Dear Ex-Students

Dear Ex-Students

Like many of you, I feel that this time of teaching my children is my own second opportunity for a real education. As my knowledge of Miss Mason and the work of the P.N.E.U. has grown, I have become fascinated by the efforts and struggles of the mothers and governesses employing the method. I regularly find myself lost in the archives, encouraged and inspired by what I find.

The culture of the House of Education is something I find especially interesting. The camaraderie and dedication among the students is evident. They truly believed that what they were doing was important and worthy of their best efforts, as many of us do today. But some of this stuff is really hard! So I was particularly delighted by the tone of levity in this article about a production created and performed by the student teachers.

Just a couple of notes of clarification: “crits” were basically exams for the student teachers. They would teach a lesson to a classroom of unknown children while Miss Mason watched and critiqued. Yikes. And “Scale How student” refers to the students at the House of Education; Scale How was the name of the house itself.

I hope you will enjoy this short article as much as I have. Be sure to look up the tune of the song and give it a try!

Transcribed from the November, 1916 issue of L’Umile Pianta by the Charlotte Mason Poetry transcription team.

Dear Ex-Students,

We have been back such a short time that there seems very little to write about. But we thought you might like to hear about the preparations for All Hallows, as the next number of the PIANTA does not appear until after it is all over, and the need for secrecy will have ceased to exist! We are to have a short play, entitled “What the Flowers saw, November 30th, 1916.”

The scene is laid outside St. George’s, where the weather box stands. Here such flowers as the daisy, rose, water lily, etc., meet in order to enjoy the freedom which is theirs on All Hallows. They discuss the College and its strange inmates, whose behaviour has so often puzzled, pleased, or distressed them. The robin, too, has much to tell, for has not he hopped into the class-room and seen tonic solfa, education lectures, etc., in progress. The ant, who escaped from the last “crit” held on him and his brethren, comes to tell his tale.

The Queen of the Flowers promises to give her heart’s desire to the flower who tells the best story about the students, and dismisses them with the promise that they shall meet again on the following night.

In the next scene the students, anxious to decorate the class-room for the evening’s entertainment, pick some of the flowers, who thus witness a play enacted by them. So we have a play within a play. One unfortunate student is doomed to give three crits on the same day, and is preparing one for the next Thursday. In her zeal she mixes the subjects hopelessly, and her drill crit is a mixture of tonic solfa, French, drill, and the story of a prawn (see “Life and Her Children”)!

The last scene, we regret to say, is not yet written, but the idea for it is, that the flower whose heart’s desire was once to become a student now begs to live a flower’s life for always, having been all too much impressed by the trials of the unfortunate student! We are all to wear pierrot dresses during the rest of the evening. Several songs have been written, among them:

Do you want to study
How to take a walk?
Be a Scale How student,
And learn wild birds to stalk.
You’ll also find a pleasure
In climbing in the sun
To find the height of mountains
And why a stream doth run.

Do you want to study
Why a bee it stings?
Be a Scale How student,
You’ll learn a lot of things,
All about the insects,
Sponges, slugs and worms,
Caterpillars, scorpions,
And all that give you squirms.

Do you want to study
What sloyd and carton mean?
Be a Scale How student,
On models you’ll get keen.
Just use your knife quite freely,
And cut your finger so,
Here is scope for genius
And words like hang! dash! blow!

Do you want to study
How to doh, me, ray?
Be a Scale How student,
Learn “Nobis domine,”
How to beat one bar in,
And keep your part all right,
While your next door neighbour
Out of tune is singing quite.

Do you want to study
How to read aright?
Be a Scale How student,
Attend a comic sight.
Stroke your nose quite gently,
Make sounds like bay! boh! boo!
El-en-di-ten among them,
Don’t smile whate’er you do.

Oh yes, it’s real amazing
What knowledge you can store
At Scale How, where they teach you
To dust and sweep the floor,
Knit socks and weed the garden,
Clear tables, play a hymn,
Do all that you can think of,
Excepting how to swim!

This is sung to the tune of “Riding Down to Bangor.”

The probationers are seven in number, five of them are Old Fairfield Girls. They work in the workshop, and use the dining-room in the evenings. To their sorrow they do not come into crits! The seniors can think of nothing but “final crits,” and we are all anxious to see the new inspector, Mr. de Burgh.

Miss Kitching read us a most interesting account of the work which Miss Mason has been doing during the summer. There is great hope that one of Yorkshire’s most important towns will adopt P.N.E.U. principles in the elementary schools. All who are interested in the P.N.E.U. will realize that Miss Mason’s dearest wish is thus on the way to fulfilment.

Yours sincerely,
The Present Students

Editor’s Note: The formatting of the above article was optimized for online viewing. To access a version which is formatted more similarly to the original, and which includes the original page numbers, please click here.

Greg Rolling has produced the sheet music of this song. Also please enjoy an original recording of the song by Greg Rolling and Tyson Suemnicht:

4 Replies to “Dear Ex-Students”

  1. This is delightful, thank you for sharing it! I also love that second to last picture that looks like they have set up an open air classroom complete with desks and an easel.

  2. Beautiful. Wonderful. Music to my soul. To read Miss Kitching’s name and picture her in the class room. I feel like I know her but this proves I did not. She was REAL. The students knew her.

    This is FUN!!

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