Teaching sure has changed a lot over the years. From one-room schoolhouses and gingham dresses to overcrowded classrooms and wearing jeans on Friday, teaching doesn’t look like it used to. In some cases, the changes are for the better, but some things we’d actually like to have back. Here’s a list of things teachers used to be able to do that, for the most part, we can’t do anymore.
1. Show movies
Growing up as you approached the last week of school before a long break, teachers would start rolling in the almighty TV/VCR cart and you knew you were in for a good day. Teachers used to be allowed to reward a class’s hard work with the occasional movie break. Spoiler alert: this was also a little reward for the teacher’s hard work as well. Nowadays school districts preach “bell to bell” instruction that makes it so we can’t do anything that isn’t explicitly emblazoned into the curriculum.
2. Leave for lunch at noon
This may sound hard to believe for some of the newer teachers out there, but lunch breaks used to be long enough that teachers could actually get in their car, drive home and enjoy lunch before returning to school for the remainder of the day. Yes, it’s true. In fact, students could also go home for lunch, and we trusted them to come back when lunch was over (could you imagine?). Today, teachers are lucky to get 5 minutes to scarf down half a sandwich and a soda while they’re in a meeting and grading papers at the same time. That is, if they’re not being asked to cover a class during their lunch break.
3. Hold class parties
Another long-standing teacher tradition was the occasional classroom party. They could be rewards for students performing well on tests, or sometimes they were holiday-related. (We all remember filling out valentines for every student in the class, don’t we?) What they really were was a way for teachers and their students to bond in a non-educational setting and blow off a little steam. Sadly, administrators, schools districts and politicians today believe that we should squeeze every last drop out of every day, leaving no time at all for anything fun or non-educational. Heaven forbid school becomes a place to have fun!
4. Discipline kids
Believe it or not teachers used to have a whole lot of autonomy in their classrooms. If a student got out of line, they were the judge, jury and executioner when it came to doling out punishments. Act like a fool or talk back to a teacher? Sit in the corner for a few minutes. Sure, some of these measures may have gone a smidge too far, but you know what didn’t go too far? Bad behaviors in the classroom. The best part was that if a teacher disciplined a student in the classroom, the parents would (drumroll please)… side with the teacher! It’s true. Parents would take the word of the adult over their own child and rarely, if ever, question the methods.
5. Use “the smoking room”
OK, so we can all agree that this change is for the better, but ask some of the more experienced teachers in your building about this one. They will likely tell you of a time when teachers could light up a cigarette in designated school areas. In some cases, that even included the teacher’s lounge! If you really want your mind blown, consider that in some schools when students turned 18 they were allowed to take smoke breaks as well! Yes, students could be excused from study hall, pop down to the smoking area and light one up alongside their favorite teacher.
Yeah, it’s definitely for the best we can’t do this anymore.
6. Allow homemade goodies
One of the advantages of being a teacher is that parents occasionally like to send their children to school with goodies. Maybe it’s their birthday and they want to bring in cupcakes to celebrate, or a plate of cookies. These little sugar rushes can really put a positive spin on an otherwise stressful day. And some parents are really good at baking, like “British Baking Show” impressive. And those parents were allowed to whip up treats in their kitchen and dazzle the class with their culinary skills. Unfortunately, we just can’t trust people the way we used to, so now most schools have a “no homemade treats” policy. As teachers can’t do anything about this, we will have to suffer through store-bought cupcakes from now on.
7. Take kids to recess
Every study that has ever been done on the effects of recess show that students of all ages need time during the day to go outside, run around and be kids. It burns off excess energy and allows them time to play creatively. Recess also helps improve social skills and gives students and teachers a much-needed break during a grueling school day. Unfortunately, some people wearing very expensive suits who make more in a day than teachers do in a year feel that children should be doing nothing but school work from arrival to dismissal. Even at the elementary school level, recess has been cut back in favor of more class time. Hey, kids need that time to take all those standardized tests right?
8. Assign homework
There was once a time when all teachers were not only allowed to assign homework, they were expected to. The students, in turn, were expected to complete this homework on their own. Then teachers would review this work in class and even (gasp!) grade it. Students were held accountable for doing at least a little bit of work on their own without a teacher breathing down their neck. Of course, there is such thing as too much homework, and we don’t want to bury students in work. But independent practice is how we get good at things. If you want to get good at long division, you kind of need to, ya know, actually do some long division.
9. Make up their own curriculum
It’s easy to get frustrated these days with what we can’t do with our lessons. But imagine teachers being able to decide what should happen in their own classroom. Deciding for themselves what information their students need, what is the best way to teach it, and how to assess what they’re learning. Sounds like a fantasy world right? Believe it or not, teachers used to have that freedom. They collaborated with other teachers, shared ideas, and got to manage their classroom however they saw fit. No (or very little) interference from school district officials and not a single politician sticking their nose in where it didn’t belong.
Ah, those were the days!