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To the teacher who would achieve the highest success in his work three things are essential. He must have a full, thorough, and exact knowledge of the subject that he would teach; he must be skilled in the best methods of presenting his subject; and he must conduct the lesson with that life and enthusiasm that beget a like spirit in his pupils. The first of these essentials—a knowledge of subject-matterthe primary teacher possesses before she takes charge of a class. The primary teacher, moreover, is relieved from the drudgery of correcting written exercises out of school hours, and her hours in school are usually shorter than those of other teachers. The high school teacher is likewise well equipped with a knowledge of subject-matter, for he is selected with special reference to his scholarship. After being elected, he is not required to teach all the subjects of the curriculum; but he has his favorite subject, and to this he gives his whole time. He can therefore become master of his subject, and work up an enthusiasm among his pupils. The grammar school teacher has neither the scholarship of the high school teacher nor the knowledge of methods possessed by the primary teacher; yet both are as essential here as in any other part of the work.
To teach geography according to the latest and best methods, the teacher must have on hand a vast fund of ready information on which she can draw to supplement the text-book; she must be good at sketching, and map-drawing, and molding; she must keep up with the latest geographical knowledge, and she must be familiar with the books of King, Frye, Parker, Ritter, Guyot, and other specialists in this line.
Or, if she would teach natural science, she must understand the different branches of the subject and be a close student of nature; she must go with the children into the field and assist them in making collections of specimens from the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms; she must know how to devise simple home-made apparatus for illustrating the laws of physics; and she must be able to explain and get the children interested in the natural phenomena of everyday life.
An equal amount of special preparation is necessary for teaching mathematics, history, language, and literature, to say nothing of vocal music and drawing. While the teacher may delight in making this special preparation in one or two studies, when she undertakes it in all the subjects now taught in our upper grammar grades she is likely to exhaust her strength, become discouraged, and lose the vital element of enthusiasm. As a rule, the teachers of our upper grammar grades work harder and accomplish less than any other teachers A consideration of these facts makes it evident, that, if possible, something ought to be done to relieve over-worked teachers, and at the same time secure better results in teaching. A very satisfactory solution of the problem has been worked out in the Galveston schools by adopting and adapting a form of what is known as the departmental plan of instruction. I will give a brief description of this plan as it has been in operation in my school for the past two years, and name some of the advantages that it seems to possess. If an apology is needed for this somewhat personal reference, it is, that I prefer to speak of work that is actually being done and results as I see them, rather than to theorize on what might, could, would, or should be done under certain circumstances and conditions.
in the corps.
This plan is in operation in our four upper grammar grades, where we have about 130 pupils, averaging near fourteen years of age. The work is divided among four teachers. One has charge of history and geography, another of mathematics and science, another of language and drawing, another of reading and literature. The principal usually teaches some one of these subjects.
Each teacher has a room and charge of a class which report to this room at the opening of the session. This is their room. Here their books and wraps are kept; here they prepare their lessons; here they are to be found when not assigned elsewhere. This class teacher keeps all records of attendance, scholarship, deportment, etc., and makes all reports; the special teacher's furnishing her with the grades in their departments. She is closer to her class than any other teacher, and feels a more direct responsibility for their attendance, deportment, and general success in school work.
Each recitation in the principal studies is preceded by a study period averaging about twenty-five minutes in length. At given sig. nals, the pupils all march to the rooms of the special teachers for reci. tation, then back to their own rooms for study. It would be simpler, of course, for the teacher to change and allow the pupils to remain all the time in the same room; but our plan is better, for the change of position and surroundings, the rest and physical exercise afforded by the marching, have an invigorating effect upon the minds of the pupils; moreover, the necessity for throwing wide open all the doors, and passing through the fresh, pure air of the halls, lessens very much the chances for poor ventilation-a matter that is so easily forgotten.
During the study period, the pupils are under the supervision of the class teacher. She sees that they are busy, but gives thein no assistance whatever; nor is she even supposed to know what lesson is assigned them. This is much beiter than having them study under the teacher to whom they recite, for then the pupils would be tempted to ask needless questions, and the teacher to repeat directions and explanations that ought to be remembered, thus seriously interrupting the proper work of the study period. We desire that the study period should be devoted exclusively to quiet, uninterrupted study. The tendency is to explain too much. The pupils need to be trained in right habits of study, that they may be able to learn for themselves. They should be thrown on their own resources, and taught independence and self-reliance as soon as possible.
Twice a week all the pupils are taught vocal music by one of the teachers who understands music, knows how to sing, and knows how to get the pupils to sing. Once a week, and sometimes oftener, the classes are all assembled in the hall for general exercises.
The plan thus briefly outlined has many advantages, some of which I will mention.
It gives teachers an opportunity to do that work which is most agreeable to them, and for which they are best prepared. Almost every teacher has her favorite subjects, in which she does much better work than others. It not infrequently happens that a teacher who is highly successful in one line of work is almost a failure in another line. Require a teacher to instruct in a subject for which she is not prepared either by nature or training, and it is not surprising that she will enter upon it reluctantly, teach it in a mechanical way, and leave it as soon as possible. Give her, on the contrary, a subject that she loves, and the lesson is transformed from a dull, mechanical task to a stirring, thought-provoking exercise, in which teacher and pupils take a lively interest. We all delight in doing that which we can do well.
It gives relief to overworked teachers, improves their health, and increases their teaching power. Few people have such a tax upon their time and their strength as teachers have. Besides the daily routine of correcting papers, making reports, etc., the conscientious teacher will carefully plan each lesson, and endeavor to make thorough preparation for teaching it. With the long list of subjects that the grammar school curriculum presents, this preparation consumes much of her time, and even then often proves unsatisfactory to herself. Then consider the great burden of responsibility and anxiety that she feels for the success of her class in so many different lines of study, and the reason is clear why she is so often physically ex. hausted before vacation brings the much-needed rest. If, on the contrary, preparation is necessary in only one line of work, and that a congenial one, she has more time for rest and recuperation out of school hours, with less cause for worry and anxiety. This gives her a larger supply of energy to expend in the schoolroom in the actual work of teaching, where all the life, and vigor, and enthusiasm of which she is capable are needed to arouse thought and stimulate the pupils to put forth their best efforts. I have had the same teachers doing the same work in this department for four successive terms, and during this time not one of them has had to lose a single day on account of sickness.
It gives the teacher an opportunity to achieve the highest excel. lence in her department of work. With only one study to teach, or at most two or three allied studies, she has plenty of time to broaden and deepen her knowledge of the subject matter and to become familiar with the best methods of teaching it. She becomes an authority and an expert in her line. She knows not only what to teach but what not to teach. Her teaching is not circumscribed by the textbook. She is fully prepared to answer any question that may arise during the lesson. She has surveyed the field so carefully that she knows every obstacle and how to approach it. She learns to teach so as to interest the pupils and awaken in them a love for learning. Thus she become an artist.
It makes it possible for the teacher to buy the books and appliances needed in her work. Books are to the teacher what tools are to the workman. She must have them, and they cost money. To be fully equipped for teaching any one subject, the teacher must have enough books on subject matter and methods to make quite a little library. A short time ago I saw a collection of books that one of our teachers had made in the subject of geography alone that could not have been purchased for less than fifty or sixty dollars. Multiply this amount by the number of studies in the grammar school and the result represents an expenditure of money that the average teacher cannot afford to make, however much she may desire to do so.
It gives unity to the work. A strong objection to the grade system is, that the teaching is broken, jagged, fragmentary. A little bit is chipped out from the middle of the subject and the teacher is given four months in which to teach it. By the time she gets well acquainted with the pupils and works up an interest in the subjectsometimes before she does this—the term ends, and her class passes into another's hands. But when she has only one line of work, she teaches the same pupils for several successive terms. She knows what has been done the preceding term, and wastes no time in deciding where to begin. She views not an isolated part of the subject but the whole subject. She teaches not for one grade only but for all the grades. She knows, that, if any part of the subject is poorly taught, the defect will be seen in succeeding grades, and will be chargeable to no one but herself. She sees the end from the beginning. Thus she gives to her work unity, consistency, and complete. I have been principal of this school ten years, and, comparing the work of these grades for the past two years with what was formerly done when each teacher tried to teach all the subjects, I see that the teaching is vastly improved and that the discipline is equally good and of a higher order. Arithmetic is no longer the bugbear that it once was. Geography and history are co-ordinated and taught together by a teacher who keeps herself well informed, so that the pupils drink from a running stream instead of a stagnant pool. In reading and literature the pupils have been led into an attractive field, and have been taught to appreciate some of the great masterpieces of literature. Inspired by the teacher, the pupils have, through their own efforts, purchased a library of 200 of the choicest books suited to their age, and have adorned the hall with fine portraits of the great authors. Drawing has been taught so as to have a real educative value; while in vocal music the results are incomparably better than those accomplished by the perfunctory efforts of grade teachers.
The department plan of instruction has been tried in the grammar grades of a number of the best schools in our country. Speaking of these experiments, the last report of the United States Commissioner of Education says (p. 667): "The results accomplished under it (the department plan) are so far superior to what had been done without it that a further extension seems inevitable. It is like going to another world to leave an alleged musical exercise in a school whose teacher has had little musical training and less talent, and who attempts to teach what she herself does not know, with no other guide than the 'course of study' and hand-book—and then to pass into a school in which a skilled musician has infused a liberal share of his own enthusiasm and devotion to the art. Such differences as appear under these opposite conditions are the strongest arguments for specialization. It is altogether fitting and proper, that, if a subject is to be taught at all, it should be placed under the most favorable conditions; and specializing the work of all teachers, at least in the higher grades, seems to be the most probable outcome of the educational experiences and experiments of the last few years."
The limits of this paper will permit but a brief reference to the various objections that have been urged by educational writers against specialization. The point most strongly insisted upon is, that, owing to the large number of pupils that come under the instruction of the special teacher, her moral influence will be much less than that of the grade teacher. The objection would hold if the grade teacher kept her pupils for any considerable time; but it is customary for the grade teacher to keep the same pupils only one term, and it takes her that long to get well acquainted with them. The special