Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

will be readily admitted that the special books to be taught after graduation must be in some sense the standard here.

The building occupied by the State Normal School has usually, perhaps, been provided by the citizens of the place where it is located. Its rooms should furnish an example for convenience, utility, and beauty, which might be safely followed throughout the Public Schools of the State. It would be a sad commentary on the plans for School buildings that the Normal pupils should be required to examine simply to point to the accommodations which have served, in some instances, the temporary purposes of the first year. An appropriation equal to that made for merely transporting convicts to the State Prison of this State for the current year, would go far towards erecting a modest structure which would meet the chief necessities of the California Normal School for years to come. Of the comparative value of the investments, considered as extending through a series of years, for the State, I need hardly express my own opinion before this audience.

The general methods adopted in the class exercises of a State Normal School should keep in view not only the thorough acquisition of knowledge by the student, but also the development of all his teaching ability, or the fullest facility of imparting his knowledge as a Teacher. There may therefore be a greater latitude in variety of method than would be safe in Grammar Schools or in Academies; and the character of the pupils is such as to make great freedom of thought and expression desirable. The Teacher before the class is an elder brother, and is specially prepared to give each exercise such treatment as shall aid the most in the days to come for the young Teachers before him. The subject, as well as the particular text book, is sought to be mastered.

In mathematics, for example, it is not enough that the work of the student evinces familiarity with the principles involved, but great accuracy of statement, and perfect accuracy of work, should be invariably required. A mistake in addition, or in any of the fundamental rules, is to be ranked as a grave failure. Principles are not only to be comprehended, but correctly applied ; the natural connection of the various processes should be pointed out in detail, and even the manner of placing the work upon the board must be attended to strictly. The pupils in some Schools we have seen have a habit of throwing their figures over the board in such a way as to make it extremely difficult to trace the various operations, and almost impossible to detect errors in any reasonable time. In Normal instruction these things must not be so.

Illustrations of defective teaching may be occasionally given to call out the critical powers of the class in judging wherein the defect consists, and why it is defective at all. The various excellencies of different methods in teaching special subjects should . be considered, and the opinion of the presiding Teacher may always be fairly sought in regard to them.

It is best to have few questions from the Instructor during the regular recitation. The pupil-Teacher must understand the lesson so thoroughly that when the topic of recitation is named he may enter upon it without the aid of suggestive words in the class. His position should always be erect while speaking ; and, for the time being, he is to use language correct and full, in such a manner as to have every sentence complete in itself, needing no understood question, or understood explanation to be supplied by the hearer. The recitation in the Normal class should be such that if a stenograper were at hand, putting down the words, his report would need no revision. Explanations by the Instructor should not take the place of recitation by the student, and be passed to the student's credit. Sometimes a question may be asked in aid, but the rule should be understood that at that hour the student is to go on and tell precisely what he knows. I place the more stress upon this point because in some Public Sehools and Academies half the recitation time is occupied in asking questions, when the pupils should be using it all in giving the result of their study. If the student cannot go on without questioning, in most studies, it is a sign that he has not

done his work thoroughly; and in the Normal School these signs must not be frequent. If the reciter hesitates, he must take the consequences of hesitation, and not be furnished a bridge, in some question from the Teacher, by which he may escape with honor. If the hesitation be protracted, the theme may be assigned to another, unless the Teacher be convinced the student has done his full duty in preparation, when, sometimes, it may be expedient to acknowledge the fact before passing the topic to the next; or, possibly, in certain circumstances, to call the delinquent's attention to some principle already established which will solve his difficulty. If the student forgets “ what comes next,” as students sometimes do, let him pass to what he does remember, rather than wait until the prompting comes. After the exercise is finished, the Teacher can wisely ask questions that shall be pointed expressly to matters omittod or superficially considered in the strict recitation of the class ; until then, questions are useless.

