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One of the objects of the elaboration of this subject will have been reached, if we can relate how the supervisor estimates the quality of the teacher's work.
The most nearly accurate conclusion is reached by him who has, at some time in his life, had that work to do which is now being done by another under his supervision. His exact knowledge of what is meant by "Put yourself in his place," is of service, provided, that, in the theory of the art of teaching, he is abreast of the profession.
It is too late to belittle the effusions of theorists. There is no practice without theory. The educational world would stagnate and die without theory. True, in these latter days, it requires much strength, more patience, and most charity to withstand and combat the propositions daily before us for bettering educational processes. Shouting "Impracticable schemes of theorists!" is no adequate reply.
Actual experience as a teacher in the country school and in the grades, helpful as it is, can alone never make a competent judge of professional work. Some of the most eminent members of this department have never taught an elementary school.
An indication of the merit of a teacher is found in his physical condition: A body healthy and erect, surmounted by a comely and properly placed head; a countenance fair to look upon, without blemish, either natural or acquired; hands and feet natural and well formed; and the man clothed withal, decently and in order.
A knowledge of his disposition is surely a necessary element for testing his work, and disposition includes digestion as well as personal habits.
The commonly accepted method of testing the quality of the teacher's work is inspection while on duty. Unquestionably this is the most important factor in calculating the product.
To define and portray what the inspector does, how he does it, and to give the detailed reasons for his conclusions, would be to cover the ground which fifty authors have attempted to cover, in as many essays printed within ten years, so many of which the members of this department have tried to read, and so many of which are value less to the superintendent.
Should I undertake the task the outcome would be quite as useless
The individuality of the man is quite as emphatically indicated in superintending schools as it is in any other directive position. His ultimate judgment is fairly reliable. How he reaches it, is as difficult to detail as it is for one teacher to give to another the spirit of the methods she uses; the mechanics of methods only can be com. municated.
Herbart, back among us, could at best but reiterate his principles. The application thereof depends upon the individual. The most ample knowledge of pedagogical philosophy will cause variable demonstrations, modified by conditions and temperaments. An inspection of five minutes or five hours of a given schoolroom returns to one a somewhat definite notion of the teacher. That alone is, in the light of my preface, not conclusive. An intimate association with the teacher, a definite knowledge of that teacher's head, and heart, and scholarship is essential. A beautiful, orderly, and attractive school may be a misrepresentation; it may not be good teaching. A group of riotous, clamoring, bustling youngsters with their teacher; occasionally, even in such a place, true character training is in progress.
Instances and illustrations of the testing of the work of the teacher are abundant, but not especially helpful.
A group of children playing school dramatize their daily work and the style of the teacher with painful exaggeration; the casually pronounced opinion of pupils constantly for several months is a pointer to a trail worthy honorable following.
But in the end, the only possible, intelligent measure of the quality of a teacher's work is the deliberate judgment of an intelligent adult pronounced twenty years after leaving school. The adult man of America, well bred, educated, and cultured, is he alone whose opinion of his childhood's teacher is competent authority. Because that is not material to us now in the harness, detracts not from its truth.
We are set apart to test and measure associates in supervision who are bigger, heavier, than we, in power, in energy, and in teaching strength. In our criticism, often, we are not satisfied unless we find weaknesses which we hug to our own souls, and then give them utterance. I do not know how to test the quality of a teacher's work; you don't. If we could do this, we would make our schools efficient as they should be.
[REPORTED BY A. S. DOWNING OF NEW YORK.)
CHARLES W. COLE, Superintendent of City Schools, Albany, N. Y.-The topic before us has been so fully covered by the two able papers to which we have listened that there is not much left for discussion. If I were to criticise anything it would be the form of the question itself, "How to test the quality of a teacher's work?” It might be answered by giving any one of the thousand different ways in which to make such a test. I presume the intention was to try to ascertain the
best possible way in which to test the quality of a teacher's work. I shall not undertake to show the best way. Each one will have to work out that prob.em for himself. In order to make the best possible test, it would be necessary to wait until twenty years after the pupils had gone out from under the influence of the teacher and then to try to ascertain what kind of men and women they had become. And, in order that this test should be an infallible one, it would be necessary to suppose that the pupils had been under the influence of a single teacher for a long period of time. In such a case, the character-result might well be accepted as a satisfactory test of the quality of a teacher's work. But this test cannot be applied in a graded school system. The very fact that one teacher has charge of a particular set of pupils for so short a time-seldom more than a year, and often not more than a half-year-precludes our drawing the conclusion that any one teacher can be made wholly responsible for the make-up of the character of any one set of pupils; and where character is built up by so many builders, we may expect a sort of stratified result-layers of good building, and, perhaps too often, other layers of weak and imperfect construction.
