher could keep you very busy or not so very busy, but I think there's things about the one-room school that they have seen as an advantage even in the last few years, in… Of course, every[one] likes to bad mouth the one-room school, but it wasn't really all that bad if you had, like I said, a good teacher that could organize and really work hard and could make the classes go. Your classes run from six to eight minutes long for each class; but, for example, suppose that a fella is a pretty sharp kid, boy or girl, and you are in the third grade and you get to listen ahead as to what the fourth grade is doing a year before you get to it, because you got your work done fast and you listened, and then you know how to do the fractions actually a year before you get into fractions, and thing like that, so, ah…

An oral history project conducted at the Michigan City Public Library in 1977 - 1978. The subject of the interview is Frank McCullough, who was born in 1907.


Most one-room schools divided the day into many short periods. To keep students busy, the teacher made assignments and then called students to her desk to recite what they had learned. While a few students recited, others continued to work on their own. For example, a teacher might call up the third grade geography students for 15 minutes. She would ask them questions about what their assignment was. When they were finished, she would give them their next assignment and send them back to their desks to learn it. Then she would call up the fifth grade arithmetic students. This went on all day. At their desks students read their books or worked problems with chalk on slates. To make sure they were really working, some teachers made students read aloud to themselves. With many students reading aloud, the schoolroom could be a noisy place!

from Iowa Pathways, a program created by Iowa Public Television.