JULY 30, 1937
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I wonder how many people realize that within commuting distance of New York City, there are one-room school houses where one teacher has forty pupils, covering every grade up to high school! I visited one such school yesterday and I met one of these teachers who seemed to me quite a remarkable woman. When I asked her how she managed so many children, she explained that they worked together on projects and that she tried to tie in their daily lives with the work they were doing, and to make them appreciative of whatever they had. "So many," she said, "were discontented, but with a little help they came to realize that they had much in life which they had never been able to appreciate."
Her children must pass the regents examinations, and she has been very successful. To be successful, however, means not only having good training, but a fine personality and the real gift of the great teacher, a passion for imparting knowledge.
The families thereabouts have an average income, she thinks, of from six hundred to a thousand dollars a year. The children must buy their own text books, but as few of them do so, she buys whatever is necessary, keeps the books on her desk and lets the children borrow them.
This question of free text books in public schools seems to me one that should be given more consideration than has been done in the past. New York City provides them, individual towns and villages do the same, but the vast number of rural schools, particularly in poorer districts, put the burden on the parents to buy the books the children need. What really happens is that the teacher whose salary is never very large, either buys what she must have in her classroom herself, or makes shift with old books which she mends, and the children are the losers, thereby.
This particular teacher has one thing to be thankful for. A friend in the neighborhood of artistic bent who takes an interest in her labors, and who is now passing on some of her own skills, to this teacher who in turn will pass them on to the pupils. It would probably seem like heaven to a good many school teachers if there were more people in their communities who felt some responsibility about giving them a helping hand!
I had a delightful experience yesterday. I was in a locality where basket making has been a trade for many years. Never being able to pass any place where they make baskets without a longing to go in, I was particularly delighted to have a good excuse in the fact that I needed two different kinds of baskets. No one was in the shop at first, but finally a lovely old lady with white hair, appeared. My host murmured to her that I was "Mrs. Roosevelt." At first she said little, suddenly she took a deep breath and said: "I must kiss you." I have rarely been paid as sweet and spontaneous a compliment even though I realize the kiss was meant largely for my husband!