Had another visit to our Victorian School today, the second this year. I always find that the first two or three visits of the season are a little challenging, as it takes me time to get into the character of a Victorian headmaster. After two or three times I seem to be able to perform more easily.
It makes a great deal of difference which school visits, because some groups are easier than others. We generally take children at KS1 and KS2, which for the benefit of the uninitiated ranges from 5 years old up to 11 years. Some of our volunteers prefer working with younger children and some prefer the older ones. Personally I like working with a variety of ages, because each group has something to offer. The school today was mainly children of ten or eleven, and they managed to ask some quite inquisitive questions, which meant that they were thinking about what we were teaching them. There are certain questions which crop up regularly, of course and the technique is to make sure you don’t sound bored when you answer.
The Victorian school life is so far removed from that of a modern school pupil, that it is difficult to grasp how hard it must have been. Some Victorian teachers were cruel and harsh to their pupils and discipline could be hard. Learning was more repetitious and rather boring, yet most children did gain from their school the knowledge that their teachers attempted to impart. In our area, I wonder how much education benefited the pupils, since most would have gone on to menial labour work in agriculture, but perhaps there were some who went on to more demanding jobs, and undoubtedly those able to read and write would have used those skills even in a rural setting.
Of course in a short visit, which usually lasts no longer than three or four hours, it is impossible to do more than dip into things of the past, and all one can really hope for is to awaken an interest in history, and in our case Victorian history. Just now and again a school pupil visits the museum again with their parents.