Page images

Fourth-I observe the clearness with which a teacher presents her work. A teacher should teach so as to excite thought in the minds of her pupils. Teaching that arouses thought can never be drudgery either to teacher or pupils.

By such signs as these, and many others known to superintendents, I can readily ascertain what kind of work the teacher is doing.

Miss CROPSEY of Indianapolis, Ind.-I believe with Thoreau, that “whatever a man does he merely reports himself." The quality of our work is apparent to those who have the power of seeing. We reveal ourselves in every act-of speech, of voice, of gesture. In the voices and faces of the children we see ourselves reflected. In the very external arrangement of the room we show our sense of proportion and the ability or inability to appreciate the influence of this manifestation of reason upon the minds of children.

In order to judge anything justly we must approach it from the standpoint of appreciation. We must not judge by mere negative acts and deeds. Only a pure, a sensitive spirit can judge rightly of the quality of a teacher's work. A lower kind of intelligence may perhaps measure the quantity.

Too much stress has been laid upon the external or mechanical side of teaching. This has a relative importance. The fundamental test of the quality of a teacher's work must be found at last in the ability to furnish conditions for the real miracle of growth in the child—that all lower forms of activity may prepare for the expression of higher powers. Reading, arithmetic, and geography are not ends in themselves. By means of these, and by all experiences which the school should give, we are to strive to make human life all-sided, powerful, efficient, happy.

Miss SARAH L. ARNOLD, Supervisor of Primary Schools, Minneapolis, Minn.As I had not anticipated being called upon to join in this discussion, I have prepared no argument, but I would like to answer a criticism which we must often meet in our work.

Protracted visits are not always necessary to determine the superintendent's judgment of the teacher's power and skill. Many little incidents, seemingly trifling, will show us the trend of the teacher's work, if we are well qualified for our positions and observe with a sympathetic spirit and the insight which comes of experience.

Our experience and study enable us to judge truly from seeming trifles, and from such judgment we may justly formulate a general estimate of the strength or weakness of the teacher's habitual work.

SUPERINTENDENT TREUDLEY of Youngstown, Ohio, spoke eloquently, paying tribute to the influence which his former teachers had exerted over him, not by their methods of instruction but the presence of a power which was indefinable and not capable of analysis.

DR. E. A. SHELDON, Principal of the State Normal and Training School, Oswego, N. Y.-I fully agree with my friend from Youngstown, that the most valuable products of the teacher's work are not to be tested by any formal examination questions, whether oral or written. They are spiritual, and can only be spiritually discerned. The atmosphere of a good school is not to be ascertained by written examinations. One may feel it. You see the children growing in spiritual perception and power, and realize that it is the atmosphere in which they live and more that conduces to this growth, and that it is the teacher who creates this atmosphere. As there are conditions in air that can only be tested by breathing it, so there are conditions in the schoolroon that go to build up true nobility of character that can only be recognized by one whose soul is sensitive to such spiritual conditions. I remember nearly thirty years ago to have been on a visit to some of the schools of New England (a trip I often take to keep myself in touch with the best educational work), and on my return, as we were passing through Westfield, Mass., some one remarked that there was a state normal school located in this town. I resolved to stop off a train and see it. I shall never forget the impression made upon me by the atmosphere of this school. I took an opportunity to go again and spend some days. There was the presence of noble souls. There was genuine spiritual and intellectual growth. No written examinations could have revealed this inestimable product. The source of this power was in the teachers, and I would have been glad to transport them to Oswego without examination; and tried to do so, but failed.

I remember to have seen in one of my own primary schools the children reaching out their fingers to touch the gown of the teacher as she passed up and down the aisles. It almost seemed that virtue entered into the little ones as they touched the hem of her garments. To me this was far better testimony than any amount of formal examinations could furnish as to the value of the product of this teacher's work.

It is astonishing with what tenacity school officers sometimes hold to the idea that the only possible way to find out what is in a person is by questioning it out of him. Such persons are very likely to think that no questions but those of their own framing can by any possibility accomplish this object. I had a daughter who had graduated from the classical department of our normal school; had taught the Latin and Greek in the same school for four years; had spent nearly two years in special study at Cornell University; had subsequently studied three years at Oxford University, England, making a specialty of English literature, and had received a first-class certificate in an honor course in that subject; had taught in the high school at Omaha, Neb., for one year, to the entire satisfaction of every body, and held the state certificate of Nebraska, when an ignorant ward politician in the board of education discovered that she had not been examined by their board, and nothing would do but she must leave her work in the school and take their examination. She had to be examined in reading, spelling, arithmetic, geography, grammar, and other studies which usually pertain to such examinations-subjects to which she had given no direct attention for at least ten or twelve years, and which had no direct bearing on her teaching work in the high school. All this took several days. In the meantime her work in the high school stopped, as did her compensation, and there was no equivalent realized either by the school or the board. The only satisfaction gotten out of all this fret and worry, loss of time and instruction, was that which came to the board that she had been examined.