It is all very well to say that a Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a Garfield on the other is the best kind of a university, but we know that Hopkinses and Garfields are not met with every day in our schoolrooms. And then, again, we must not forget that character is not entirely formed in the schoolroom; that the environments of home, the street, and the church also have large influence in the formative work. For these reasons (although I must not be understood as undervaluing the evidence to be derived from the characters developed in the pupils), a superintendent of a graded system is precluded from making this the only test of the quality of his teachers' work. Again, before we endeavor to ascertain the quality sought after, it is necessary to understand what we mean by that quality. It seems to me that we should look for two kinds of quality—the intellectual and the quality of his teachers' work. Again, before we endeavor to ascertain the done in giving the pupils power; that is, power to think and power to do. This side can be judged in many ways too familiar to you to need rehearsal. The same is true as to the moral quality of the work; as to whether it shows that the teacher has put conscience into her efforts and has succeeded in developing sincerity in the work of the pupils.
I cannot suggest any touchstone that will immediately determine the quality of a teacher's work. The one that seems to me the nearest is the impression that will be made on one's mind immediately on entering a schoolroom by the very atmosphere of the room, which shows to an experienced observer what the mental and moral attitude of both pupils and teachers is towards each other and towards their work. With 300 teachers, I cannot devote many hours to each; nor do I think that necessary. The supervisory principals overlook the work of the more experienced teachers. I devote the time of my visits of inspection to testing the young and inexperienced teachers, to giving them counsel and advice.
SUPT. FRANK D. COOPER, Des Moines, Iowa.-In early manhood I listened to a lecture upon "The Problem of Life.” The speaker summed it all up by saying that every man solves this problem for himself. So in the solution of this question. Every superintendent must solve it for himself. There is so much in a teacher's work which does not take body and form, and therefore cannot be tested by any fixed rules. It depends much upon who is testing and upon who is tested. Just as in a laboratory, the test depends upon the eye, and also upon what is to be seen. Much depends upon the spirit and purpose with which the superintendent comes to the test. He should lay aside all his personality and bring to the work the right professional spirit. He can determine much by seeing, hearing, and feeling quali
ties which cannot be measured or expressed in words. There are causes which are certain ultimately to produce definite effects. By observing these causes he may know positively what the quality of the work of the teacher is from the results. which must evidently follow. We have been looking too much upon the material causes; hence, measuring material results.
W. W. CHALMERS, City Superintendent, Grand Rapids, Mich.-In my remarks to-day I shall have in mind schools giving employment to 300 or more teachers. I agree with Superintendent Warfield, that the object of the public school is character building and the development of power in children; that, therefore, ability to accomplish this is the best qualification of a good teacher. But I claim that talk of that kind is of no practical importance to us here to-day. We can make no application of such suggestions. We have not the time, and it is a physical impossibility for a superintendent to keep in touch with the work of 300 or 400 teachers. and watch the development in character in from 15,000 to 25,000 pupils. It seems to me that our work in this direction lies in being able to read the character of the applicant for a position. We must be experts in reading human nature. Of the 1,000 hours of school in the year, we must be able to judge of the 999 by seeing the
We must be able to order by sample. As a physician receives the report of his patient from the nurse, takes his temperature, diagnoses the case, and writes a prescription, so we must be able to get a report about the teacher from the principal, spend a half-hour in a schoolroom and prescribe for the ailment. If we are able to judge a man by his dress and conversation, by spending fifteen to thirty minutes in a schoolroom and observing the atmosphere of the room, the condition of the floor, the desks, the blackboards, the walls, the occupation of every pupil present, the neatness of the teacher, and the kind of instruction the class is getting at that time, we ought to be able to carry with us a fairly well outlined mental picture of the teacher in charge. Our knowledge of a teacher's work must come through these hasty visits and from our talks with the school principals.
