Our Favorite 19th-century School Rules (That Are Still True Today)
These “Suggestions to Pupils” were published in 1893.
  1. Do nothing that will encroach upon the rights of others.
  2. When you close a door, do it quietly; when you walk across the room, do so mindful that others are studying.
  3. Pay more attention to your own business and less to that of others.
  4. Be clean in all your habits, and do not mark up your books and desks.
  5. Walk slowly and quietly through the halls, regardless of whether school is in session or not.
Decorating by the Decade
Classroom decoration has been a hot topic since the 1890s! We chose one décor idea from each decade to see how things have changed…and how they haven’t.
  1. 1898: The walls of the schoolroom should not be white but of some modified color and without glossy surface. The windows should have good curtains that roll up and down readily. Near the water bucket should be a wash basin, soap, and towels.
  2. 1901: Don’t strain every nerve to catch at hit-and-miss things with which to decorate your room. Material put out in this way means very little to the children. It will mean far more if the decoration is an expression of their daily work.
  3. 1915: The selection of atmosphere pictures brings into play much originality and ingenuity. The standard magazines are an excellent source.
  4. 1925: Draw the outline of a tree on a good-sized piece of cardboard. Fill in the outline with leaves which the children have colored and cut from paper. This picture makes a bright spot in the room which the children enjoy the more because it is their own work.
  5. 1935: Instead of painting your chairs all one color, paint chairs in each of the following colors: red, green, blue, orange, violet, white, and black. The chairs can be used in games involving colors.
  6. 1945: The best-looking bulletin boards are usually built around one theme. When you arrange your board, put lettering and pictures on the eye level of the pupils, and choose material that will appeal to them. They enjoy color, animals, people, and action.
  7. 1955: Old desks or tables used in the classroom may be given new life by covering them in strip linoleum, which comes in a light wood-grain pattern at variety stores.
  8. 1966: Colored tissue paper and waxed paper make simple decorations. Insert different shapes of bright tissue paper in a sheet of folded waxed paper and press with a warm iron. Add a string for hanging, and put the finished pieces in the window.
  9. 1975: Have an old school with large wooden framed windows? Create a psychedelic effect by painting each frame a different color! Use primary pure colors – white, red, blue, yellow, Kelly green.
  10. 1986: For holiday decorations, create peace soft sculpture. Cut doubles from fabric for each letter of a holiday word. Stitch together, leaving a small hole. Stuff, sew up, and assemble in the word.
  11. 1996: A schoolhouse bulletin board is a great way to display student work monthly, and has added value when it focuses on the seasons. For example, the schoolhouse can be covered with snow during winter; and come spring, decorated with blooming flowers.
  12. 2001: Use the mat from a Twister® game for a colorful tablecloth or a quick and easy bulletin board background!
Three Thrifty Ideas from the Thirties
Instructor responded to the Great Depression by encouraging teachers to share these tips on thriftiness with the youngsters of 1936.
  1. A good habit to form is adding regularly to a savings account. Then you will have money to spend later for something that you want.
  2. By getting up when we are called, we save time the first thing in the morning. If we eat breakfast promptly and cheerfully, we have made a good start to the day. Playing out of doors is also a good thrifty habit. When we keep well we save both time and money.
  3. Some children spend all their money for ice cream, candy, and sodas. Other children save their money to buy something that will last, like roller skates. Buying with care is an important part of being thrifty.
On School Manners
  1. From 1916: Among other signs of respect should be taught the substitution for “Yump” and “Naw” with “Yes, Miss,” “No, Mister,” et cetera.
  2. From 1936: A tea party affords children a pleasant opportunity to practice etiquette and the fine art of conversation. Courtesy instilled in early youth becomes a life habit.
  3. From 1995: Role-playing is an effective way to teach courtesy because it enables children to practice appropriate behavior. Young children may want to use puppets.

Recycling–It’s Nothing New!
Today, it’s second nature for environmentally savvy teachers to hoard items like paper-towel tubes and egg cartons. It’s nice to know that this practice has had a long history.

