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very large portion of the young get no more school education than these afford, and that the character of the advanced schools depends largely upon the thoroughness with which the work of the lower grades is done, the importance of the elementary schools becomes manifest,
Much difference was found in the condition of the schools in the various towns visited. The High Schools generally are well conducted, and the methods of instruction adopted are to be commended. In some instances, care enough had not been exercised in the admission of candidates, and the bad results of imperfect classification were painfully visible. But, on the whole, these schools are an honor to the towns, and are having a beneficial effect upon the schools below.
In some of the villages of the larger towns an excellent system of graded schools prevails. The grammar grades are, however, generally better taught than the grades below. In only two or three instances did I find first-class Primary Schools, though several might be mentioned as very fair schools. In the Primary Schools, and in the primary work of the ungraded schools, more than one-half of the teachers that came under my observation are following the old methods, long ago discarded by advanced educators. The little ones are taught the names of the letters by a slow and most uninteresting process, and to spell out their words in their first attempts at reading, as though the naming of the letters were suggestive of the correct pronunciation of the words they compose. The style of reading found in such schools is without expression or naturalness. The elementary instruction in arithmetic is generally better than that in other subjects; but in some schools, this also is of a very poor quality. The difficulty seems to be, that the teachers do not take in the idea of education in its reference to the scholars, but rather as having some supposed relation to the text-books. Consequently, rational and effective methods of teaching are not reached.
The question arises, Why this deficiency in the Primary Schools? It is not because of intellectual inferiority on the part of the teachers. Many of these are the best scholars that the High Schools graduate. They are bright, energetic, winning; and they control well their schools. But they are without any training in the recognition of the objects to be aimed at in teaching, or in any understanding of the processes by which these objects are to be gained. They need only this training to become successful teachers.
Another question naturally follows: Why do not committees obtain teachers who have not only the proper literary qualifications, but the requisite training? Because such teachers cannot be found in sufficient numbers. There is not a supply of properly prepared teachers, nor anything near a supply, for the ungraded and the elementary schools. Cities and large towns, able to pay good salaries, can have the best graduates of the Normal Schools, and the most experienced teachers. The smaller towns are left to do the best they can with the smaller means at their disposal. The testimony of the committees seems to be, that they get as good results from the best graduates of their High Schools as from such Normal graduates as they have from time to time tried; and the reason is obvious. But these committees understand very well that their High School graduates would make far more effective teachers, could they have some training for the special work of the school-room.
Besides the unfamiliarity with educational processes, there is found in ungraded schools, on the part of many teachers, a want of skill in classifying the scholars and laying out their work. Very few seem to understand how much can be accomplished by general exercises, or by the combining of two or more classes for special purposes. The management of an ungraded school is an art in itself, and one in which special instruction cannot fail of being highly advantageous to the teachers.
I am so strongly impressed with the great want of a supply of teachers trained in methods of teaching, and of school management, that I cannot refrain from suggesting that something more should be done in this direction than the Normal Schools are now doing. Could there be organized in connection with these schools, or in other localities, training-classes, to which those possessing the required literary qualifications might be admitted for the sole purpose of being taught methods of managing and teaching elementary and ungraded schools, and trained in the application of the principles involved, I am convinced that there would soon be a great improvement in
these classes of schools. The course of study and training need not, perhaps, be extended beyond a single term.
In only a few of the towns I have visited, is there any attempt in the schools to teach drawing. The committees, however, are turning their attention to this subject; and in some of these towns, arrangements will soon be made for regular instruction in this important branch of school study.
Boston, January 1, 1876.
REPORT OF E. A. HUBBARD.
To the Board of Education.
GENTLEMEN :-It is only about four months since I entered upon the work assigned me by your Board, and it is not my purpose to make an extended report.
I have visited about twenty towns and cities in my section, some of them to make arrangements for Institutes or to give lectures, more than once. In some of the towns, I have visited nearly all the schools ; in others, only a portion of them. I have attended six Institutes in the five western counties, giving an evening lecture in three of them, and instruction in all of them, and I have visited three of the State Normal Schools, that I might learn something of the character of their work, and be entitled to an opinion of their merits. The school committees have generally received me cordially, and have done what they could to promote the object of my visit; but as the Board has not before had any agent in a portion of my section, some have hardly known in what way they could make my services most available, though ready to enter heartily into any plan that seemed to promise good results. They have accompanied me to the schools, sometimes inviting others to join us; have often put the classes into my hands, or have called out special classes which they desired to have me drill. They have called the teachers together upon an afternoon or an evening for a conference with me, and sometimes urged me to speak to the people. I may have misjudged, but it has seemed to me that, to work in the schools with the classes, and the teachers, is better than to observe simply, and make a note of my observations. If a school is not well taught, making a note of it, and reporting it to your Board, would not improve the teaching. On the other hand, if it is well taught, reporting the fact would not make the school still better, though such a report would be encouraging.
I have therefore regarded my work in the schools and with the teachers, as the best part of my work,-better than formal lectures to teachers or to the people. The teachers, for the most part, have seemed to enjoy these informal meetings; have been ready to ask questions, to enter into a discussion of principles, to receive suggestions, and not unfrequently, to name some subject that they wish me to unfold, or some exercise that they wish me to conduct in their schools.
There is a marked difference in the schools of different towns. In some towns I find good school-houses, convenient, well supplied with globes, maps, books of reference, etc., etc., well educated teachers and an interested committee; while in others, unsuitable houses, entirely destitute of the helps requisite for successful teaching, teachers without professional, and with hardly a general education, and with very little supervision. Some of the schools are such as a town may well be proud of, while others ought to satisfy the most ardent admirer of the district school of fifty years ago.
My observations cover so little space, and so limited a time, that I have hardly a right to generalize, but if I may be pardoned for doing it, I would say, that while I think there is much truth in the common remark, "As is the teacher so is the school." I think this is also true,-as are the school committees of the town, so are the schools of the town.
E. A. HUBBARD.
SPRINGFIELD, January 20, 1876.