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PAPERS AND DISCUSSIONS.
HOW TO TEST THE QUALITY OF A TEACHER'S WORK.
BY W. C. WARFIELD, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, COVINGTON, KY.
The power to influence the formation of the character of a child is the best quality that a teacher can manifest; therefore, we must test this quality if we would properly estimate the teacher's work.
Arithmetical rules and mathematical problems may assist in making a child think, and thus assist in his mental development, but can do but little in making him a man. When a child has mastered the elements of algebra, he owns an instrument with which he can penetrate into the depths of numerical reasoning and calculative secrets. The teacher may drill a class in reading until each pupil can readily call off the words and sentences; she may subject the pupil to a cross-examination in geography to her own satisfaction, or may succeed in getting them to properly “fill the blanks" in the language lesson, but may be working with no end in view save that of promoting a large class. I sometimes think what a blessing it would be if we could really get the teacher to put out of her mind all ideas pertaining to promotions. Then, perhaps, we could get her to think more about the child's growth and less about markings and examinations.
Character-building is the foundation stone upon which all other blocks of marble should be laid by the teacher; upon it should be erected the castle of existence. Within this castle should be garnered the fundamental knowledge acquired by the child.
Good scholarship, a certain amount of tact, kindness of heart, intermingled with love and devotion to duty, and supplemented with a considerable amount of training, ought to be possessed by every prospective teacher. Add to this a few years of experience in teaching, and almost invariably the result will be a good teacher.
When a supervisor enters a teacher's room and finds her parading the aisles with flushed cheeks and a ferule ready for instant use, he is tempted to believe that but little quality is to be found in such a teacher's work. Are such teachers successful? I have not found them so. Love should be the ruling spirit of the schoolroom. It is
love that incites interest; it is love that commands respect. But sometimes this love may assume a ridiculous phase. I once knew a teacher who was so much beloved by her pupils that I feared they would love her to death. Such a catastrophe was arerted by her elopement with an alderman's son, who was looked upon as the dullest pupil in the class. If a teacher can get her pupils to love their work, she will be able to keep them busy. Busy pupils govern them. selves. Anarchy and riot flee before honest labor's onward march. Disorder and idleness cannot live in an atmosphere of love. Some. times the teacher who is apparently the best-liked by young pupils becomes thoroughly despised by these very pupils after they leave her class. She only reached half way into their hearts; she failed to touch the inmost chords of the soul.
Two teachers may be of equal scholarship, similar training, and be teaching in the same school. They may even be teaching the same grade of work, but different classes. The pupils may be of equal ability and with similar home surroundings. Yet the supervisor may find one a successful and the other an unsuccessful teacher.
In one room the pupils are students of nature. To them every bird sings a song of joy, every breeze comes freighted with perfume, and every stream bears upon its bosoin a ship loaded with treasures. They are ever on the alert for new discoveries. New words must be found and conquered. To them the flowers in field and garden tell their sweet story. They learn that the rocks encircle the earth in mysterious layers, each forming a chapter in the world's history before man came to record it in prose and song. To them the reading lesson is simply the door which is about to open and give them an unobstructed entrance into the highway of the world's literature, along which they may stroll in pleasant companionship with the silent masters-fellow-travelers who will never quarrel with them, who can be dismissed and recalled at pleasure. To them the study of language is the guide-book to correct expression, enabling them to tell their thoughts to others in a way that will be easily understood; not in high-stilted sentences, filled with expletive adjectives, but with child-like simplicity and charming grace. To them the study of geography is the revelation of nature's household treas. ures-the exposition of God's manifest greatness. They view the earth as one grand picture. They make fancied journeys through mysterious caverns. They revel in oriental breezes to-day and watch the sunset in the occident to-morrow. They penetrate the innermost parts of the earth in quest of wealth, and climb to the top of Mount Ætna to study climate, or ascend the slope of Mount Washington in search of healthful resting places. To them mathematics serve as a conveyance to the broad plane of exact reasoning. History teaches them how the men of the world have lived, pointing out their mistakes and their achievements. They are led to admire the good and to condemn the bad. The physical welfare of the child is considered, and the children are taught to employ a correct carriage of the body. The ethical part of their education is not neglected, and they look upon a trickster as a traitor to the school. To them, home, school, and native land are possessions around which their loyal hearts are united in one common brotherhood. In the school of this teacher we find the whole child developed.
