Saskatchewan One Room School Project
Saskatchewan One Room School Project provides an online history for current generations to enjoy, preserve, and experience, our historical educational, architectural, and cultural, heritage.
The Drastic Shortage of Teachers in Saskatchewan's History
The Drastic Shortage of Teachers in Saskatchewan's History
.....The immigration policy of the early 1900s brought farming immigrants to the "Last Best West" who established homesteads and families. Families with children who needed education. Along with erecting homes, barns, and churches, communities petitioned the government to establish schools wherever there were "ten children of school age...within an area not exceeding twenty square miles...and, four persons, each of whom on its [school district] organisation is liable to be assessed for school purposes." School districts formed, school buildings were erected, but where would the teachers materialize from? To excaberate the dilemna were the two World Wars interspersed by the depression years which all decreased the supply of teachers. Training schools emerged, and an immigration call went out for teachers to alleviate the problem.
..... Saskatchewan's population grew from 91,279 in 1901 to 931,547 in 1936, a 1,021% growth spurt. "Our desire is to promote the immigration of farmers and farm labourers. We have not been disposed to exclude foreigners of any nationality who seemed likely to become successful agriculturalists," stated Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior in 1901. So if only farmers need apply to immigrate, Canada would be full of those immigrants fulfilling Sifton's policy, a "stalwart peasant in a sheep-skin coat, born on the soil, whose forefathers have been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife and a half-dozen children is good quality".
..... Such rapid population growth into unsettled lands resulted in no existing schools, sidewalks, buildings or roads. Immigrants arrived and needed to establish their own schools, churches, post offices and communities. Without schools in the new land, those with the highest education became the teachers for the others when school buildings were erected and school districts formed. Inaugural teachers may have pupils who are Swedes, Hungarians, Bohemians, and Germans and teach in the church building until the one room schoolhouse is built. Saskatchewan was able to initiate lectures to train teachers as early as 1890, and "Normal School classes began in 1892.
..... John C. Charyk page 1, author of The Little White Schoolhouse summed up the early schoolhouse experience. "The problem of education in the early days in Canada was especially pressing because an increasing proportion of the later immigrants were of foreign extraction and spoke foreign languages...In spite of these difficulties the majority of immigrants planned to provide their children with an education, hoping that their decision would give the youngsters a better chance in life than they had themselves. Eventually a school district would be formed and a building of some sort erected. It mattered little whether it was of log, stone, sod, mud or boards so long as it could be called a school. Yet with all its shortcomings and lack of qualified teachers it was able to educate."
..... P.G. Laurieup page 6, the editor of "The Saskatchewan Herald" spake of the early educational system of 1883 thusly,"The establishment of schools is of paramount importance in a new country, and can only be efficiently managed by properly constituted boards, acting under munipcal authority...The schools are opened by private parties, who assume the responsiblity of paying the teacher, depending on voluntary subscriptions, their payment falls on a few...This could all be avoided, and greater efficiency in the schools assured, by incorporating the school boards under a suitable law."
..... "I speak from long experience in publioc service when I say that it is only a society whose citizens are educated that is a truly free society. ...Education must be provided to each and every child, and the day will come when the community recognizes this not as a choice but as a necessity. We can prepare for that day now by estalishing a school at which attendance is voluntary but open to every child," spake John Edgar Rosspage 20, in 1883 who became the first Mayor of Moose Jaw. Moose Jaw, the site of the first organised public school district in the Northwest Territories of Canada on December 5, 1884.
..... By 1884, The School Ordinace Act established grants equal to one half the teacher's salary. The teacher grant rates in 1885 were $350 for teachers with a first class certificate, $300 for a second class, and $250 for those holding a third class certificate. Due to the shortage of teachers, the Department of Education resorted to placing 'reader' advertisements in major newspapers across the country of Canada to alleviate the 1918 teacher shortage.
..... W.J.N. McNeely, superintendent of the Teacher's Exchange the Department of Education was reported in The Morning Leader that every school on their list has a teacher as of September 5, 1919.