I hardly need say in the presence of this highly intelligent body of educational men that very little value is to be attached to such kind of examinations. They may test the ability of the persons examined to remember certains things, but not that which is of far greater importance-their power to think, to reason, to express, and to do. I remember about thirty-five years ago, when we were introducing the objective methods into the public schools of Oswego, a member of the board of education of Cincinnati, a very intelligent German, came and spent several days among the schools for the purpose of satisfying himself as to whether there was any superior merit in these methods. I suggested to him that he go into the schools and question the children on subjects entirely foreign to those that were being pursued in the regular course of instruction. In this way he would test them, not on the things they remembered of what they had been taught--a product that might be the result of the most objectionable kind of teaching-but he would find out how they had been trained to think, to reason, and to express their ideas.

I said, "They may not be able to answer your questions, but you will thus test an intellectual product of far greater value than mere knowledge." I may add, that he tried the experiment and found it entirely satisfactory. I confidently look for a time near at hand when we shall employ more sensible means of testing educational values than those so widely prevalent at the present time.

DR. CHARLES A. MCMURRY of Normal, Ill., quoted Mr. Gove's statement that the quality of a teacher's work could be best judged by an intelligent adult twenty years after leaving his school. “It is now more than twenty years since I left Mr. Gove's school, and I have the time qualification for pronouncing a final judgment on Mr. Gove's work as a teacher. While there are many things which go to make up the general effect of a teacher's work, it might be appropriate to call attention to at least one point which stands out, after twenty years, in memory. To a boy coming in from the work of the garden and farm, Mr. Gove's school was a happy place. It was a place of sunshine and comfort. feeling remains strong, now, as it was then, that the school was the happiest place in which to be; the spirit that pervaded it then was a joyous one, and the memory of it is now equally so. Other things in Mr. Gove's teaching remain, but this is paramount. Now, it is the mature verdict of many older schoolmasters that one of the most desirable and useful qualities in a teacher, after all, is the ability to live harmoniously, and sympathetically with children-to make their surroundings pleasing and inspiring."

IRWIN SHEPARD, President State Normal School, Winona, Minn.-It would doubtless be both interesting and profitable to superintendents if they could sometimes know just what judgments the supervised teachers pass upon the work, methods, and ability of the supervisors.

I have been in a position to know something of this side of the question through teachers whom I have trained and sent into the field, and who, returning, have freely spoken of the faults and virtues of their superintendents. I only hope that superintendents are generally as fair, not to say charitable, in judging their subordinates as are the subordinates in judging their superiors.

It is quite as important for a superintendent to be able and ready to discern and recognize a teacher's strongest points as her weakest. That supervision accomplishes most which so guides all the forces of school administration that teachers are always working at their best. That superintendent must inevitably fail to secure the best results who sees only, or concerns himself too largely with the weakest points in his teaching force. The superintendent should establish such a relation as a trusted counselor and friend to his teachers that they feel no embarrassment in doing their work in his presence.

Superintendents are everywhere encouraging their teachers to make careful, kindly, sympathetic study of each child, that they may know best how to guide the child to his best in living and working. Has not the superintendent an equally important duty and opportunity to study each teacher with kindly purpose and tactful sympathy, to find the “lines of least resistance" and the elements of greatest individual power? When this is done, most of the other problems of supervision are easily solved.

EDWARD P. SEAVER, Superintendent of Schools, Boston, Mass.-Sympathy with teachers in their work is the first requisite in a superintendent. Unless he can go into his work in this attitude of sympathy he had better not got into it at all. A book of marks may be a convenience as a memorandum book, but it should be only a memorandum book. If the teacher feels that the main purpose of a superintendent's visit is to assign marks whereby the teacher's standing or continuance in office is to be decided, the effect is sure to be depressing on a sensitive teacher

and the best teachers are very apt to be sensitive. The only use of marks is to aid the memory of the superintendent; they should never be reported to a board of education as a basis for action.

Now, a word about examinations. These are, in my judgment, a necessary part of the measures to be taken for the determination of the fitness of candidates for appointment as teachers. Five minutes' conversation with a candidate will show what his spirit is; and the impression a superintendent gets from a personal interview of this sort may properly go far to determine the question of a candidate's fitness. But this is not enough. Here comes a young man and proposes to teach Latin, French, or mathematics. He has been a popular teacher in the schools where he has taught already, and he makes a good personal impression; seems to be of excellent spirit, and all that. I say, that, in justice to him and in justice to those who may select him from among others for appointment, he should be given ample opportunity to make written records of his knowledge of Latin, or French, or mathematics. If his spirit be not all right he is not wanted at all. But besides the right spirit-enthusiasm, earnestness, and all that—there must be competent knowledge of the subjects to be taught and ability to impart that knowledge. All these we must have; and we cannot make sure that we have them unless we apply the proper tests; and among these tests good fair-and-square written examinations are indispensable. They protect both the appointers and the appointees in the case of well-fitted candidates, and they discourage the approach and prevent the appointment of unfit persons to teachers' positions. This must be so, at least, in all large cities, where appointments must be guarded against certain untoward influences.

