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Hazel Amelia Beach Bales
Born 1908 -

My  First Day as a Teacher

I was born in 1908 at Royal, Oklahoma.  There is no Royal, Oklahoma now.   Nineteen years later in August, I started my first day of school as a teacher.

As I began the day, first I took the children's names, ages and grade, as I was teaching grades 1 through 4.  There were 32 pupils, but it looked like a million to me.  I was scared and wishing I was back in the seats with them instead of being stuck up here being a teacher.

This was during the depression.  The people were very poor, nearly everyone sold home made whiskey.  It was either this or starve.

The place was called Oak Ridge in Grady County.  The principal was Mrs. Harmon.   A very sweet woman, who had taught for years.  She knew the community as she had always lived there.

I rented a room from a family named Kitchen for $10.00 a month.  I was single and not very brave.  I didn't know the first thing about teaching school.  I knew to teach them to read, write and do arithmetic, but not how to go about it.  In college, everything had been taught but how to teach a child.

Recess was gladly reached.  Mrs. Harman asked how things were going and I told her I wished I was at home.  She said that she remembered how her first day and been and she began telling me how she had done things.  She was very careful to not hurt my feelings and I was thankful for her guidance and listened to her every word.  She taught me more the first week of school on how to do things than I had ever learned in college.

I went by the books in all grades, except the Primer and first grades.  In these grades I went by Mrs. Harman's guide.  I was very successful that year.  I have successfully used her way of teaching for the past 38 years.  My downfall that year was on December 4, when I married Rusty, which turned out to be a mistake, from the very beginning, but from that marriage I had three wonderful children, so I guess it wasn't all a failure. I have helped so many teachers using Mrs. Harman's method.

In all my 21 years teaching in Oklahoma, a teacher had to do their own janitor work.   The pay was 70 to 75 dollars per month, sometimes for years without a raise.   Sometimes during the depression in order for pupils to complete their grade I taught the last two months free. 

In the late 50's wages were as high as $200.00 per month.

I enjoyed every minute of my teaching, after the first rough morning.

Later, in California, I taught 32 different pupils each year.  One hardly got to know these pupils there.  In Oklahoma the pupils became like a family.  One had them 4 years and knew them all well during that time.

Submitted by Betty  Barnett

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