Being a Teacher in the 1930’s

John Wooden gives a picture of teaching in the 1930’s which may seem eerily familiar to those in education today

John Wooden, coach of the UCLA basketball team for over 40 years is featured in a recent Ted talk where he gives his perspective on coaching. Wooden was born in 1910 and is part of the GI Generation (born 1901-1924). He carries the hallmark positivity of that generation. In the first minute or so of the video he has this observation about teaching during a different age:

“I have my own definition of success. In 1934 when I was teaching at a high school in south bend, IN. Being a bit disappointed and disillusioned perhaps by the way that parents of youngsters in my English class expected their youngsters to get an A or B. They thought a C was alright for the neighbor’s children, because the neighbors’ children are all average. But they were not satisfied with their own and they would make the teacher feel that they had failed or that the youngster had failed, and that’s not right”

For many teachers of high school students today this statement may seem all to familiar. The expectation of perceived excellence and the finger-pointing when it is not achieved is a challenge faced by all primary and high school teachers today. The parents of today, Boomers (born 1943-1960) and Gen X’ers (born 1961-1981) have high expectations for their kids and put dramatic pressure on teachers and staff to make sure they achieve. Back in Wooden’s day it was the Missionary (born 1860-1882) and Lost (born 1883-1900) who were apply the pressure, and just like today there was little concern about “the neighbor’s kids”.

He doesn’t mention his early teaching experiences much outside of that first statement, but the video is worth a watch.

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