Page images

was working for numerical results, I was really on the lookout for the spiritual forces that must be set into operation in my county schools, both as a direct and as an indirect result of the reading circle work. It affected the whole country-pupils, teachers, trustees, and patrons. Some of the direct results were: (1) Pupils became more industrious; (2) books were used as much as possible to aid in the lessons of the day; (3) the general increase of knowledge from this source enabled pupils to prepare and recite their regular lessons more intelligently and perfectly, and the knowledge gained from these books was frequently applied in new and unexpected ways to the topic under discussion; (4) a great desire was developed to know more than the mere text-book contained; (5) the order in the schoolroom became much better and the general discipline of the school very much easier, both these effects being very marked in many cases; (6) ambitions for a higher education were aroused in many pupils; (7) improvement in the moral tone of the school was very marked, and was traceable in an immediate way to the influence of the books read.

As to the teachers, they read more, they were much more careful in their teaching; they themselves became much more ambitious for higher education; and, directly or indirectly, through this influence there was a greatly increased ratio of teachers who went each year to higher institutions of learning.

As to the trustees, they became more loyal, more enthusiastic over the work of the schools; in fact, they became proud of them, and sounded their praise from the housetop. The influence was marked upon the patrons. They were brought into closer sympathy with the schools; more anxious for the advancement of their children. They became frequent visitors in the schools. Many parents became eager to read the books from hearing the children read from them in their homes of evenings.

Another says, in reference to the Teachers' Circle:

The teachers have acquired a taste for professional reading and a greatly increased power to comprehend professional books. The close study required of them to master the books of the reading-circle course has given to them the key to a much better comprehension of the work in their school journals. The whole result is a better knowledge of the laws of mental growth, and the greater power to see principles in the subject-matter, and a clearer view of the relation of the law in the mind and the principle in the subject-stronger and more logical and original thinking in both teachers and pupils. The Young People's Reading Circle has cultivated a taste for good books on the part of the rising generation. It has influenced parents to buy good books for their children. Our book stores report a greatly increased sale of good juvenile books and magazines. Parents themselves have become interested in the reading of these children's books. The regular daily work of the school has been greatly strengthened by the use of these books as supplementary to the regular texts.

Another writes:

There has never been anything that has done more to create an interest in literature and good reading than the two reading circles now being operated in our state. This has borne good fruit in the increased enthusiasm and power of the teacher and the increasing good order and industry among pupils. Schools have been much better attended. There has been a much smaller amount of tardiness; a much larger number of pupils have graduated; a much larger number of pupils have entered the high school in this county; indeed, the greatest thing, educationally, that has been done in this state in the last quarter of a century has been the organization and conduct of these two reading circles. May God continue to bless the work in this county and state.

The teacher of the future is to represent, more and more, a liberal degree of culture as well as professional training; and the reading circle, in my judgment, is destined to hold an important place as a means toward this end.


MRS. A. J. PEAVEY, State Superintendent of Public Instruction of Colorado.In Lucian's “Dialogues of the Dead” there is a representation of a teacher of rhetoric, who comes to the banks of the Styx and demands a passage. Charon replies to him, “You must strip off all that boundless length of sentences that is wrapped round you, and those antitheses of yours and balancing of clauses and strange expressions, and all other heavy weights of speech, or you will make my boat too heavy." I sometimes think as I listen to the voluminous discussions concerning the work and wages of teachers, that we are apt to averload ourselves with classifications, analyses, and syntheses until we have well-nigh covered up the purpose and aim of the teacher's work in the methods of its performance. This may be the reason why so many teachers are wandering up and down the land vainly seeking the wherewithal to enable them to purchase a passage to the Elysian fields where work and rest are happily combined. We are certainly living in a time when “training" is the order of the day. Physical exercise is carried to the point where the man becomes simply a highly developed muscular organism. The aim of the athlete is to make himself a steam engine for speed, a trip hammer for pounding, and a hydraulic ram for lifting. The intellectual man has an analogous ambition. It is his aim to master all the knowledge; or, at least, all the knowledge pertaining to his specialty. The aspirant in the mental conflict offers the prayer and resolve of Paracelsus:

Make no more giants, God;
But elevate the race at once. We ask
To put forth our strength; just our human strength;
All starting fairly; all equipped alike-
Gifted alike; all eagle-eyed, true-hearted;
See if we cannot beat the angels yet!