From 1936:

  • Caps from milk bottles: toy money2 Holiday cards: cut into puzzles, seatwork, spelling, or language cards.
  • Butter containers: cabins for dirigibles.
  • Old window shades: background for scenery. Put on roller for theater curtain.
  • Sawdust: dyed for grass in sand table
From 1956:
  • Paper plates: ceremonial faces on a totem pole, clocks, plaques, bases for dried grass arrangements
  • Drinking straws: used in mobiles
  • Pastry boxes: transparent top of pastry box used as picture window in a model home
  • Foil pans: stage light reflectors, paint and water pans
  • Toothpicks: toothpick sculpture, flat pictures, favors for hospital trays
A Thanksgiving Idea Sampler
  1. If there be any in your community who are in need, it would serve as an excellent lesson to your pupils if all together might contribute something to make the Thanksgiving of those needy ones more enjoyable. –1895
  2. Girls may don aprons, caps, kerchiefs and cuffs made of white drawing paper. Boys may wear head-dresses made of brightly colored paper feathers. Then march to the music of the victrola through some of the other primary rooms. –1915
  3. To make a Thanksgiving garland, fruits and vegetables may be drawn and colored; then cut out and pasted lightly to a garland-shaped background cut from brown wrapping paper. Where the garlands meet, paste ears of corn cut out and colored to look as if partially husked. –1945
  4. Should you be having an Indian project, make a clothespin papoose. Use a tongue depressor for the cradle. On the clothespin, draw a tiny face, put it on the cradle and wrap with a piece of colorful wool for the blanket, tied on by twine criss-crossed. What a cute papoose! –1955
  5. Here’s a bulletin board that will knock your socks off! Ask kids to bring in old, colorful socks from home. Cut out and mount the body of a large Thanksgiving turkey. Flute the socks around it for the feathers. –1986

Five Creative Gifts for the Winter Holidays

  1. A small square of heavy cardboard with a picture on one side and sandpaper on the other provided with a loop of ribbon or cord to hang by makes a pretty and convenient match-scratcher. –1905
  2. Tell the children that you want one present more than anything else, and that is 100 on their examination. –1915
  3. Here are gifts that even tiny tots can make. They can create attractive bookmarks by running colored yarn through the holes in a strip of film. They can make waste-paper baskets by covering an ice-cream carton with wallpaper. –1956
  4. To make a sherbet-glass centerpiece, cover the outside of the glass with glitter. Place clay in the bottom of the glass. Attractively arrange pine and snowberries firmly in clay. –1966
  5. If you’d like to give your class a special holiday treat, create a cookie version of your class, and give each child his own image. Icing hair, eyes, clothing, and names will personalize each cookie. –1976

Signs of the Times: Ripped From the Headlines of Instructor
Instructor has always had its finger on the pulse of the national culture. These article titles reflect what we were thinking about at the time they were published.

  1. "Teaching Temperance in the Schoolroom" (1915) The Temperance Movement was gaining tremendous strength at this time–and finally led to Prohibition just five years later.
  2. "First Experiences in Democracy for Primary Grades" (1946) After the Second World War, Americans no longer took freedom for granted. As the article stated,“The last war, and others before it, were fought to keep our country a democracy.”
  3. "Folk Music USA: Will Songs and Sounds Created by Today’s Teenagers be Known in the Future as Folk Music of the 60’s?" (1967) The 60s were times of cultural revolution, and folk music was a large part of the counterculture. The answer to the question has turned out to be an emphatic “Yes.”
  4. "Let Us Now Praise Famous Women!" (1975) The Women’s Liberation Movement was growing by leaps and bounds in the 70s, and it was big news. “Teachers throughout the country are looking for ways to bring into the class the story of women and their many accomplishments,” this article stated.
  5. "Connect With Kids and Parents of Different Cultures: How to Develop Positive Relationships with Today’s Diverse Families" (1995) Multicultural education began to take definite form and shape in the 90s. Diversity became a very important topic–and still is today.