Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

ers are expected to be examined in these branches. The examinations, according to the statute, are conducted by the school committees of the towns. They are the only authority known to the law having charge of the schools, their organization and management. But we feel that these gentlemen, although they are good men generally, and perhaps the very best that can be found in the towns where they reside, are not altogether fitted to examine the teachers who teach in our public schools. So there has been a great effort in the past few years to have the towns supplied with weil-trained superintendents, who understand the work, who know something of the philosophy of teaching and the methods founded upon that philosophy, and to examine the teachers in reference to the subjects taught in the schools and in reference to teaching. The small towns of the Commonwealth are not able to provide themselves with superintendents. So in the past few years we have been making some arrangements to unite them, and, by aid from the State, to provide for them the desired advantages in this respect.

In the examination of the teachers, I think it is quite necessary that we should determine where these persons should receive their education. I feel that the teachers of our schools ought to have a professional training. There are some who graduate from high schools that make good teachers; but not as a whole. And so those who desire to enter upon the work of teaching should be encouraged to go to our normal schools and there prepare thoroughly for their work. The teacher himself, after all, under the direction of the authorities, will make the school what it is to be. So in the examination, these gentlemen do not depend altogether upon any verbal examination that may be made. Formerly, and it was true when I was examined to teach in a country town of Massachusetts, questions were asked with reference to the subjects to be taught. There was one favorite question always asked by the committee; it was, to bound Virginia. It was a stated question, and if you understand how difficult it is to bound this State you will see it requires a good deal of geographical knowledge to do it; and so I prepared myself carefully on the boundary of this State, but unfortunately the committee did not ask the question; but I remember the question he did ask; he asked me if I could understand the nature of a pupil by his looks; and I thought a good deal depended upon the an. swer, and I said I thought I could. He said I was just the man for the place he was going to send me; and that was all the question he asked me, and he gave me a certificate, and the certificate stated that “this certifies that we have examined the candidate in the branches required to be taught in the public schools, and we believe his moral character to be unexceptionable," and I entered upon the duties of a teacher. I found that before the close of the term I did need just such an examination. We do not depend upon such examinations now. The superintendents of our schools desire to see the teachers at their work and see the relation these persons hold to their pupils, what are the influ

[ocr errors]

ences they are exerting over their pupils, and their method of teaching. Now, this can be determined perhaps in some degree by a verbal exam. ination. If I were to depend upon a verbal examination, I would assume the method of teaching different branches, and would take pains to notice not only the answers themselves, but the kind of answers to be given by the teacher; and then I should want to know something of his professional training, and also of the character he sustains in the neighborhood where he was teaching. I think the utmost care should be taken by the school authorities in introducing teachers into the schools. Their minds must be of such a character that you will be will. ing to have the style of it impressed upon the children under their care. It is all-important, therefore, that the teaclier who is to stand before the pupils to mould their character is just what we desire our pupils to become. And so we can not take too much pains in the selection of teachers. They must know what they are going to teach; they must be thorough scholars, and understand the relation their work holds to the discipline of the pupils that come under them; what a good course of study is; what faculties of the mind are to be trained; all these must be understood by the teacher before he is ready to enter upon the great work to which he is called.

I feel interested in this question, and it is an important one now in the country: By what means shall the teachers of the country be in. troduced to the schools they are to teach ?

MR. SNYDER: The difficulty with us is largely on this line. We bave our normal schools and our teachers graduate from them. We ascertained before we had been organized two days that the chief object of their coming to our school is to fix on a certain line of questions. We have to prepare these teachers on a certain line of questions. Let mo illustrate: This question went the rounds last summer, “Why is the earth inclined 231 degrees ? ". Why, ask the man who made it. Throughout our State we have a great many examining boards that are purely political. One county I have particularly in my mind, in Ohio, in which if the political complexion and the political relationship of the applicant be just right, he is going through for a certificate. There are no visitations made by the examiners; they do not understand the situation of the teachers; they do not understand the community to which these teachers go, and therefore do not comprehend what is fully required in an examination of their teachers.

DR. WHITE: As the Chair well knows, I begged to be excused from participating in this discussion, but being unsuccessful, I finally consented to have my name appear. I asked to be excused for the reason that, although I have been an examiner of teachers for years in different capacities, I know little about it. It is a problem in the administration of American schools that has not yet been satisfactorily solved, and one of those problems to which we must give very earnest attention in

882-No, 2-15

a

the near future. The most I can do is to state, in a few sentences, several things that seem to me to be settled by experience.

In the first place, let me say that our examination systems greatly differ. In Pennsylvania the county superintendent is the examiner of teachers; and he is selected on the basis of being a practical teacher himself. He knows the teachers, and visits their schools, and has a stand-point for his examinations which the examiner in Ohio and several other States has not. This suggests one point on which we can all agree. The examiner should be himself an educator, a professional teacher, if you please. I think we have reached a point in this country when we can demand that the door to our profession shall be guarded by its membership, by those who know practically its needs, and that point carried will undoubtedly go very far' to improve the character of our examinations, and to raise the standard of qualification required. I am very glad to see that Ohio, backward and conservative as it is in school legislation, has taken in the past year a step worthy of the highest commendation. It has provided that in cities of the first class, no person shall be appointed an examiner who has not had at least five years of successful experience as a teacher; that no person shall be an examiner of teachers who has not been himself a teacher. The whole profession ought to move in that direction by wise measures. We never can secure a proper standard of examination so long as persons whoknow nothing of teaching, who have little personal interest in school progress, are made examiners of teachers. There may be exceptions to the rule, but I think that the true position is that the examiner himself shall be an educator.