In tlie school of the second teacher we find the pupils trying to "call off" the multiplication table, because they will be "kept” if they do not know it. They plod through the reading lesson because it is in the reading book, and they are trying to get through the book." To them the patch-work found in the ordinary reader is wholly meaningless. The simplest English classic or the choicest fairy tale given in complete form would be equally unintelligible to them. They are made to work because they come to school, and they must be put through the evolutions of her daily program. She does not concern herself about results, unless it be to send a large delegation to the teacher of the next higher grade when promotion time comes. Promotions and averages are the platform and scale-beam, respectively, upon which, and by which, she weighis one and all of them. She has a well-warranted dread of the supervisor's visits, and ceases everything else when he enters the room in order to deliver her regulation apology for her manifest defects as a teacher. To these pupils there appears no rift in the clouds. The major portion of them are chiefly occupied in endeavoring to do the things that the teacher is constantly telling them not to do. There is a studied mechanism that is plainly obvious. The high-pitched tones grate harshly as they give forth the oft-repeated reprimands. She may, perhaps, keep an orderly register, and her class record book is probably free from blots, but they are the indices to volumes of misery. Culture flew out of the window when this unqualified schoolmistress entered the room.
How may we obtain information concerning the work being done by a teacher? Close supervision is apparently the best means that can be employed. I would include with this frequent cabinet conferences between the supervisor and the teacher. More information can be obtained in such a conference, lasting only ten minutes, than can be obtained in a dozen grade meetings or a score of Saturday normal classes. Grade meetings and normal classes may assist the teachers by giving them some inspiration, but a thoughtful supervisor hardly cares to recommend the retaining or discharging of any teacher on the evidences presented by her at such a meeting. When a teacher presents herself as an applicant for a position, I would give more for one hour's talk with her than I would for an examination lasting three days. No superintendent or supervisor can make a correct estimate of the work being done by the teacher until he has had the opportunity of conferring with her and ascertaining what conception she has of the function of a teacher.
That teacher who shows her will under control; who subordinates everything else to her school duties; who conscientiously and promptly carries out certain specific plans that she may have laid down; who knows when to speak and when to keep silent; who applies herself thoroughly to the discharge of duty; who expects obedience and secures it; who is of a refined, cultured nature-is prepared to meet the test the supervisor may apply.
It is by observing the development of pupils that we can test the quality of the work being done by the teacher. If the latent faculties of a certain pupil are being properly aroused or the active faculties being properly directed we can rest assured that the pupil is in safe hands. That teacher who is striving to make a manly man out of an indifferent boy; who is inculcating in his mind true ideas of life; who is carefully guiding him along the pathway of knowledge; who is persuading him to acquire the power of doing things-is fulfilling the requirements. The teacher who insists upon doing the pupil's work, and fails to perceive what her own work properly is, can draw no veil around such methods that will secrete such manifest defects.
An inner view of teachers' thoughts must give evidence of what they can do. If their ideals be high, their achievements must be great. If they demonstrate that they know how to do we need have no fear of results. A teacher with a well-defined plan has the task half done.
There are hundreds of teachers in this broad land of ours who believe that
To live for common ends is to be common.
HOW TO TEST THE QUALITY OF A TEACHER'S WORK.
BY AARON GOVE, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, DENVER, COLO.
[ABSTRACT BY THE AUTHOR. ]
The quality of a teacher's work cannot be tested by immediate results, such a measurement is impossible.
The task of the artisan, when executed, presents a product the imperfections of which are apparent to the competent instructor. He works only with the material.
With him whose line of effort is along that of training the mind; whose art includes all the divine relations and attributes of the human soul; who deals only with the immaterial--no testing is possible, no human judgment is competent.
As there are approximate truths, so are there approximate judgments. I understand it to be within the province of this discussion to consider the quality of effort, not contemplating accurate decisions. A part of truth is more helpful than is absolute error.
A long-established and dangerously crystallized custom of school supervisors has been to make, on the printed page, assignments to teachers, and pretend later to calculate the value of the accomplishment of the task by a formal inspection and examination. To so rigid and ridiculous a practice has this method been carried that school boards have been known who required the measure and rank of teachers to be recorded in figures by the supervisors.
A product of mental effort or training that can be examined by the senses can be ranked, and measured, and tested.
The reply to a properly framed question is before the teacher for accurate judgment; a topic assigned to a student for general treatment elicits such a return as can be only approximately measured.
The lawyer before the court presents his work to the bench for judgment; judgment is rendered; but neither judge nor client believes the quality of the attorney's work to have been tested. The decision may be but an approximate truth.
Notwithstanding these considerations, an estimate by the supervisor of the teacher's work must be made. He has prepared himself as an expert. He knows much or little of the science and art of teaching. The making of this estimate is a part of his duty-only a part; essential, but of minor importance when the whole field of duty is in view.