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Cherished school days never will be forgotten

I attended a one-room country schoolhouse -- Boston District Number Seven. That was an exciting experience, with learning opportunities well beyond the three Rs. And I will not forget.

The school was nearly two miles away from my farm home in the sun-kissed Boston Hills of southern Erie County. That meant rising at the crack of dawn and walking to school on unpaved rural roads in all kinds of weather: the raw winds of winter, the awakening rains of spring and the aromatic smells of harvest in the fall. These were the Depression years of the 1930s. They were not easy times, but as boys and girls, we thought we had it made.

I attended that school from first through eighth grade with about 20 other students and one teacher. The school had stationary desks, an American flag and a wood stove in the middle of the room. There was no indoor plumbing; there was a water pump in the back yard. There were hand-me-down books from older siblings, a blackboard and always a colorful bulletin board.

It was a schoolroom occupied by a family of youths ages 6 to 16. We had a caring, motivating, passionate and loving teacher who created an atmosphere for success. And the students responded in kind. The classroom was brimming with exploratory learning, adventurous excitement, exuberance in achievement and genuine caring.

Those exciting days of schooling seemed to be taken for granted. But now, upon reflection, I realize we had something that was far more significant. I now recognize the richness of those formative years. We had then an educational experience that contained all the virtues of the most modern curricular strategies of today, including mastery learning, looping, effective schooling, partnering, learning centers, enrichment, advance placement and differentiated learning modules. But in those days, these were not part of an educational lexicon. They were just good, common-sense ways of teaching and learning.

Often the older students helped the younger -- the fifth-grader helped the first-grader and the eighth-grader assisted the fifth-grader. We were all students and "teacher helpers" and we had a job to do. And by the time we reached eighth grade, we had already been exposed to eighth grade the preceding seven years without even realizing it.

At the crack of dawn, with the sun in the east, students entered the door of this rural school. And at the end of the day, with the warm sunshine in the western sky, these students treaded their way home looking forward to the next day and what it would bring.

Today, many of these students are now wonderful parents and grandparents. They are retired successful farmers, laborers, business and professional men and women -- all great examples of American exceptionalism. And there are those who have finished the course of life and have passed on. And we remember.

Many years ago the school was moved from its original location. It currently serves as a family dwelling. The original building is hard to detect because it has been ensconced with several additions. But the rooftop, the peak of the original building, is apparent. It still welcomes the morning sunshine, as when students entered its door; and it closes the day in the shadows of the setting sun.

And so, the building lives on, as does the impact of those cherished school days. And I will not forget.

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