Have you ever heard of a Normal School? That's Normal with a capital N—not normal as in everyday or run-of-the-mill. I first encountered this terminology when I began researching 19th century teaching colleges. In the American West, teachers were often little more than former students who had completed the 8th grade and gone on to pass a teacher's examination. However, Adelaide, my heroine in Head in the Clouds, needed to be more than an ordinary teacher. She needed to have the education and qualifications that would impress a starchy English nobleman. Since she spent her teen years in the East, I started investigating college possibilities.
In the early 1800s, schoolmasters were men. They ruled their classrooms with discipline and authority. Yet in the 1830s when tax-supported common schools made education more widely available, the result was a teacher shortage that left the door open for women.
"God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems...very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price." -- Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849
By the time of the Civil War, women dominated the teaching field. However, if a woman wanted to set herself apart, to establish herself as a professional, she required training that went beyond the rudimentary grammar schooling of her peers. She needed a diploma from a reputable Normal School.
Normal Schools were two-year academies designed to grant teachers a mastery of the subjects taught in the common schools as well as giving them a practical knowledge of teaching methodology. Normal Schools prided themselves on their thorough, cohesive, and "scientific" curriculum. They would provide a norm for all teachers (hence the term Normal School) that would assure a level of quality generally unavailable previously.
While living in Boston with her aunt, Adelaide attended the Boston Normal School, which had been established as a separate institution from the Girl's High School in 1872. According to a regulation manual published in 1888, her courses would have included the following:
· Mental and Moral Science and Logic
· Natural Science
· Study of Language
· Elementary Studies
· Principles of Education, School Economy, and Methods of Instruction
· Vocal Music, Drawing, and Blackboard Illustration
· Observation and Practice in the Training School
· Observation and Practice in other public schools
Not so very different from our current teacher education programs, is it?
So who were some teachers that made an impact in your life? Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of Head in the Clouds.
When a recovering romantic goes to work for a handsome ranch owner, her heart’s not the only thing in danger.
Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.
When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America's wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn't uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon--and intrigues him at the same time. But he can't afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.
When Isabella's uncle comes to claim the child--and her inheritance--Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man's evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?
Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance novels for Bethany House and thanks the Lord for the compassionate, fun-loving, and inspirational teachers she's had along her journey who encouraged her to strive for excellence and follow her dreams. And with three children in the public school system, she continues to appreciate all the hard work and passion these professionals pour into their students. Thank you teachers!