Massachusetts

Diary of a Beloved Teacher, Annie E. Fales, April 1, 1887

On April 1, 1887, apprentice teacher Annie E. Fales wrote about her day supervising 10-year-old children as part of her studies at the Worcester Normal School.  She enjoyed being in charge of the room, which foretold a 50-year career as a beloved schoolteacher in Westborough, Mass.

Worcester Normal School

Worcester Normal School

The Worcester Normal School, now Worcester State University, was founded in 1874,  the fifth teacher training school in Massachusetts. It was a time of growing public support for education and of an increasing need for teachers. The population grew, too.  Worcester’s population tripled to 100,000 in 1894 from 30,000 in 1866. The Worcester Normal School faculty and students hoped to build a better world through free public education.

Annie E. Fales

On that April afternoon in 1874, Annie E. Fales participated in the school’s innovative program of putting apprentice teachers in the classroom. Then in her diary, she wrote:

This afternoon we had what are called “Friday afternoon” exercises from half past three until four o’clock. These reminded me of our Platform exercise at the Normal School. The teacher asks who in each row has something prepared for the afternoon and each comes in his turn. All who read or took part in any way were girls. I don’t think this is generally the case. One girl — ten years old — sang a rather sentimental song called “The Letter that never came,” which seemed to amuse the boys especially.

She then wrote the rest of the exercise was reading.

One boy told the (Friday) teacher at noon that he had learned a piece for the afternoon eight eight lines, I think. She said “Are there two verses?” and he answered, “Two stanzas.” I don’t know whether he knew that was the proper word, or just said it to be different from her. He was so disorderly in the afternoon that he was sent to the dressing room, and didn’t speak.

19th century apprentice teacher at the Worcester Normal School

19th century apprentice teacher at the Worcester Normal School

I find to my surprise, considering the age of the pupils, almost no disorder when the teacher leaves the room for a few moments. The boys whom I feared most are very quick to do just what I tell them and I really enjoy being left in charge of the room.

50 Years Teaching

The Annie E. Fales Elementary School is named after her. In her 1984 town history, On the Beaten Path: Westborough, Massachusetts, Kristina Nilson Allen wrote that Annie E. Fales had spent most of her 50-year teaching career in Westborough. She also wrote

Moving to Westborough in 1874 at age seven, Annie Fales graduated from Westborough High School in 1885 and from Worcester Normal School in 1887.  She began teaching in Westborough at the District #8 schoolhouse.  Later she taught sixth grade and served as principal of the Eli Whitney School until 1937.  She lived at 58 West Main Street for many years and, upon her death in 1972 at age 104, was respected not only as a fine teacher but as the town’s oldest resident.

And she included some advice from Fales herself.

“Patience, a sense of humor and a real love of children-that’s what makes a good teacher.”
-Annie E. Fales at 95 years old.

In 2013, the Annie E. Fales School students voted on the hedgehog as the school mascot. They then named it “Annie.”

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This story last updated in 2022. 

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