Such is my task. Even in the spiritual realm this ambition is seen. There are men who seem to despise the needs of the body and the achievements of the mind in order that they may reach some attitude of perpetual adoration and lose themselves in God. I do not mean to overdraw the picture, but I think we have only to look about us to see those inordinate endeavors to attain the highest possible development, and, as a result, an over-weighting which finally destroys the only purpose for which the development is valuable. We are placed here in this world to contribute to the welfare of others. All self-development which loses sight of this divine end can only result in a final depreciation of value. It is our business to make the most of all the faculties with which God has endowed us, and while, in doing this, we must necessarily make a choice of some particular work, we shall surely fail if we pursue that choice to the extinction of those things that constitute a well-rounded life. The bearing of these remarks on the subject before us is evident. There is such a thing as too much training for the teacher's profession. I readily admit the value of all the agencies which are provided for instruction and the improvement of the men and women who are engaged in this work. I hold it as fundamental to success that every teacher should take advantage of the opportunities offered for improvement, and that the motto of each one should be, “This one thing I do;" but I also deem it essential to success that the teacher should realize his limitations, and that he should regulate his ambition to become great by a firm determination to become good. If anyone needs a well-rounded life-physically, spiritually, and intellectually-co-ordinately developed, it is the man or woman who comes to the work of training and educating the young.

The institute, the class, and the reading circle ought each of them to keep in view the necessity of a symmetrical development; but it is out of the question for any teacher to take in, at one time, all that these three sources of improvement offer.

My first suggestion, then, is, that the teacher should select one of these sources as a principal means of improvement and make the other two entire subsidiary. This may be done for one year. The next year the same plan may be pursued, choosing one of the other sources. In three years the course would be completed, and much more would be realized than from the attempt to use all three to their full extent at the same time.

To be a little more explicit: Suppose a teacher chooses institute work as a specialty. In that case, all the institutes within a given locality should be faithfully attended and faithfully prepared for. A young teacher would not expect to take a prominent part in such a gathering, but the directors of it, knowing the purpose and determination of such a teacher, would provide special opportunities of exercise for such talents as might be developed. Before the year was out it might reasonably be expected that such a teacher would be something of an adept in the work of the institute, and consequently there would be a definite advancement in professional life. If a teacher, having determined on this course, should find time to attend a teachers' class or a reading circle, there would be no objection, but it is evident that no burdens or responsibilities could be assumed.

In order to make this suggestion practical and efficient, it should be the selfimposed duty of the superintendent of education in a given city or county to summon the teachers to make an election at the beginning of the year as to which of these three means of improvement should be taken; provided, of course, that they are all in existence.

Under such an order of things it would not be long before special merit would display itself, and, if properly rewarded, the standard of professional life would be raised, both to the advantage of the teachers and the community they serve.

My second suggestion is in reference to the reading classes. These classes should consist of circles of not more than half a dozen members each. If the session were to occupy two hours on a given evening, this small number would give time for suggestion, discussion, and questions, and without these the reading would be of very little value. A theme should be chosen, and each one of the six should bring something to be read or an abstract or analysis of something previously read on the subject. It might be well sometimes to devote several sessions to the reading of one theme, in which case a subsequent meeting should be held for conversation on the theme without the books. This would incidentally improve the power of conversation-a great desideratum in a teacher's life.

On stated occasions--say, once in three months-several of these circles might gather for a general meeting, in which representatives from each circle might set forth the attainments of their respective circles, and at the end of the year all the circles of the town or county might meet to make a report of their work and discuss the value of it.

Concerning the books to be read in such circles I need hardly speak. It is evident that only works on education should have a place there. To a limited extent, biographies of great teachers, such as John Amos Comenius, Froebel, and Pestalozzi, might be profitably perused. The history of Greek education in the second and third centuries of our era is especially interesting and profitable, as showing its general diffusion, the emoluments and honors obtained by teachers, and the position which they held in the social life of the day.

The main course of the reading, however, should be devoted to those works which are strictly pedagogical in character. As an example of easy reading in this line, I might suggest Landon's "School Management," "Day Dreams of a Schoolmaster” by Thompson, and Klemm's "Chips from a Teacher's Workshop.” These are specially valuable for young teachers. Of a little hig!er order and demanding more study and thought are works on psychology, with special adaptation to the work of teaching.

One advantage of the reading circle will be the gradual accumulation of a library of a professional character. I look for the time when a teacher will as much expect to have a library devoted to his work as a minister, or lawyer, or physician expects to have his theological, legal, or medical library.

