School starts tomorrow for Rebecca Miller, teacher at an Amish school in Holmes County, Ohio, and recently a regular contributor here at Amish America.
That means we’ll be hearing less from her, since she won’t be working a job with regular computer access. However, I’ve still got several posts she has written to share with you. Rebecca also says she’ll still be able to check in occasionally here.
In honor of the school year starting, I asked Rebecca if she could write something on the things Amish children learn in school–not the 3 Rs, but those other, intangible life lessons that you don’t find in the textbook.
Rebecca has taught school for 10 years. She also got input from an ex-teacher who taught 20+ years to write this post. Take it away Rebecca.
Five Things Amish Children Learn in School
1. The Golden Rule- Matt. 7:12
I often tell my students, “If we all used the Golden Rule at all times, we wouldn’t need any other rules,” but since children are children they also need a few more specific guidelines.
Though children memorize it in German and English, the most important part is learning to practice it in our everyday lives. So often even we adults forget to apply it in everyday situations.
We do stress using the Golden Rule in play and any other situations. It wouldn’t be unusual to hear a teacher ask an offender,”was that the Golden Rule?” And then follow up with “please apologize.” Or a punishment if it merits one.
This is a vital ingredient for any successful school. And it also applies to the teacher and the parents. Children need to learn to cooperate with the teacher and each other.
There are several instances where it’s very essential. For one, planning and bringing together the annual Christmas program. The teacher puts in much effort to pick out parts for each student, then setting up the poems, plays, and songs, but if not for the students’ cooperation in studying and practicing our hard work would be for naught. Then there’s also a lot of work in cleaning, decorating, and getting the schoolhouse ready.
A few other times would be special art/craft projects where the whole class or sometimes even the whole school work together.
Another instance would be deciding what to play at recess. Perhaps the older boys want to play softball, the girls would rather play volleyball, middle grade boys might want to play soccer or rabbit tag. The little girls think skipping rope would be best.
So since there are likely only 25-40 children we’ll need to come up with a compromise and maybe choose two things to play. Then everyone is expected to cheerfully play what has been chosen.
Not only do children need to learn to respect their teachers, but also each other, and themselves. There is also a great need to learn to respect school property, the neighbors’ property, and each others’ space and privacy.
All of these are much easier for the teacher and child if good ground work has been laid at home before they start school. But even the most respectful children can lose that respect if the teacher doesn’t maintain and teach it also.
All children, even the ones with the best behavior need reminders. They also need praise for doing the right thing and showing respect.
Since there is no janitor, students learn at a young age to help with cleaning and upkeep. I usually give each child a daily chore schedule, which also allows them one free day. For example on Monday Sara might sweep classroom, Tuesday help check workbooks, Wednesday clean the blackboard, and Thursday, free :).
Younger ones might pass the trash can, wipe desks after lunch, clap erasers, sweep the basement. The older ones also take turns by weeks to put our hot lunch foods in the oven at 11 o’clock so they’re warm by 11:30, and guess what, if Johnny forgets one day- he probably won’t the next. He’ll get plenty reminders from his peers. No one likes a late lunch 😉 .
On Friday afternoon we all help each other give the school house a good scrubbing and clean up the grounds. Older students will also have the opportunity to help younger ones with questions or studying spelling words, reading stories, or times tables to name a few. They can also help their teacher by taking classes or giving flashcards.
They also need to be responsible for their desk and space. I might also send a few of the older ones out to pick up trash along the ditches. If you’re in a high-traffic area, you wouldn’t want to do that. They also learn at a young age to work independently and be responsible for their lessons and studying for tests.
Last but not least, we have one of the most important of all. Again, as I mentioned before, if children are taught these values from home, it is much easier for the teacher.
It is great if we can get them to obey out of love, and not only because they have to. If children only obey out of fear, sooner or later they will rebel and act out.
Parental support makes a huge difference in this, but a lot lies on the teacher, too. Children soon learn if a teacher means what he/she says or if they can push things a little further each time and soon be doing exactly what they want to. Children need the security of knowing that obedience is expected.
If they can learn these values at a young age it will help them all through life: as a church member, an employee or employer, a teacher, a parent or perhaps in the ministry. Like anything, the younger we learn something, the better it will stick.
I’d like to close with a neat little poem that was in our Teachers’ Meeting booklet (written by an Amish teacher).
In teaching school you’ll always find,
a child of almost any kind.
The small ones,
The tall ones,
The good at bat and ball ones.
The happy ones,
The yappy ones,
The look just like their pappy ones.
The jokey ones,
The croaky ones,
The very trying, poky ones.
The bright ones,
The spright ones,
The laugh with all their might ones.
The wiggly ones,
The giggly ones,
The make their letters squiggly ones.
The shy ones,
The wry ones,
The almost make you cry ones.
The neat ones,
The sweet ones,
The sitting on their feet ones.
The sleepy ones,
The weepy ones,
The like their stories creepy ones.
The worried ones,
The hurried ones,
The never, ever flurried ones.
The rough ones,
The tough ones,
The never talk enough ones.
I’m glad God made each one that way,
I think… I’ll teach another day.
So long, blessings to all!
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