It seems to me that it is more to the point to advise superintendents to study the character and strength of their principals. Associate with you a corps of able, industrious, honest, reliable principals, and see your teachers through them. Study your principals and study them carefully. Your corps of principals is your cabinet, your personal staff and advisers. See to it that no traitor gets into camp.
I differ from Superintendent Gove when he says that we are not as heavy assome of those we are trying to weigh; that we are not capable of supervising and criticising some of our teachers, because we are not as good teachers as they. I cannot preach as well as Dr. Gunsaulus of Chicago, nor as well as John Smith of Podunk, but were I on a committee to select a pastor, I would have no trouble in choosing between them. I cannot give as good primary language, number, or kindergarten lessons as some of the teachers of Grand Rapids, but there is no one in Grand Rapids who is as good a judge of such work, according to the standards of the management of the schools, as I am.
In conclusion, I desire to call your attention to a mechanical device that I make use of to assist me in keeping in touch with the work of my schools. It is a system of monthly reports; I call it a record of work, or history of work, for the month. Don't say that it is useless, and a great consumer of time and energy of the teacher that might better be expended in other directions. It is neither. It takes only fifteen to twenty minutes of time each month on the part of the teacher, and about the same time of the superintendent; and it gives him a complete view of the work of his schools for the entire month. These blanks are given to the teachers of all departments, and they are asked to fill them out and send to the office the Monday following the close of each school month. My clerk reads them
carefully, and compares them, subject by subject, with the course of study, general outlines, and instructions for each subject. She notes all irregularities and special recommendations, makes a typewritten copy of the notes, and hands it to me. It takes me but a few minutes to read these notes, and then I have in mind every irregularity in detail that has occurred in the schools for the past month. I get this report about the middle of the first week after the close of each school month. I then write letters to principals and teachers, suggesting changes that I deein wise.
J. M. GREEN WOOD, City Superintendent, Kansas City, Mo.-Often the superintendent can test the quality of the teacher's work by the senses of smell and feeling. To illustrate what I mean: A young medical student, having completed his course of instruction, began to practice in the town where he attended lectures. He was called to see a patient whose ailment from the books and from his instructors' lectures he was unable to make out. So he hastened to his most trusted medical adviser for help. After describing the case, the experienced physician was unable to determine the disease. Together they visited the patient. No sooner was the door of the sick room opened than the old practitioner gave the young doctor a nudge, and whispered, “Smallpox!" The novice asked, “Low could you so quickly, without seeing the patient, tell that it was smallpox?" The physician answered, "By the smell and the feeling which this disease always creates in me.” So the skilled superintendent, often by merely entering the room, can judge from a compound sensation of the disease at work among the inmates.
This power to test cannot be transferred from one to another in technical terins and directions; but it comes only as an experience to those who study closely the maladies of the schoolroom from the two sides of theory and practice.
The feeling may also be illustrated by the story of a seven-year-old boy who was asked by his mother, at the close of the first day in school, how he liked his teacher. He said, “I think I shall like her very much." "Why?" asked the mother. “Because she is such a restful teacher.” “What do you mean by that?" asked the mother. “Why, she didn't make me feel any time to-day like I wanted to fight." As a superintendent, I have known teachers who are restful, helpful, and active; but others who, as soon as I entered their rooms, put me into the fighting feeling.
JOHN BURKE, City Superintendent, Newport, Ky.-The only practical method of testing the quality of a teacher's work is to observe the work while it is in progress. My method of doing this is:
First-I observe the manner of government; whether there is systematic arrangement of pupils, order at the seats and in recitation; whether the teacher's desk is in order and the blackboards show systematic arrangement of work. I do not like, as a rule, to see bare blackboards, even though they may be clean. If the boards are covered with neat work, and show that a number of pupils hare been demonstrating their knowledge on them, this is a good sign.
Second–The teacher must look pleasant and the pupils eager and happy. The presence of the superintendent must not cast a chill upon the teacher and the school. The teacher should feel that she is in the presence of a friend and sympathizer, as well as of an expert and a critic. I commend more frequently than I criticise. The way to get people to do their best is to encourage them and praise their work. Everybody likes praise and commendation, even the members of this inteligent and dignified body.
Third-I observe the manner of the teacher. She must be calm and going about her work in the usual way. The fussy, nervous, excitable teacher cannot be a good teacher.