I have one other suggestion to make: Attendance upon teachers' institutes, classes, and reading circles should be entirely voluntary. The only way to raise a profession to dignity and honor is to give it a free course. If there be not an inward compulsion to improvement no external force will avail. If you put it into a contract that a teacher must attend so many institutes, or classes, or circles, it will seem like a reflection upon the professional enthusiasm, and it will reduce the work to drudgery. Non-attendance upon these sources of improvement will soon bring its own penalty. The teacher that fails to advance will retrograde and must soon drop out. Competition ought to settle this matter, as it does in other branches of professional labor. The people want the best, and there are so many determined to be the best that there will be little difficulty in rejecting what is manifestly inefficient, however much difficulty there may be in choosing between what is good.

As I said in the outset, this does not mean that one must undertake more than he can do. The daily work in the schoolroom is the chief thing; next to this comes a careful, systematic, and well chosen order of auxiliary work. This is fully within the compass of the teacher's ability, and, if persistently pursued, will bring power, influence, and corresponding reward.

The present tendency to limit the teacher's work to one branch of irstruction is greatly in favor of this method of improvement. The time has gone by when a teacher is expected to teach everything, from the alphabet to ancient and modern languages and from notation to the calculus.

In all well-regulated schools the teacher is now the occupant of a single chair. This is a common sense order and one that is in line with a true scientific method. Having one thing to do it can be done well. The subject, whether it be mathematics, or language, or history, or natural science, becomes the center from which there may be infinite radiations to an infinite circumference. Under such a plan one may become master of a subject, knowing it as it is and as it appears in all its relations. Such a mastership gives confidence to the teacher and certainty to the teaching, makes it effective, arouses enthusiasm in the pupil and communicates aspirations which make his work a delight more than a task. The main object of the training of teachers will, I think, be attained if those who have supervision over them will keep steadily in view the fact that all methods must be flexible and adapted to immediate practice. Beyond all else they must be influential in the molding of the character. They must give the teacher a sense of his power, his responsibility, and his need of humility. They must keep before him the fact that his work, in its possibilities for good or evil, is well-nigh unlimited.

In closing these few remarks I would like to quote to you a saying of Dion Chrysostom, a noted teacher and rhetorician of the first century, a man greatly honored by his emperor, Vespasian, and afterwards by Trajan. "There are two kinds of education,” he says; "the one divine and the other human. The divine is great and powerful and easy; the human is mean and weak and has many dangers and no small deceitfulness. The mass of people call it education, as being, I suppose, an amusement, and think that a man who knows the most literature is the wisest and best educated man. And then, on the other hand, when they find a man of this sort to be vicious and cow ardly and fond of money, they think the education to be as worthless as the man himself. The other kind they sometimes call education and sometimes manliness and sometimes high-mindedness. It was thus that the men of old used to call those who had this good kind of education--men witb manly souls, and educated as Herakles was-sons of God." And this from the last words of Coinenius: “I thank God that I have been a man of aspirations."

DR. JAMES M. GREEN of the State Normal School, Trenton, N. J.-I dislike to follow in a discussion of this character such able papers as have been presented on each of the various subjects. It is by no means an easy task. I shall devote myself to emphasizing one or two points, and to suggesting one or two lines of thought that have been set forth in the papers.

I have noticed in that which has been said little in favor of the institute, in which all of the teachers are engaged. There seems to be a tendency to classify the institute into departments. There is no doubt but this tendency is good, especially where we may have what may be termed a longer institute; but I desire to lay emphasis upon this, which seems to me to be the fact, that there should be two or three days in each institute in which all the teachers are engaged together, for this reason, that I do not think that education can be entirely divided into stalls, or compartments, or departments.

These teachers' schools should be compulsory. It is herein that I differ with those that have spoken. I would make attendance compulsory; not that the teacher should by law be compelled to attend that class, but that the teacher should be called upon to pass an examination for a license to teach that would involve the knowledge which would be given in that class. It strikes me as very interesting, from a pedagogic standpoint, to say that the teacher's attendance should be voluntary, but I have seen some of these voluntary results on the part of persons who didn't know what is involved in the work. It is easy enough to get voluntary action after a person has been developed, but until that development has been reached a teacher doesn't know what is involved in professional training; hence, doesn't seek it.

I would only have this particular kind of a compulsory class for young teachers. I would have presiding over that class a person who has been under the training or direction of some one of the normal schools, or the universities, or some other competent center of training. This could be easily accomplished in the appointment of teachers throughout our states. One or two such workers can be located in each county in the state and can be placed at the head of the class, and the pay of that teacher supplemented by the state or by some organization which will make it an inducement to give to these beginning classes what can be acquired in the higher institutions.

Now, why I am so desirous upon this point is, that, as has been said, threequarters of the teachers of our country to-day have had no training before going

« PreviousContinue »