Merlyn Johnson: Superintendent’s corner: Appreciate your teachers

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Expectations for public school teachers across our nation continue to become more and more complex and demanding.

Especially the past two years as teachers bravely maneuvered through the uncharted waters of school closures, quarantines, masks, and virtual learning. As demanding as we may feel things have become, little has changed over the years in the level of expectations of our teachers. I ran across a teacher contract from 1923 and it was quite entertaining. Teachers only had to adhere to 13 rules. Keep in mind this was less than 100 years ago. The language of this contract is included below:

This is an agreement between Miss teacher, and the Board of Education of the School, whereby Miss agrees to teach in the School for a period of eight months, beginning September 1, 1923. The Board of Education agrees to pay Miss the sum of $75 per month. Miss agrees.

1. Not to get married. This contract becomes null and void immediately if the teacher marries. 

2. Not to keep company with men.

3. To be at home between the hours of 8pm and 6am unless in attendance at school functions. 

4. Not to loiter in downtown ice-cream stores.

5. Not to leave town at any time without the permission of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

6. Not to smoke cigarettes. This contract becomes null and void immediately if the teacher is found smoking.

7. Not to drink beer, wine or whiskey. This contract becomes null and void immediately if the teacher is found drinking beer, wine or whiskey. 

8. Not to ride in a carriage or automobile with any man except her brother or father.

9. Not to dress in bright colors.

10. Not to dye her hair.

11. To wear at least two petticoats.  

12. Not to wear dresses more than two inches above the ankle.

13. To keep the schoolroom clean, which meant sweeping the classroom floor at least once daily, scrubbing the classroom floor with hot water and soap at least once weekly, cleaning the blackboard at least once daily, and starting the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm at 8 a.m. when the children arrive. 

This contract may seem unrealistic in today’s world, but there is much to reflect upon when comparing teachers from 1923 to present day teachers. Patrons within communities have always expected teachers to be upstanding citizens and to model appropriate behaviors to children who look up to them. Teachers do so much more than teach…they are heroes and role models. They make a difference, one child at a time. They bring hope, encouragement, and the ability to dream beyond the four walls of the classroom, transforming the lives of students and the communities in which they live. These responsibilities have stayed constant since 1923 and will continue for many years to come.    

This week (May 2-6) is Teacher Appreciation Week. We truly appreciate the meaningful work our teachers do every day. A school district is only as strong as the good people who dedicate their careers to help mold our students into future productive citizens. The accomplishments of our teachers are celebrated in classrooms all across our district. Every single day, Cassville’s teachers are dedicated to the success of each and every child. They provide hope to the most needy young children in our community. They provide stability in attitude and attention to every detail of a child’s life and they understand the profound influence they have on the lives of kids.

On behalf of the school board and the community of Cassville, it is my privilege to extend a heartfelt message of gratitude for the work our teachers do. It is true that teaching is a calling, not a profession, and I am so honored that our teachers have chosen Cassville R-IV School District as a place to make a difference in the lives of our children. We also thank our teachers for the ingenuity, resilience, passion, and strength displayed every single day through all of the unprecedented challenges these past two years. Their hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed. 

We can all look back and remember a great teacher who touched our lives. With that in mind, please be sure to thank our past and present teachers and celebrate them this week and beyond. I encourage everyone in the communities that make up our district to thank an educator during Teacher Appreciation Week. Together, we can partner to successfully ensure the academic, emotional and social success of our students.

Merlyn Johnson is the superintendent of the Cassville school district. He may be reached at 417-847-2221.