Page images
PDF
EPUB

require some skill and thought to work out, and, wherever possible, they should be quantitative.

I do not sympathize with the tendency to make the laboratory experiments for pupils as simple as possible, and to take the fact that an experiment can be performed with ordinary kitchen utensils as ample reason for introducing it into our school courses. I do not like an experiment which requires an affirmative answer to the frequent question : “Is that all there is to it?" Such experiments are in large part responsible for the prevalence of that unwholesome dread of experiments which require some time and skill for their performance, which is so prevalent among the students entering our colleges. Experiments which require little thought are very apt to receive it.

As a whole, I believe physics has certain advantages over chemistry for high-school work, because it deals with phenomena that are more apparent to the senses, and with phenomena which permit of a readier quantitative study ; but chemistry also has certain advantages peculiar to itself. Since, however, chemistry and physics are no longer independent sciences, I believe the ideal course of experimental science for secondary schools will be one which makes no effort to keep them differentiated, but, rather, which unites in one course as much of both as is needed to gain a thoro understanding of the phenomena studied. I feel very sure that a twoyears' science course in the high school, based upon such lines,would give most satisfactory results.

Finally, in all science work, but especially in the laboratory, very much depends upon the teacher. School authorities do not, as a rule, sufficiently appreciate the demand made upon the time and energy of their teachers by laboratory work.

The instruction in the laboratory being largely personal, a teacher cannot successfully handle here such large classes as in the recitation

In the laboratory the pupil must be constantly watched, and not allowed to acquire slovenly habits of work ; laboratory notes must be looked over, and errors of observation and conclusion pointed out and corrected ; teachers must use every opportunity to converse with the pupil about his laboratory work, to draw him out, and to direct his attention to certain points by questions ; for thus an experiment which may be of almost no value to the student unaided may sometimes be rendered a mine of information. All of these duties make large demands upon the time and working power of the teacher.

The importance of a good teacher outweighs all other considerations. President Eliot has said: “Two kinds of men make good teachers — young men and men who never grow old.”

Good science teachers have three indispensable qualifications -- they must know their subject, they must love their subject, and they must have an enthusiasm for work.

room.

DEPARTMENT OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION

SECRETARY'S MINUTES

FIRST SESSION.—THURSDAY, JULY 13, 1899 Owing to the unavoidable absence of two speakers on the program, the two sessions arranged for were merged into one. In the absence of the regular chairman, E. E. Barthell, Nashville, Tenn., was elected temporary chairman.

Eric Edward Rosling, Esq., Tacoma, Wash., read the first paper, entitled “Employ. ment and Dismissal of Teachers." He was followed in a discussion of his paper by Samuel F. Smith, San Diego, Cal., and E. Morris Cox, Santa Rosa, Cal., and a number of the members of the Teachers' Federation of Chicago.

William George Bruce, Milwaukee, Wis., then read a paper entitled, “Quo Vadis, School Board ?”

This was followed by a paper read by Dr. Ella J. Fifield, Tacoma, Wash., entitled “The School Board and the Press."

The nominating committee, which had been appointed at the beginning of the meeting, then reported the following-named officers for the ensuing year:

For President, Hon. E. E. Barthell, Nashville, Tenn.
For First Vice President-Thomas M. Gafney, Syracuse, N. Y.
For Second Vice-President-William F. Bradt, Ishpeming, Mich.
For Secretary-William George Bruce, Milwaukee, Wis.
For Executive Committee - Charles Cassat Davis, Los Angeles, Cal., Chairman.

Lyman Evans, Esq., Riverside, Cal.
William S. Mack, Aurora, Ill.
R. L. Yeager, Kansas City, Mo.

E. B. Kruttschnitt, New Orleans, La.
Upon motion, the report was adopted and the officers declared elected.
Adjournment followed.

WM. GEO. BRUCE,

Secretary.

PAPERS AND DISCUSSIONS

EMPLOYMENT AND DISMISSAL OF TEACHERS

BY ERIC EDWARD ROSLING, ESQ., PRESIDENT OF BOARD OF EDUCATION,

TACOMA, WASH. “Good Lord! How many good and clear wits of children be now-a. days perished by ignorant schoolmasters," wrote Sir Thomas Elyot in 1531. Centuries have come and gone since then-centuries whose educational reformers, like Comenius, Milton, Locke, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Spencer, have accomplished wonders for the schoolboy; yet even now we can occasionally hear this sentiment echoed, at least faintly, from both rural and urban districts, because there are still a few school boards which are either ignorant or regardless of their trust, or have a crude conception of it.

In our city lives a man who has for several years vainly placed himself “in the hands of his friends" as a candidate for school-board honors. In urging his claims for my support in our last contest, he laid emphasis upon his four or five years' experience as a teacher in an eastern state. Surprised at learning of this qualification, I pressed the subject further, and was gravely informed that the school board under which he served followed the very excellent and economical plan of annually offering the position to the lowest bidder, and with pardonable pride he added that he received the appointment every year for several years.

Scarcely less questionable, or more conducive to the promotion of the welfare of the schools, is the similar economic plan adopted by some boards, in both city and country, of fixing the salaries of their teachers at the lowest schedule upon which any teacher, almost regardless of qualifications, can possibly be obtained, and then justifying their course by demonstrating that their teachers rarely leave them for other schools. They do not seem to realize that the teachers for whom their schedule was an attraction would hardly be the ones for whom other and wiser boards would be seeking; and that “the very foundation of the whole commonwealth is the proper bringing up of the young" is believed as firmly today as when Cicero proclaimed it centuries ago. And as the other mighty factors in the make-up of the education of our youth, namely, home, society, and church, cannot be universally and infallibly relied upon to do their whole part, the people believe in education thru the medium of the public school. Allow our school system to degenerate thru the introduction and retention of incompetent teachers, and we allow the foundations of our governmental structure to be seriously undermined, and at the door of the department of school administration may largely and justly be laid the blame.