DR. E. E. WHITE of Columbus, Ohio, said that the last speaker's reference to the secret book induced him to say a word condemnatory of the practice of keeping a secret per cent record of the standing of teachers. He gave his experience in visiting the schools of a large city, where the estimates made by persons acting as inspectors of the teachers' work were recorded in a secret book kept by the superintendent. A teacher whose work in geography he had much admired had been marked so low for several years as to raise the question of her re-employment! He questioned the ability of anyone to mark the worth of a teacher on a per cent scale on a brief visit to his school. Five minutes in a school may be sufficient to note marked excellencies or serious defects, but work not thus characterized is not so easily judged. It is not possible on seeing a school under favorable conditions to determine what would be true under average conditions-much less under unfavorable conditions. It often happens that the visitor finds a teacher teaching, not only a favorite branch but an exceptional lesson; and it also may happen that the teacher is at his worst. It is true that several visits at different hours may enable the inspector to make an average estimate. But there are many teachers who can never do their best in the presence of a memorandum book and lead-pencil, or even in the presence of a visitor who is known to be present to mark their work. Formal school inspection is not as infallible as the inspectors imagine. In his judgment, there was not a little pedantry in the assumptions of school supervisors respecting their ability to pass judgment on the work of teachers at ht.

SUPT. A A RON Gove, in closing the discussion, said: “In the discussion of this subject I have confined myself to a literal rendering of the subject assigned, namely, How to test the quality of a teacher's work. I understand that the testing is an approximately exact measurement of the effort. I regret the wide range which has followed the presentation. I conclude, that, while none of us consider ourselves equal to the testing of the quality of a teacher's work, each of us feels competent, in a measure, to judge, and that the method of arriving at that judgment is as varied as are the characters, temperaments, dispositions, training, and antecedents of those who undertake to make the estimate."


To the Department of Superintendence of the National Educational Association:

The undersigned, chairman of the Committee of Fifteen, appointed at the meeting of the Department of Superintendence held in Boston, Mass., in February, 1893, would respectfully report:

On Feb. 22, 1893, the following resolution was adopted by the Department of Superintendence, on motion of Superintendent Maxwell of Brooklyn, N. Y.:

Resolred, That a committee of ten be appointed by the committee on nominations. to investigate the organization of school systems, the co-ordination of studies in primary and grammar schools, and the training of teachers, with power to organize sub-conferences on such subdivisions of these subjects as may seem appropriate, and to report the results of their investigations and deliberations at the next meeting of the Department of Superintendence.

Resolved, that the officers of the Department of Superintendence be, and hereby are, directed to make application to the board of directors of the National Educational Association for an appropriation of $2,500 to defray the expenses of the committee of ten and of the conferences which that committee is empowered to appoint.

On February 23d the committee on nominations appointed the following committee of ten:

Supt. William H. Maxwell of Brooklyn, N. Y., chairman; Dr. William T. Harris, United States Commissioner of Education; Supt. T. M. Balliet of Springfield, Mass.; Supt. N. C. Dougherty of Peoria, Ill.; Supt. W. B. Powell of Washington, D. C.; Supt. H. S. Tarbell of Providence, R. I.; Supt. L. H. Jones of Indianapolis, Ind.; Supt. J. M. Greenwood of Kansas City, Mo.; State Supt. A. B. Poland of New Jersey; Supt. Edward Brooks of Philadelphia.

On motion of Superintendent Maxwell, the members of the committee on nominations were added to the committee of ten, so that the committee became one of fifteen. The names thus added to the committee were the following: President Andrew S. Draper of the University of Illinois; Supt. E. P. Seaver of Boston, Mass.; Supt. A. G. Lane of Chicago, Ill.; Supt. Charles B. Gilbert of St. Paul, Minn.; Supt. car H. Cooper Galveston, Tex.

The application for an appropriation to defray the necessary expenses of the committee was presented to the board of directors of the National Educational Association, but no action was taken by that body until July, 1894, during the meeting at Asbury Park, N. J., when the sum of $1,000 was set apart for the purpose.

In the meantime, however, the committee had not been idle Individual members had been collecting information and exchanging views by correspondence. During the meeting of the Department of Superintendence held in Richmond, Va., in February, 1894, the committee held two protracted sessions. At these sessions the plan of work for the ensuing year was discussed and determined. The chairman was authorized to divide the members of the committee into three sub-committees--one on the training of teachers, one on the correlation of studies in elementary education, and one on the organization of city school systems.

The sub-committees were appointed as follows:

The Training of Teachers. -Horace S. Tarbell (chairman), Edwards Brooks, Thomas M. Balliet, Newton C. Dougherty, and Oscar H. Cooper.

The Correlation of Studies in Elementary Education.-- William T. Harris (chairman), James M. Greenwood, Charles B. Gilbert, Lewis H. Jones, and William H. Maxwell.

« PreviousContinue »