This independence in recitations I regard as of great importance. Unless it be attained to at least a considerable degree, the Normal School is apt to degenerate into a mere drilling room, having most of the defects and not all the excellencies of a boys' and girls' class in the Intermediate Public Schools, and turning out Teachers who are easily embarrassed when they come to their own teaching, because of their inability to express well that of which they are conscious they possess some knowledge. We need not be disappointed to find in lower Schools some inaccuracies now and then ; but in the Normal School we have a right to expect training worthy of men and women who are hereafter to rank in the world as equal to their fellow beings in all that is worthy of respect and human confidence.

The criticisms of the pupils must all be made in a friendly spirit. No belittling of the efforts they have made should ever be indulged. A pupil-Teacher may often have worked nobly and long over a matter which seems perfectly clear to the experienced Teacher. His impulse would be to say, when he perceived the pupil's inability, “That is not difficult; I am surprised that you have not succeeded.” It may be easy after it is understood, but it is not necessarily easy until it is understood. I think it should be assumed, especially in a Normal School, that honest effort has been given to the task ; and where failure has realted, that it was not caused by a disposition to avoid work, or to be easily discouraged. The character of this Institution at least requires this assumption, whatever may be the truth of the assumption in most other Schools. If in some instances it becomes evident that the student is dishonest, and willing to avoid his duty, I do not think that a reformation will be effected by enlarging upon the ease with which the asserted obstacle may be overcome. Rather make the difficulties quite as great as they are, that so it shall seem worthy of intense effort to conquer . them. If the sense of duty and the motives of ambition cannot produce the desired result when duly and wisely dwelt upon, the absence of the student from the Normal band will not seriously impair its real strength, for it may be concluded the candidate has not the qualities which are indispensable in every good Teacher.

In looking back over my own teaching days, I am convinced that I did not always sufficiently control the impulse to look with impatience upon the unsettled spirits which found difficulty in lessons that seemed to me clear as the noonday. As the days of childhood and of student life recede, it is not an uncommon thing even for the best of Teachers--not to make it general by saying, for even the best of men outside of the profession—to lose the memory of the obstacles which then seemed great, and the sorrows, now so small, which then seemed overwhelming. There are worse things in maturity than a want of sympathy from those around us, and a want of due regard for our wishes ; we have learned to do without them; but the child in School and the pupil-Teachers have not learned and ought not to be taught by hard experience to do without the confidence and sympathy of their Teachers then. · In a regular class exercise the object is not so much to go through some mysteriously

perfect exercise, anheard of before by good Teachers, as to make the student-Teacher familiar with what good Teachers do. Hence visitors have sometimes been present at Normal Schools for an hour, and seeing only what they have practiced in the particular subject, it may be for years, are led to suppose the institution is not materially different from others. But would a Law 'or Medical School be proven useless in the rational opinion of the practicing Lawyer or Physician because, when he spends an hour there, he hears what he is familiar with in his daily life? I think that the more a visitor, who is a practical and experienced Teacher, observes in a properly conducted Normal School which is similar to his own practice, the better for him and for the institution. If there is material difference in manner and detail from his own, the visitor may do well carefully to re-examine his owo method, and see if it may not be susceptible of real improvements in some respects which he has not hitherto suspected.

It is true that Normal Schools have sometimes failed. The reasons are various, but chief among them has been the failure of the State to provide the means for a fair trial. In no State where a determination has been manifested by the Legislature at the outset that the School shall live five years has it ceased at the end of that time.

Teachers fit for the position of Instructors in a State Normal School are not usually so situated that they can afford to resign a humble place where they are already established, and which is permanent, for a situation in which even so much greater good can be accomplished, if that situation may be taken away before they have been fairly tried.