Another point: when the examiner is a superintendent, and can know the skill of teachers by personal inspection of their schools, the element of skill, of actual success, may be made one of the conditions of a certificate. But when this is not the case, I think it is wholly impracticable. As I view it, when the examining board is an independent body, the most that an examiner can test in his examination is knowl. edge. He can not test skill except as he sees it in the school-room. I believe that a great mistake has been made, throughout the West especially, and teachers have been very much misled by the assumption on the part of examiners that by a question they can test skill. A teacher inay answer a question of method never so clearly, and utterly fail as a teacher. It is true that a knowledge of methods is a very important element in success, and this can be tested.

The first qualification of teachers to be tested by the examiner is knowledge, and his first duty is to test clearly the teacher's knowledge of the branches of study, his scholastic knowledge. And it seems to me that we have reached the time in this country when we may demand fair scholarship from our teachers. I know there may be exceptions, but as a rule we are not safe in putting a poor scholar into any school, and we ought to demand, and the time has come when it ought to be universally demanded, that the teacher shall be a scholar, clear, accurate,

and thorough as far as his scholarship extends. The saddest work done in our schools is the attempt of teachers to teach what they do not know. I stepped into a room a few months since to hear a teacher give a lesson on surface, and it was her purpose to distinguish between a plane and a curved surface. She had some idea of method, but her want of knowledge made that little lesson the saddest farce I ever saw in school instruction. A teacher may have tact, but if she be deficient in scholarship, she can not teach even the elements of knowledge accurately, and we need the very best of teaching right in our primary schools. So I insist upon it that the teacher's scholarship should be tested by the examiner, and also his mental ability and culture.

I come now to the second element of the examination. What can the examiner do to test professional qualifications? I repeat, that unless the examiner is an inspector of schools the most he can do is to test the teacher's knowledge of professional studies. We have now reached the point when we may demand that he who is to teach school shall know something of the guiding doctrines that underlie teaching—the essential principles of the art.

The next element that must be determined is character. I wish to emphasize this with the utmost strength of voice. It is not enough that the teacher be a scholar; it is not enough that the teacher have professional knowledge, or adequate skill in teaching; the examiner should satisfy himself that the applicant is a teacher of character. Now I do not mean one that is negatively good, free from habits that are wrong and injurious; not that alone. Negative goodness is well enough, but a teacher who seeks to be successful, should be one who loves purity, honor, beauty in human conduct and in human life; one who hates in the depth of his or her being that which is mean and low and destroying; and if I were to choose a teacher for my children, I would choose one whose life, influence, and spirit are all upward, instead of a teacher, though wonderfully learned and skillful in manipulation, whose influence is deadening morally; wouldn't you?

I think that we may leave skill to be worked out and tested in the schools, and those who employ teachers can best determine that matter, unless the employer is the examiner. Now, I am very favorably situated in that respect, wonderfully so, and almost, as I may say, grievously so. I am not only one of the examiners in Cincinnati, but as superintendent I bave the appointment of teachers. But I can not depend upon the certificate in making an appointment. That is another matter. And so I think that we should make a clear distinction between what can be tested by examination and what can only be determined by actual experience, and if the examiner will determine in his examination the teacher's qualification on one side of that line, the other can wisely be left to be worked out by those in charge of the schools. I may add that the professional element in our teachers' examinations is sometimes made pretty much a farco by examiners. The questions asked test nothing. The test of the teacher's professional knowledge should be

In

an increasing one. As the teacher's experience increases, this professional test should be wider and more and more and more thorough. re-examining experienced teachers, I would drop the scholastic part of the examination and make it purely a professional one. I hope teachers may soon reach a point when their future employment will not depend upon an examination, when they will have the evidence of their ability settled, and when they will not be harassed and humiliated by being subjected from year to year to these examinations.

I wish to add that Ohio has taken another good step; she has provided that when a teacher has taught successfully for three years, he may receive a five-year certificate, renewable without examination, provided he is teaching and is successful. I think we bave great reason to be encouraged; and if we could work on these lines unitedly our profession would stand in a very different light from that in which it has stood in the past.

MR. MAXWELL: Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen-I do not rise for the purpose of attempting to add anything to what has been so well said in this discussion; I rise simply because I want more information upon this very important subject from whoever may be in a position to impart said information. I believe that this question of examinations of teachers is the most important question that we, as superintendents, have to consider. I believe that the exainination of teachers is the most important work that we, as superintendents, bave to do. It is through this work that the character of the schools, the character of the teaching, is very largely determined. If the superintendent or examiner lacks in attending to this work, incompetent teachers will get in; those who are deficient in knowledge, those who are deficient in skill. Perhaps the only word of Dr. White's very admirable address to which I could take exception is, that the most the examiner can do in con. ducting an examination is to pass knowledge. I hold a slight modification of that doctrine, and that is, that the principal thing the examiner can do is to test knowledge and equally to test intellectual ability. We may argue thus: if a person has the mental ability to acquire a certain amount of knowledge in a given time, that person has the requisite amount of mental ability to perform the work of the teacher. It remains to be determined after the examination, to be determined by actual experiment before the class, whether that person has the acquired or natural skill to perform the work of the teacher. Now, admitting all that has been said of the importance of this work as to the necessity of making examinations strict, making them thorough tests, whether of knowledge or mental ability, I have felt in my own experi. ence that the business of examination, particularly with regard to scholastic knowledge, may very easily be carried too far. I became superintendent of schools in Brooklyn about a year ago, and there founal a system of examinations which I have been obliged to carry out. I believe there is such a thing as having examinations in public school

« EelmineJätka »