Huron County, Michigan, has six one-room schools. From the Detroit area the drive is approximately 2.5 hours. The scenic drive north to Bad Axe is typical of what Michigan has to offer this time of year; grey skies, cut corn fields, newly disked fields showing fresh dark dirt, flat lands dotted with farm houses, and a glimpse of everyday hardworking American families. Seeing the pine, cedar, and hemlock trees combined with the many hardwood trees Michigan has to offer, is reminiscent of many Michigan northern roads. My journey today though, led me to Big Burning School, which has been in existence since 1891.
I was greeted by approximately thirty-eight students, a few teachers, and parents. The teacher, Michelle Daniels, let me rearrange the students from being at their desks to sitting on the floor with me. Students ranged in grade from kindergarten through eighth grade. I explained how poetry had crept into my life through my mother’s poems. I read them one of her favorites, (from her old dilapidated book), titled, “When Ma Steps on the Gas.”
We continued with a discussion on dinosaur facts. Through laughs and my crazy sporadic movements, we became good friends in a short amount of time. I continue to find this time with students my favorite part of being a published author and the most exhausting. Making a connection with them is the most important thing when I visit. We colored our T-Rex and Velociraptor pictures after the story was read. They surprised me by wanting me to autograph their handouts I gave them.
Student classroom count has ranged from as high as 95 in the late eighteen hundred to the present number of approximately 24 at Big Burning School. Students from Adams School, as well as Church School, joined us.
The drive from Big Burning School to Eccles School in Harbor Beach should have only taken me about twenty minutes. I got a little turned around. The flat countryside with the massive windmills towering next to me on the country road must have distracted me. Seriously though, there were lots of white windmills all with their blades motionless as I drove closer to Lake Huron. As my clock numbers switched to 1 p.m. those stopped white blades all began to slowly move. Lunch break?
Eccles School began teaching students in 1886. The land was deeded to Eccles School from Mary Smith for $1.00. Approximately fifty teachers have taught at Eccles School. Anne Kennedy is their teacher now and she has a firm handle on her students. We were joined by Verona School which is about three miles away. They were joined by their teacher, Amy Schweitzer. There were approximately sixty students in the afternoon at Eccles School. Three eighth-graders rounded out the oldest tier. Their warm friendly personalities were incredible.
At the end of the day when I was packing up to go home, it was time for the students to go home as well. My hour in each school had extended to almost double that. I noticed one young man was vacuuming the floor. One of the kindergarten girls was distributing lunch bags to desks. From the smallest of children to the oldest, everyone had a job they were expected to do. Mrs. Kennedy explained most of her students would go on to further their education after high school. That wasn’t surprising to me after spending a day with their bright minds.
On the drive home I drove along Lake Huron heading south. The lake water was rough with waves splashing on the high banks of the shoreline. Although exhausted, the beautiful scenic edge of Michigan’s thumb, was a perfect way to end a perfect day.
A blogger named Cynthia Tait (Michigan Mom blog) was responsible for getting me to this book reading. I will be forever grateful.