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It was preferred that the schoolmistresses were certified, particularly to work in the better schools during the latter half of the 19 th century. To become certified they were tested in grammar, geography, history, math, and writing from dictation. Additionally, their handwriting was analyzed for readability (Jackson).
Appearance of Schoolhouse
The focus on the appearance of the schoolhouse was mainly limited to the private schoolhouses, which wanted to attract the best students. Schoolmistresses decorated the school so that they looked relatively well-off, and conducted the school to give the appearance of a family/domestic setting. Unlike the public schoolhouses, the private schoolhouses aimed to attract a small number of the best students, whereas the public schools wished to attract enough students so as to collect an adequate amount of money for their salaries and other extraneous fees (Pederson 142).
Generally, the pay was rather poor, barely ever being more than £300 per annum. From this, lodging fees, repairs, taxes, and payment to assistants was removed, causing the profit for personal expenses to be well below £100. Their salaries were garnered from the payments of their students. At the best boarding schools, £70 for boarders and £20 for day students was average. Conversely, in the poorer boarding schools, £3 to £10 was the average (Pederson 141).
Public vs. Private School Lessons
The public schools looked towards the public sphere for inspiration and trained students to be productive in the world and focused on their academics. On the other hand, the private schools tended to celebrate a life of leisure in the private setting. However, in public and private schools, music, French, arithmetic, writing and reading were the core subjects. Greater emphasis was put on domestic subjects and lessons were only taught to the point of being satisfactory in a social setting (Pederson 138, 144).
The Typical Day in a Girls’ Boarding School
7:00 – Wake Up
8:00 – Breakfast is Ready, Usually Including Meat
9:00 or 9:30 – Day’s Studies Begin
Noon – Girls Take a Walk After Having a Slice of Bread and Butter
Dinner Follows the Walk
3:00 – Studies Continue Until 5:00 or 5:30
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After 7:00 – The Times and Other Topics are Discussed
Jackson, Lee. “Elementary Teaching.” Dictionary of Victorian London. 2001. 12 Mar. 2005.
Pederson, Joyce. “Schoolmistresses and Headmistresses: Elites and Education and Nineteenth-Century England.” The Journal of British Studies 15 (1975): 135-162. JSTOR. 11 Mar. 2005.
“School house.” Willen Through the Ages. 12 Mar. 2005.
Schoolmistress. “Girls at School.” The London Times 20 Sep. 1876, national ed.: 12. Key Resources for English Literature. 11 Mar. 2005.