In some States failure has been caused by an attempt to engraft the State Normal School on some College or other professional School. So peculiar are the objects of this Institution that there can never be a full attainment of all its advantages when influences tending to draw away attention from the precise work are so strongly felt as in College, or among students whose highest ambition is to excel in Law, or Theology, or Medicine. It may be said the pupil-Teachers should have strength of character to resist outward influences that interfere with their special pursuit; but even Normal pupils are very human, and coming into contact with others of different objects daily, they are very apt to wander away from the Teacher's aims. Let the strongest condemner of this result, however pure his ambition and lofty his purpose to do good to his fellow men, devote five months to association among the business operators of Montgomery street, and see if at their end he is not conscious of a change in his ambition and a falling off in his purposes. If he do not resist the temptations he meets, he will have little right to blame the young pupil-Teacher who is led away from his newly formed purposes by association with other students in connection with the same · University, but in some other professional training. If he do resist the temptation,

his struggle will leave him but little disposed to blame others who have fallen in the conflict which had so nearly overcome his manly strength.

The success of the Normal School, I need hardly say, however affected by the external surroundings, must mainiy depend upon the Principal and his powers. Few places are so difficult to fill wisely as his. You shall find fifty men well enough fitted for a Governor or a President, for every one who is in all respects adapted for the principalship of a State Normal School. Nature makes few men who can come up to all the requirements of the position ; and those whom she does make do not usually grow old. David P. Page, the first Principal of the New York State Normal School, was not thirty-eight years old when he passed away to the better land. That he has lived demonstrates the fact that Nature sometimes does make the needed mer!

But let us not demand the unattainable. There are many true men, perhaps too modest to confess their own goodness, in the Teacher's profession now, whose labors in the Normal School would prove invaluable to the State for all coming time. Let us consider briefly the characteristics required. ' He should be what has sometimes been called "a live Teacher.” He should be acquainted with what the times are doing, and with what educational men are accomplishing in the profession. He should be without special hobbies, and willing to receive the new that is good, without casting carelessly away the old that has been successful. He should have faith in God, the people, and the children. He must have a large fund of common sense; and he must have an abiding, earnest sympathy." with the Public School. He must be familiar with teaching in its principles and its practice. While it is of no detriment, but rather a benefit, to have taught a portion of his professional life in other than Public Schools-as Academies or Colleges-yet his first love should be for the “ People's Colleges," and his first desire for their welfare and elevation. Familiar with the best methods of organization and discipline, he should be willing to wait without discouragement for the seed he may sow in Teachers' hearts to spring up and bear fruit, slowly, if need be, among the children and youth of the State. He should have energy and will. Meeting opposition calmly, he should put it down manfully. To personal insult he may be exposed, and that he can patiently live down; but the true systems of instruction he should be willing and able to defend whenever and wherever attacked. He must be able to secure the respect and love of the pupil-Teachers, and must have a conscientious sense of his deep responsibilities as leader and trainer of the Normal husts. He must be a prudent General, but his heart must be warm in the cause; and he must be able to use that influence, nameless indeed, but powerful among the impressible minds of his charge, by which their ambition and their efforts shall be duly aroused and directed as Teachers in the Public Schools. Details should not disgust him, for the Teacher's success depends upon details. He need not necessarily be learned in all the wisdom of the ages, but that which he is to teach, and which should be taught in the Institution, let him know to the smallest fraction. Let him be thoroughly honest. Examinations in Schools have not always been so conducted as to show the truth; let him have no skeleton to be concealed in his closetno shabby work in his classes to be covered over upon the examination day. He must not pretend to possess universal knowledge; and if his pupil-Teachers do not know of what they speak, let him teach it is more manly to confess ignorance than to lie by subterfuges, or by words, whose purpose is to conceal their ignorance. He will make mistakes sometimes in judgment, as do all men sometimes ; but through them all his manliness will be apparent; and manliness is better than eren success here in this world—not to speak · largely of the world that is to come. Patient, persevering, using the right word at the right time, loving his work, and believing in its fundamental importance to the future of the State, not proud, not hasty in speech, but gentle and a gentleman in the full sense of that much-abused werd, he must go on from week to week, from term to term, until his earthly task is done.