Am I putting that too strongly ? I believe not. Chosen by the people, who thus delegate largely parental responsibility, and created and clothed with extraordinary powers and authority by the state, our boards of education, as we are called in the state of Washington, are made the legal guardians of our schools, the business managers of the system, and held strictly accountable to the general public and the state for the manner and method of our administration.

Ventilation, heating, lighting, recreation, and seating, each present problems for our solution that are both perplexing and difficult; but overshadowing all these, in its importance and far-reaching influence upon the welfare of children, community, state, and nation, is the subject of this afternoon's paper, the "Employment and Dismissal of Teachers.” Few of us realize our great need of divine guidance and wisdom in this important branch of our work, or the care and deliberation requisite in the execution of this part of our trust.

We hold the balance of power and can make for weal or for woe.

Permit me, therefore, to suggest that the personnel of our board is properly our first consideration, for water will not rise higher than its source, and a board itself deficient in manhood, character, and moral worth can hardly be relied upon to make these qualifications the first test of fitness, as they should be, in the selection of teachers. The board should be, and can be made, nonpartisan. School politics, or the application of politicians' methods to school affairs, should never be tolerated for a moment, or teachers' positions will rapidly become considered as spoils; the introduction of a spoil system into our schools would prove disastrous. Schools should be kept out of politics and politics out of the schools. But, you ask, can this be done? Let me tell you how. A board that is truly alive to its trust and responsibility will see to it that only the right kind of men and women are elected to its membership. In due season, before the annual election, quietly have a meeting of such members of your board as you know have a true conception of what is due from members of a school board; then carefully canvass the names of your best and most representative fellow-citizens, and select a ticket which

your board will support, taking care that every name upon it represents a man or woman who (1) has a good Christian character and the confidence of your community ; (2) is not a politician nor a political aspirant; (3) is a man of good judgment and common-sense; (4) has no grievance to satisfy or aš to grind, no enemy to punish or friend to reward; (5) whose ambition will be to improve the schools; and, lastly, see that your ticket has on it names representing each of the leading political parties, taking care that the election of your ticket will not give any of said political parties an unfair majority in the board as a whole. You then have a ticket that will bear close scrutiny, and will receive the united support of your teaching corps and its friends, and of the patrons of the schools, and thus insure success at the polls. This can be done, and, if done, the best result in the selection of teachers is possible.

Before the election of teachers naturally must come their selection, and right here we are to put the test as to our own fitness for our office. The patrons of our schools may employ whom they will for their doctors and lawyers, but as to the choice of a teacher, to whom is intrusted that most important duty of the development of the minds and bodies of their children, they have nothing to say. With this tremendous responsibility shifted onto our shoulders, do we not, indeed, have need of exceeding care and wise deliberation ? The teacher is to open the eyes of the child to a world of wonders, his mind to realms of knowledge ; and from him the child should learn to love truth, purity, refinement, and all that makes up a perfect character; and to scorn meanness, idleness, and all that debases. The teacher's personal influence is greater than that of our textbooks, libraries, or laboratories, for the teacher is the school; therefore, how great the necessity of careful selection ! We may be proud, and with reason, of our buildings and grounds, but every school board should have reason to point with greater pride at a corps of teachers who are not only teaching history, physics, English, etc., but by word and example awakening their pupils to the highest and noblest purposes and deeds. Yes, without discounting the necessity for culture and attainments in the least, I would still make true manhood and womanhood my first test of fitness in the applicant.

The superintendent is, and should be, the official and expert adviser of the board; yet, to avoid all appearance of evil, as well as to insure the best results, the rules should require him, after careful and personal investigation of the qualifications of all applicants, to select at least three of the very best, everything considered, for each vacancy to be filled. His list of recommendations should then be referred to a committee on teachers and salaries, who should be selected because of their marked fitness for this particular work. If not practicable for the entire board to do so, the entire membership of this committee at least should not only carefully examine the testimonials accompanying the applications, but should meet each applicant personally and, if possible, inspect her work. To this end the superintendent should assign each of the recommended applicants to sufficient substitute work to enable her to fairly demonstrate her qualifications to the teachers' committee, or to the paid supervisors of our larger cities. The committee is then in a position to distinguish the nagging, scolding "school-marm” from the one whose love for childhood keeps her kind and patient thru mischief and dullness; to compare their discipline, methods, etc., and make a wise report. The election of relatives of the board or committee should be avoided, if possible; the politics of the applicant should never be known or considered; one applicant should never be preferred over another by reason of her influential friends, or other similar pressure, or because of her poverty or need; for our schools are not asylums, and we must remember that “the welfare of the child shall be the highest law."

The election should be for one year and to the end of the current school year, rather than for an indefinite term, conditioned even on good behavior and successful work.

Doubtless this latter proposition will provoke much adverse criticism, but it is submitted only after mature deliberation, and is based upon experience in our own city. The objection may be raised that the teacher is thus kept on the anxious seat, preventing her from really producing the best results of which she is capable. To a very small extent this may be true, but, on the other hand, the annual election is a constant incentive

« PreviousContinue »