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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martha Cooley, April 25, 1995. Interview Q-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A teacher in a one-room schoolhouse must plan carefully

Cooley remembers that her teacher kept lesson plans to regulate the activities of her students of various ages. White teachers thought they were too smart to plan, she believes, but black teachers knew the wisdom of the lesson plan.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martha Cooley, April 25, 1995. Interview Q-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

EDDIE McCOY:
Now, how often would you have recess? Or you just, that was just that lunch peroid?
MARTHA COOLEY:
No, we’d have, we’d have uh, in the morning we’d have ‘bought ten minutes to get outside, and at twelve o’clock we’d have a hour recess, I think it was an hour, I hope I’m not making a mistake. And then in the evening, sometime we didn’t have no recess, ‘cause you had so many children sometime, we didn’t have a recess, but she would let you be excused if you had to be excused.
EDDIE McCOY:
How did she teach the first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, she start with the first grade first or what?
MARTHA COOLEY:
Well, they worked on the board, maybe she put alphabets on the board for them, when them children didn’t know the alphabet. And that, they would have to be up, they just set down and make them write them alphabets and learn them like that, you know.
EDDIE McCOY:
And while she worked another class.
MARTHA COOLEY:
Yeah, that’s right.
EDDIE McCOY:
But, she kept them busy?
MARTHA COOLEY:
Yeah, she kept them busy, you wouldn’t in there talking and laughing either.
EDDIE McCOY:
She had a lesson plan?
MARTHA COOLEY:
Yes sir.
EDDIE McCOY:
Had a lesson plan.
MARTHA COOLEY:
Yes she did.
EDDIE McCOY:
Okay, y’all went by her lesson plan?
MARTHA COOLEY:
Yes sir, or else you would be punished, or she would keep you in, or you either take a switch and hold out your hand, I ain’t never got a lick in mine.
EDDIE McCOY:
By having a lesson plan, she know she had all day, ‘cause she had so many kids.
MARTHA COOLEY:
Yeah, yeah.
EDDIE McCOY:
That’s what lesson plans came from. See, whites didn’t have a lesson plan in their day. Because they thought they were so smart they didn’t need one. But when I talk to blacks, they always said black teachers had a lesson plan as far as back as I’ve interviewed. This picture look any like your schools?
MARTHA COOLEY:
No, ‘cause our school wasn’t but one room. And uh, and two windows. [Laughter]
EDDIE McCOY:
This is a Cadillac. Had what, how many?
MARTHA COOLEY:
We had two windows and one on one side, and one on the other side. But it wasn’t dark in there.
EDDIE McCOY:
You ever seen anything like that, a truck the white children ride on?
MARTHA COOLEY:
No, we never, they were walking too. They were walking, yeah, back then, everybody walked, didn’t know what the school bus was. Wasn’t no school bus.