The Principal's labor is not accomplished in the class-room. His influence goes - beyond. He has to establish a confidence and a sympathy in the pupil-Teacher out

side of the Lecture-room. He must study their character, and use the influences adapted to fit them, in the high sense of fitness, for their work. His words of counsel must so come as not to sound merely like official preaching, but as drawn forth by personal interest. And this cannot be successfully counterfeited. He must have the Teacher's power of love, and be swift to a knowledge wisely the good traits; and as wise to show how and why the less di sirable traits of character should be changed. His patience must not degenerate into tameness and cowardice; and his will must not, under any provocation, become the exercise of lawless strength.

With all these qualifications, he will not be able to develop every candidate who may be sent t) the Normal School into a Teacher who shall be a model of success in after life. Nature has something to do in this matter of teaching; and where she has failed to do her part, no degree of artist skill in pupil-training can produce the desired

result. The sculptor must have his marble before the perfect statue can appear; and · in the care of our Normal Principal there must be a living soul. But every one who

can become a Teacher at all will be immeasurably helped by his influence; and those who cannot, can be kindly told of their inability, and saved the disgrace and loss which would have followed their attempted labors in the Public Schools.

Nor is the Principal's task completed when the graduates of a given term have received their parchments. He should be a welcome guest among his brethren of the profession, whose sympathy with his work can be manifested in numberless ways. In vacations, when other men rest from all labor, he should, whenever possible, spend much time in obtaining his rest by change of toil. At the County Institutes his influence should be felt whenever he can attend in vacation; and even in term-time, if he has assistance enough in the School, he should be willing to go out for a lecture or a lesson where Teachers are to be aided and the School made known. He should visit the Public Schools in these vacations, with one or more of his own pupil-Teachers, if that may be, and give a cheering word to faithful Teachers in retired country districts, where it is likely no word of cheer would otherwise be heard. If men in Private Schools, where their pecuniary interest are concerned in the number of pupils that may be obtained, can find energy to travel out and electioneer for pupils, the Normal Principal has surely a right to go out and work for the State, to counsel with the people and suggest to the waiting youth, who need only a word of invitation, the advantages of the State Normal School for those who wish to teach for two or three years, if not for life.

Mr. Page went out, in his first summer vacation, through the central part of New York attending Institutes : the Normal Board making an appropriation especially for his expenses ; and after that his vacations were usually spent in different portions of the State in this missionary work. The State Superintendent used to say he “ could tell where Mr. Page had spent his vacations by looking over the catalogue of the State Normal School for the following terin,” because his tours were always followed by new students seeking the Institution where Teachers were trained for their work. Without these indefatigable labors upon the part of some one-and the Principal is always the best one—it is doubtful whether in most States a Normal School can become sufficiently known to command the attendance of half the persons who need and who would be willing, if they knew of them, to secure its advantages.

I have mentioned New York as an instance where energetie work commanded success. In New Jersey success was secured by similar exertion. The Principal arranged the inside workings well, and then began the outside work with a will, People began to wake up; and pupil-Teachers came, poorly prepared, it is true, but still those who could become noble Teachers by patient perseverance in their training. None were rejected; and the work was continued by faithful assistants and by unwearying toil outside, until to-day New Jersey stands at the head of the States in this great matter of Normal School instruction, - The Assistant Teachers should be of like spirit with the Principal --willing to work, and to modify their peculiar methods, if a greater harmony of action would thereby result for the more complete success of the Institution. They should be to the Principal a repetition of the Aaron and Hur who stayed the hands of Moses through the weary battle day; and if they are, the victory will as surely come as in the olden time it came to them.

Intimately connected with a State Normal School, and as I think an essential part of it, is the Model (or Experimental) School, or School for Practice. This is, in effect, a Public School properly organized, and includes pupils in all stages of advancement, from the alphabet to the higher branches of an ordinary English education. Under the superintendence of skilful permanent instructors and the general supervision of the Normal Principal, the pupil-Teacher has here the opportunity to see the principles and spirit of his theory tested and illustrated, and not only to observe their application in the hands of others, but to apply them himself; thus learning by precept, by

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »