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localities. It need not be added that where salaries differ it is absurd to expect qualifications to be the same.
Do examinations always examine?
The discussion was opened as follows:
THE EXAMINATION OF TEACHERS.
By L. W. DAY,
Ladies and gentlemen : I am exceedingly sorry that those who are now present were not present at the beginning of Dr. Newell's paper. I de. sire to commend it most heartily to the careful attention of every one present, and trust it may be read, in substance at least, by many who were not present. It deals very closely with the question that lies close to the entrance door of the public school. It is a question that is not yet settled, and from the very nature of the question itself it must forever remain a somewhat unsettled question. For, as the profession of teaching advances from step to step, as better methods of instruction and management are brought forward, the conditions upon which teachers are admitted to the profession or the school-room ought certainly to be advanced also. I desire to commend the paper. Upon one point I am not sure that I can quite agree with the doctor. I have respect to the advisability of greater uniformity throughout the States. The objections urged against such uniformity seem to me to hold with almost equal force against county uniformity. But I submit whether there is not a great possibility, in fact a probability, that if the questions used throughout the State were uniform, were sent out by the State board of education, publicly used by the various examiners, certificates issued upon them, and the manuscripts held subject to the order of the State board for revision, some good might result from it.
The law which requires that all who design to teach in the schools of the State shall be examined by the State as to their proficiency in the several branches in which they are to give instruction is an excellent one, the force and importance of which should not be lessened.
The authority to whom is delegated the duty of discriminating between those who are qualified under the law to teach and those who are not, has a most important work to perform; a work which affects more or less directly the vital interests of the schools at large; a work demanding that he should be in full and intelligent accord with the advanced methods of instruction and management that characterize the schools of the present day. Iv the discharge of his delicate duties, he should recognize that it is not scholarship alone, vitally important as that certainly is, that should determine the matter of qualification. There are other elements of equal importance which enter very promincntly into the question.
I would not, for one moment, undervalue the importance of scholarly attainment. Without this there can be neither breadth nor depth of work, grasp of means, nor clear comprehension of what is to be accomplished. Scholarship is essential, and every teacher should give satis. factory evidence of qualification in this respect. Examiners should carefully guard the door, and allow none to enter who are not possessed of an ample education. But of what avail is this knowledge to the teacher in the school-room if its possessor be lacking in the ability to impart instruction; if he cannot discriminate clearly between the means and the end; if he cannot so direct his work as to inspire confidence, stimulate thought, and encourage individual effort? Examin. ers should never certify to the ability of any one to teach unless such person has given much careful and intelligent thought to the professional side of the teacher's work. He who desires to teach, who seeks
. to aid and direct in the development of a human soul, should be willing to prepare himself to the uttermost for his work, and examiners should see to it that none are authorized to practise upon the children who have not gone deeply and earnestly into this matter. With institutes in almost every city, town, and county; with associations, sectional, State, and national ; with normal schools located at numerous conven. ient points; with educational journals, the best the world affords, within the easy reach of all—with all these earnest invitations to proper prep. aratiou, is it too much to require that he who would teach must fit himself professionally for his work? Have not the children a right to demand teachers who are at least theoretically prepared, who understand the history of education and the grand objects sought by the best schoo of to-day, and who have at least a good working knowledge of psychology? Witness the large number of pupils who have withdrawn from school, a very large per cent. of whom have done so because they have become disgusted with school-room work, preferring ignorance and labor to the uninteresting, uninspiring work of the school-room. Investigations show clearly that the number of withdrawals from schools taught by teachers who understand themselves, their work, and their pupils is very small, and confined to cases of necessity.
Admitting the very great importance of scholastic learning, and commending our examiners for what they have done in the way of elevating the standard of excellence in this respect, let us urge them to more strenuous efforts in elevating the standard professionally as well.
There are of course many difficulties attending such work, They are not, however, insurmountable. It need not be very difficult for the competent examiner to ascertain, by means of suitable conversation,
something of the extent and character of the professional reading of every applicant who does not come sufficiently vouched for in this respect by the principal of the normal or other training school, and at the same time to note the clearness and ability with which the required information is imparted. Such a conversation, judiciously conducted, will reveal several other elements vitally essential to the successful teacher. But, however close and searching this investigation may be, it would obviously be unwise to issue more than a trial certificate until the applicant has proren by actual school work an ability to instruct and manage a school, Such trial work should be carefully observed by the superintendent or other person qualified and authorized to supervise the work of instruction, and only upon his recommendation, based upon assurances of at least fair success, should the partial cer. tificate be followed by the issue of a full one. Otherwise the partial certificate should lapse at the close of the term.
If it be the duty of the examiner to reject those who are deemed not qualified, he should be sure that his own methods are correct; that he himself has a clear conception of the requirements of the schools of to-day. He should be a master workman, comprehending the true relation of the teacher to the school, of the work of the school to the subsequent life of the child ; in short, he should understand what au education is, and how best to secure it. He need not be an infallible man, but he must be a most earnest and devoted one, whom neither fear nor favor can swerve from the right, a man of close observation and of sound judgment, a ripe scholar, capable of discerning those qualities which enter so largely into the make-up of the successful instructor and manager. The duties of such an officer are arduous and important in the extreme. With proper care on his part, few will be authorized to teach in the schools of the State who have not made special preparation for their work, and sureiy none others should be permitted to teach. If the attorney, the physician, the minister must spend from two to four years in special training before he can be permitted to enter upon his work, why, in all reason, should not teachers be required to do the same thing? Is it claimed that our profession is so peculiar that no valuable preparation can be had except as innocent children are practised upon by the novice? Away with such nonsense! On the contrary, it is a solemn duty we owe the children to see that they are not practised upon by those whoʻhave no interest in the work beyond the securing of a comfortable position.
We are continually striving to elevate the standard of our schools; we are holding institutes, organizing associations, and publishing professional literature for the benefit of teachers already employed, but we are silently admitting to our ranks thousands who have given no thought to their work beyond preparing for their technical examina. tious. The few who attend the institute, do so, in many cases, in order to review for the same examination. This is all wrong. Let us require a higher standard of the examiner, and stand by him in his attempts to establish it. With the doors thus guarded, we may select teachers from those certified as qualified to teach, to the very great advantage of the schools.
DR. HIGBEE: Mr. Newell ought certainly to have known the scholarship or attainments of the person who was before him. The question is not to do away with examinations; they are an absolute necessity. We must know the scholarship, the attainments, and professional skill of the applicant, so far as it is possible for us to know. We must know what is the difficulty ; whether the difficulty is in the examiner or in those examined. I have gone through nearly the same experience that Dr. Newell has gone. I was examined in Lancaster, and the examiner didn't know anything; I found that out in a short time, although I was the one examined. The fault was in the examiner, and the whole question is this, who shall examine our teachers? That is the most important feature. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania we trust the subordinate examinations to the county superintendents, The reason we do this is that we suppose the counties will fortify themselves in the directors of the schools. That is the system we have there, Of course it fails in many respects. But what shall we do? You say that you will have the State superintendent examine. He don't examine. Suppose he sends down questions. That is not examining. It is foolish to suppose, for instance, that a State ever gets a uniform set of questions that examines. It is the examiner that examines. He has the man before him; he is the man to pass judgment. And how could I, as the State superintendent of Pennsylvania, from the answers that come up to me, ascertain the character and presence of the man himself? I could test his memory. I will give an instance. A gentleman came to me once after having endeavored to answer the questions of an examination, with this question, thinking he had made a mistake: On which side of the river is Geneva? I said, of course on the outside. That is the only answer I would give to such a ques. tion. I would be ashamed of myself, honestly, if I was summoned to examine a person, to examine him through the questions of another
I would as soon court a girl with my grandfather's loveliness. THE CHAIR: Mr. Day said something in the beginning of his paper about uniformity of questions in the State. That was the custom followed in California before the adoption of the new constitution. For some time preceding the adoption of that constitution, it was supposed that the passage of the questions through the mails would be risky. Finally it was suspected that by some means some of these questions occasionally got out; and the culmination came when one day in San Francisco, the evening before the examination, the San Francisco Bul letin published all the questions in full, and the examinations through. out the State had to be suspended. The convention met soon after and the whole system was broken up.
MR. WISE: One of the most difficult things I know of is how to examine teachers with a view to ascertain whether they are capable. It seems to me that the first requisite is to ascertain whether the candidate is healthy; and I think a doctor's certificate ought to be gotten to show that this party who is desirous to teach is in a sufficiently healthy condition to make a good teacher; and I think the moral character ought to be inquired into very carefully, whether the person is a proper person. After this is done, and not done simply because it is required, in a perfunctory way, the next thing I should inquire into with great care is whether he possesses the requisite culture. I think with the great number of opportunities that our cities and country hold out to people to become educated, that every board of education has a right to demand this of parties coming forward to teach and avail themselves of those appliances; not only to know them, but to look ahead and to adapt this work harmoniously to an extended education. Persons who teach in the primary school should supplement that by a course in the grammar school. Education is continuous, and in order to preserve this continuity, persons doing work all along the line should see the whole course to be gone over. I believe the greatest fault of the teachers is the lack of culture. There is too much stress laid on methods, psychology, etc.; but I believe that to the teacher who has culture, character, and a desire to perform properly the duties she is called upon to discharge, these things will come after. As Dr. Harris said last night, a good teacher will make good pupils. If they have this basis of culture, it seems to me this would be a good foundation upon which to build the professional knowledge that they must acquire afterwards.
The examination, in my judgment, should be partly written and partly oral. I have seen a great many persons who could pass a written examination by anticipating the questions to be asked upon the subject. If I were called upon to examine a person, I would simply get that person to read to me and afterwards ask oral questions, and I could ascertain more in that way than by the ordinary questions asked upon the subject of grammar. And another thing that is very important to ascertain : We all acknowledge that teaching is a profession, and persons who desire to teach but a short time should be rejected. Some eminent educator has said: “In choosing a teacher for your son, be much more careful to ascertain his moral character than his culture. A man of high character who sets before his boys an example of proper conduct will do more for his boys than a man of the highest culture will do."
MR. DICKINSON: I am quite interested in this discussion, because in my own State we are turning our attention more fully now than ever before, to the preparation of the teachers for their work. The statutes of our Commonwealth require that every teacher who enters the public schools shall have competent ability and good morals. The studies to be taught in the public schools are uniform in the cities, and the teach.