..... The Saskatchewan school truestee convention of February, 1920 was reported upon in The Morning Leader. The shortage of male teachers was seen as a concern. In 1920 over seventy per cent of the schools employed women teachers. In 1906, 43.4% were male teachers, and these declined to only 16.7% in 1920, of these most male teachers are high school teachers or principals in the larger urban schools.
..... "The rewards of teaching do not at present encourage the expenditure of time and money in professional preperation, stated J.F. Bryant, president of the Saskatchewan school trustees, "So long as a third class teacher is paid the same salary as on holding higher qualifications, there is no inducement for a young man or woman to spend an additional year at high school and an additional term at the Normal School."
..... A proposal was set forward at the 1920 convention regarding salary increases to entice a teacher to remain employed at their current position for a number of years such as in Norway, Sweden, Denmark or England where teachers spend their lifetime within a school.
..... The aim would be to have only first class teachers, and not any permit teachers or third class teachers. The statistics showed that 512 provisional certificates were granted in 1919, and 2,113 third class teachers were employed in the profession.
..... The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan clarifies this early system of teaching certificates, a third class teacher finished 'Standard VI' equivalent to Grade 9 schooling, second-class teachers had completed their 'Standard VII' or Grade 10, and first class teachers had finished 'Standard VIII' or Grade 11. The Salaries of Teachers in English Canada, 1900-1940: A Reappraisal states that a third class certificate was less than a complete high school education, a second class certificate was equivalent to grades XI or XII or junior matriculation and the first class certificate was equal to senior matriculation completing Grade XII or XIII. Evolution of Education records that the first high school grade was referred to as Standard VI. A junior or Class 3 provincial certificate or Standard X: Middle, Class 2 or Standard XII: Senior, Class 1 Standard XII. A one year's provincial certificate or Class 3 Standard was needed to teach until the 1920's.
..... These educational levels differed sociologically in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century from current perceptions. Before the 1800s average life expectancy was below 50, "one-quarter of all children died before the age of one, and half were dead by age wenty-one....fertility rates remained high..[leaving] many parents in a situation where they could not support their surviving offspring much beyond early childhood....children had left home by their mid-teens." In the nineteenth century it was common for girls as young as twelve and boys at the age of fourteen to marry.
.....In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was common for young men, and to a lesser extent for young women, to shift back and forth between their families and work experiences outside the home." Older children would stay home from school during spring seeding season and every fall to help on the farm at harvest time, the entire family was needed to make a "Parents, primarily fathers, assumed the responsibility to maintain and educate their offspring and to give them a suitable start in life." It was not until "World War II, the term "teen≠ager" began to be used as an age category." "In the course of the Industrial Revolution ...children stayed at home for longer periods and went to school, which became compulsory in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the first half of the twentieth century, their dependency on home and family was extended still further, creating the stage of life we now know as adolescence." The household or homestead was no longer relied upon to be the productive unit, rather wages and salaries were brought home as society became increasingly commercialized and there was a growth of capitalist enterprises. It was not until after World War II when University education introduced another stage into the Western world ~ young adulthood.
..... Saskatchewan served a population which was mainly rural ~ 72 percent of people resided in the country. Teachers taught in one room schoolhouses. The province also faces more challenges than either Alberta or Manitoba. The Februrary 21, 1921 The Star Phoenix reported that there were 4,500 schools established in the province, compared to only 1,687 in Manitoba and 2,800 in Alberta. Premier W.M. Martin, the Saskatchewan Minister of Education, remarked that there has been a shortage of teachers annually. Saskatchewan faced a shortage of 1,249 teachers in 1912, 1,346 in 1913, 1,200 in 1915, 1,000 in 1917, 937 in 1918, 522 in 1919 and 500 in 1920. Approximately one third of the teachers in the rural schools depart every year. By 1934, in the midst of the drought, 85 percent of the 7,244 teachers employed in Saskatchewan taught in rural areas."
..... "The country schoolhouses scattered across the broad wheatlands of the province were the outposts of education in non-modern rural Saskatchewan..." described Robert Tyrepage 2 in Tales Out of School A Story of the Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation, he continues, "Much like the unplanned and unpredicatable growth of wild mustard, the schoolhouses sprang up wherever and whenever migration or the stork produced a crop of farm children entitled to received an education....The pre-Second World War rural school was an austere, isolated and lonely island of learning is a sea of wheat." "Poverty, abject and complete, was a harsh fact of life in a great many rural school districts...the twin-assault of Depression and Drouth put Little Red Schoolhouse financing in a perilous state...Money was a scarce commodity in the Thirties...teachers found pay cheques irregular and uncertain."page 5
..... 1,000 teachers every year were leaving Saskatchewan. A Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation representative page 8 went forth to investigate the decay of the Little Red Schoolhouse during this era of misfortune and stark financial conditions. "I visited several schools to verify reports sent to me. I found windows broken and patched with cardboard. Toilets that necessitated the use of the stable by both boys and girls. Windows broken and boarded up, windows and doors with frames so loose as to permit snow to drift in during the night remained in the school all day in parts of the room. In one rural school both a furnace and a stove are not able to maintain a heat of 60 degrees in the classroom. Blackboards have become so shiny that their use is reduced to a minimum out of consideraton for pupil's eyes." These conditions, of course, were not true of all country schools in the province.page 9 "
..... Tyre goes on to explain that "By the end of 1937 salary arrears amounted to $1,207,190.05, and of 5,151 school districts in the province, 2,909 were in default. It was also a year when drouth brought the province its most calamitous crop failure.page23"
..... The salary was raised to help obtain better teachers. In the case of the women teachers, "Almost invariably, some person in the community prevails upon them to marry. In one of the districts five teachers have married," said Martin. As a side note, until the 1940s, the female teacher was required to resign once married." Martin continued, "it has always appeared to me that perhaps the reason why a great many men do not stay in the teaching profession is becuase the teacher is not given the proper place in the community."
..... The February 19, 1942 edition of The Leader Post reported that a shortage of 1,000 teachers will occur before the end of the year. "Right now we are terribly short of teachers, but the situation is only mildly serious compared to how it will be when the end of the year rolls around," stated Mr. Townley - Smith, President of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, "Who can blame the teachers for quitting and forsaking their profession? The low salaries, which had to be collected in main directly from the farmers who were themselves in serious financial straits, were certainly not conducive to enthusiasm among the teaching profession -- even if they were paid, which quite often they were not." The farming community often found it difficult to pay the teachersí salaries, and many of them would have to work for their board and room. Due to hard times teachers may be paid with board and room, and the remainder of the salary may be paid out in rather than cash, others may have been paid with a "washing machine, a couple of horses, and some heifers". In some cases, the teacher's salaray was not paid out at all, or not for years, "During the Great Depression, local farmers had no money to give out" Saskatchewan announced July 26, 1944 that schools with fewer than 15 students enrolled will be closed in an effort to relieve the shortage of teachers according to The Calgary Herald.
..... In 1945 the school board needing a particular teacher's services may make application to the defence deparment for their release from the armed forces to alleviate the teacher crisis during World War II (1939 - 1945). Additionally close to 500 short term teacher trainees took a summer training course through the Normal schools to alleviate the teacher shortage. 300 fully trained teachers were placed in teaching positions from the Normal schools. "The teacher shortage situation is serious but not as bad as the department's survey indicated last June. We will be able to keep all schools in Saskatchewan open this coming term," said Education Minister, Mr. Woodrow Lloyd, "The latest schools will be delayed in opening in some districts is the fourth week in September." reported the August 27, 1945 Leader Post.
..... The situation of the teacher shortage escalted into emergency straits reported the October 4, 1947 Saskatoon Star Phoenix. The depression years saw teachers departing for occuptions which furnished better pay. After the outbreak of World War II and the economic recovery, teachers turned to the armed forces, industry or jobs in commerce as they were higher in salary.
..... At the close of the 1946 school term, there were 6,500 teachers in the province, and of these 1,100 quit their jobs. The Normal schools are sending teachers out with only six weeks of training to offset the shortage. "About 900 new persons entered the profession, 700 of them having incomplete training." This expediency of releasing partly trained teachers into the profession begun in 1941 and has become the practice through World War II (1939 - 1945) and into 1947. Mr. Lloyd, Mininster of Education, stated, "It is not encouraging to learn that the net enrollment at normal schools on December 11 was only 625."
..... The December 27, 1949 issue of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix declared that 500 schools employed study supervisors who had no teaching training at all. 80 per cent of teachers had less than one year of training. Only 19 per cent of teachers had four or more years of proper teacher training. Statistically speaking, workers employed in Saskatchewan could expect to earn $42.13 a week on average in 1949, however the teacher's wages were hiked up to only $35.12 from $17.96 in 1942.
..... Transporting students to a nearby school with a teacher may alleviate the problem of rural schools facing the beginning of the 1956 school term that have no teacher employed. However, concern was brought forward that these classrooms may subsequently become overcrowded, and teachers may also have too many students. Ads were placed for "Study supervisors" who would oversee correspondence courses for those classrooms without teachers. How can Saskatchewan induce their expensively trained teachers to remain in the province and not see school closures or schools staffed by "babysitters" asked the August 29, 1956 Saskatoon Star Phoenix. 220 teachers were recruited this same year from Britain and the United States. "Those coming from Britain have their passage fully subsidized under an agreement between the federal and provincial governments."
..... Even with the call for superannuated teachers to return to the workplace, eight rural collegiate classrooms closed reported the September 19, 1963 Star Phoenix. 1,852 teachers had one or two University degrees out of 9,315 teachers employed in 1962. In 1963, it was estimated that 9,550 teachers were required. "One has to only look at the 'teachers wanted' columns of the newspapers', to see the serious teacher shortage said G.D. Eamer, general secretary of the Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation in the August 30 edition of the 1963 Saskatoon Star Phoenix.
..... A period of proletarianization began wherein women as sole head mistresses of the school were pushed out of these occupations and "into waged teaching enviromnents run by male authorities." In Saskatchewan, 5 000 one room school houses existed in 1950. From 1951 - 1971, 2 750 of these schools closed as the province, in response to changing socio-economic conditions, implemented The Larger School Units Act, 1944, and moved to larger centralized schools"
..... Charyk wrote in Syrup Pails and Gopher Tails Memories of the One-Room School, that the "one-room school is an exciting one of initiative, determination, disappointment and courage....encompassing a period of only seventy-five years...by 1965, [they] disappeared almost entirely." "The Little White Schoolhouse was the bulwark of civilization in a new and primitive land. Under its roof devoted and knowledgable men and women, steeped in the traditions and cultures of the old world, passed on to the children the fundamentals of an education that had taken mankind centruies to garner and learn. It was the cradle of a nation that was to be, a nation that in a scant one hundred years has grown up to be respected and recognized throughout the world by both large and small powers alike. It we as Canadians are to acknowledge ourselves as anation we cannot ignore the part that the one-room school had in shaping this destiny."- continued Charyk page 2
..... An editorial written in the 1928 The Saskatchewan Teacher page 9-10 said; "The Little Red Schoolhouse is by far the most important institution on this continent. 'Agreed,' you reply, 'but why reassert the commonplace?' Because this so-important institution is about to disappear. Not suddenly, of course, but in the way of all history yielding place to new." "How we understand the past and the doors through which we have come will greatly influence the conscious choices we make about the future and the doors we hope to open" stated Dr. Brian A. Brown page 192 in Opening Tomorrow's Doors.
..... "What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state, than that of the man who instructs the rising generation."-Marcus Tullius Cicero
A small sampling of Teacher wanted ads
"School boards advertising for teachers will invariably obtain more satisfactory returns if the amount of salary is stated in the advertisement. In the case of school districts not located at a railway station, it is advisable to state distance of school from station and from boarding house." ~ The Morning Leader Feb 14, 1917
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