Thursday 27 Sep, 2012

The Evolution of Teaching: A Timeline

6th century B.C.

Confucius is the first private teacher
(that we know of!)

1600s – 1700s

Education and learning takes place largely within the family. Children are expected to participate in productive activities and to help bring in money.

Late 1700s – Early 1800s

The majority of teachers are men who work other jobs. In smaller towns and rural areas, men teach for a few months during their off-season – many are farmers. The more educated and ambitious teachers are young men who soon move on to other careers, often in the church or law.

1820s – 1830s

Individuals are pushing for educational reform and want schools to be more democratic, universally accessible and public. Rather than pay tuition, reformers want schools to be funded by taxes and special fees paid by parents. The growth of public schools begins. Many young men begin leaving the teaching profession for new industries, so women start staffing schools.


Many female teachers are very young and have only completed the equivalent of our 8th grade. Often, pupils are older than the teachers. The education and preparation of teachers becomes a main focus.


Public schools are prevalent in most areas, but teachers continue to make a fairly low salary.


Teachers are expected to follow certain rules. The following examples were found in small schools in Iowa, Maine and Arizona:

“Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individuals taste of the pupils.”

“Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.”

“Every teacher should lay aside for each pay day a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining year so that he will not become a burden on society.”

1890s – 1910s

The majority of teachers are now women and salaries slowly begin to improve. Married women and women with children are prohibited from teaching.


The rules teachers are expected to follow change slightly. The following examples are found in a Sacramento teachers’ contract as well as an unnamed magazine:

“You may not dress in bright colors.”

“You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM unless at a school function.”

“You may not loiter downtown in any of the ice cream stores.”

1930s – 1960s

School segregation is an extremely important issue. Many believe schools should be integrated so everyone receives an equal education.

1960s – 1980s

There is an increased focus on improving education for teachers and giving them more input into how they facilitate their students’ success.

1990s to present

Education continues to play a vital role and teachers continue to inspire and challenge students.
World Teacher’s Day is on October 5 so make sure you show your teacher how much you appreciate them and all their hard work!

For more information on the history of education, check out the PBS special Only a Teacher.

Flickr photos via, Lin Pernille Photography, newagecrap, knittymarie