19th Century School
In the 19th century, Fairfield’s public schools were much smaller and simpler, offering education only through grade six in one of the sixteen small schoolhouses around town. These one- or two-room schoolhouses were often run by a female teacher during the warmer months and a male teacher during the winter, when there was not as much farm work to be done and more teenage boys attending who might require discipline. Students were not divided into grades but went over the same material, memorizing multiplication tables or textbook passages until they could recite them aloud. Spelling bees and contests of mental arithmetic were popular ways of demonstrating the schools’ success.
Fairfield’s schools started to modernize in 1897, when in accordance with state law, the town took over operation of all local schools. The small schoolhouses, which had fallen into disrepair, were closed and students were sent to larger, more centrally located institutions. In 1917, Fairfield opened its first high school in a house donated by local philanthropist Annie B. Jennings. Prior to that, those seeking more education would take the trolley to attend school in Bridgeport or Westport, or go to private schools like the Fairfield Academy.
Rules at the Fairfield Academy, 1853 :
- All boisterous conduct such as running, stamping, shouting and the like must cease upon my entering the school room.
- During prayer scholars will…recline their heads upon their desks.
- All laughing, playing, eating and communication in every form without permission is forbidden.
- Corporal Punishment will, if deemed necessary, be administered in school at the opinion of the teacher.
- Falsehood, willful & persistent disobedience & incorrigible idleness may expect it.
- No one of the boys will ring the bell except by permission.
- Scholars are expected to study faithfully at home.
- All scholars who have any communication with each other will lose their recess.
- At the option of the teachers, scholars will be kept after school for imperfect recitations or other causes. When so detained, they are required to study diligently.
- Scholars will endeavor to study without noise.
- Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth must be spoken at all times.
- Obedience must be prompt and entire.
- All profane language, hard names, and quarrels between pupils are forbidden.
- All rudeness to girls on the part of the boys is forbidden.
- Boys are forbidden to play marbles …from the time they leave home til their return.
- Matches are to be kept in the pocket.
- No exchanging of rings.
- Boys are forbidden to enter the girls’ entry and girls will spend their noon out of the school room.
- Privy to be kept neat & free from all obscene penciling.