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Rural Supervision in the Future
IRVING S. SEARS, COMMISSIONER, FIRST DISTRICT, MADISON CO., N. Y.
SUPERVISION is the essence of school system of modern times. It is
everything or nothing. However well certified your teachers may be, however well equipped may be your school rooms, there is still the crying need of efficient supervision to give direction, force and emphasis to the work.
There is no phase of education more important than rural supervision. There are inevitable problems facing the district schools.
First, the enrollment is small and in many localities must become smaller. The districts in many cases cannot be combined, as children cannot be carried long distances with safety over bad roads and during inclement weather. Then, too, the numbers fluctuate so much from year to year; a few tenants may move out of the district and leave it almost childless, which makes the existence of many schools an uncertainty.
Second, the teachers in district schools are the least experienced, many hold the lowest credential which will entitle them to teach in these schools, and few have had any previous professional training. They are removed from the benefits that come from association with fellow teachers, they are without a principal or superintendent, and being thus isolated and removed from other educational influences need expert supervision more than any other class of schools. They are like a surgeon on a "Man o' War”—he can't hold a counsel of doctors or consult a specialist. They must work out their salvation, and salvation of their school guided by their own judgment.
Though the schools are small, we should not underestimate their influence. We must keep the school close to the people. Commissioner Draper says, “There should be a school within easy walking distance of every home in the state." Much harm has been done during the last few years by the uncertainty of the existance of the district school. The farmer is in constant fear of losing his school. He is unwilling to make further outlays for equipment until he is assured of the permanency of his school. Every movement toward centralization is fought by him as he thinks all tends toward the same end. A School Commissioner said to me not long ago, “ that within fifteen years there would not be a district school in New York State.” If this were to be so, the problem of rural supervision in the future would be a simple one. But the district school came into this country with the tiller of the soil, and it must be continued as long as a farmer lives on his farm.
No system of supervision will be successful until this question is settled. The district school has always been and must continue to be the most important branch of the school system. It is the beginning, and not the entd; it is the greatest and not the least, and should continue to receive all the assistance that can be given it. The district school has always been the source of the best material for the high school and the business world. It is going to continue to be so. The country school possesses a great advantage in the practical experience with the concrete things of life that boys and girls in rural communities have. These boys and girls take part in the actual affairs of life. The boys work on the farm tilling the soil, securing the crops, caring for the stock, breaking the colts, making sleds, carts, windmills, waterwheels and other machinery.
The girls assist in the duties of the house, also caring for the flowers and raising poultry. These experiences are the foundation for an education. These pupils receive a manual training and a course in domestic science that fit them for life, better than the courses in our model city schools.
The pupils in the district schools lack the stimulus and advantages that come from contact with larger bodies of students. But this can be overcome to some extent by contests of various kinds among the students. The home work of the pupils should be encouraged and directed by the supervisory officer. There should be a school department at the county fairs, and exhibits of the practical work of the boys and girls of the district schools.
The rural schools have rarely been supervised. The best that an ordinary commissioner can do with the amount of territory and the number of schools under his jurisdiction is to inspect. The commissioner has accomplished much by this inspection. The physical conditions of the school are greatly improved. The buildings and outbuildings are assuming a neat and healthy appearance. The surroundings are much pleasanter and the paraphernalia of the school, such as necessary supplies and apparatus, is much more satisfactory. The work of the commissioner in supervising the methods of teaching in actual work of the school has been largely suggestive. This is due to lack of authority and lack of an opportunity to see that his plans are carried out. The commissioner should have authority to approve the appointment of teachers. The adaptability of teachers to the school is an essential thing. There are more poor schools on account of misfits than on account of poor teachers. If the supervisory officer could place teachers in schools to which in his judgment they are adapted there would be few cases of removal for inefficiency.
The farmer with better roads, telephone, R. F. D., and the daily paper is in closer touch with the world, and he is demanding a school with conditions more like the grades in the high schools. He is demanding more than inspection, he wants his school supervised.
The supervision in the future must be real supervision, systematic, practical help to the teacher in every detail of her work. It must be supervisory help. The supervisory officer must be thoroughly acquainted with each teacher, with the pupils, and more than that he must be familiar with the conditions and surroundings of the schools. The supervisory officer should visit every school under his jurisdiction within two weeks after they open and assist the teacher in organizing the school. He should know the conditions that existed the previous year, and should help the teacher in making the daily program, organizing classes and grading the pupils.
The new elementary syllabus and hand book No. 25 will revolutionize the district school libraries. The patent libraries are going to be done away with, and dishonest book agents are going to be taken care of. We are going to have good, practical, sensible, usable libraries. The teachers now know what books are necessary, and they know where to get them, and the supervisory officer should insist that the trustees appropriate from the funds of the district a sufficient amount to obtain these libraries, and the supervisory officer should help the teachers to use them to the best advantage.
The welfare, efficiency and progress of the rural schools demand that the supervisory officer be free from partisan politics; that his territory should be small enough to enable frequent, helpful personal supervision of all the schools under his jurisdiction; that the supervisory officer be in sympathy with the rural schools and all its interests, and that he be capable of arousing educational enthusiasm throughout his district. The supervisory officer should enlist the interest of all the people in his district by frequent meetings of parents, pupils and teachers. His whole time and effort should be devoted to the upbuilding and uplifting of his schools and to the faithful performance of the duties of the office which he assumes.
Some Things Which, as a Teacher, I Must Possess
• I. A consciousness that the highest aim of the school is to develop power
To train and keep a sound and vigorous body.
Through neatness in person, because personal appearance is a silent influ-
Through continuous and rational industry, because industry begets effort.
Through social responsiveness, in school and out, which identifies one with
Through tact in securing desired results, in meeting all sorts of difficulties.
Through a forceful personality, which almost insensibly impresses itself
III. A success in teaching.
Through knowledge of self, one's strength and weakness, of books, of
Through patience, not passivity, an ability to wait for growth.
Through self-forgetfulness, a willingness to lose one's self in his work
Through love of children and of service, which finds an angel in the most unpromising life.
Through loyalty to predecessors and associates, which is Christian cooperation.
Through an active conscience, a ready response to right and duty.
ΤΙ faith in in men, and in the Divine. Samuel E. Hanwood in
What to Read in Public Schools
First and Second Grades
CARL HOLLIDAY, M.A., ENGLISH DEPT. UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA*
S a teacher of other teachers, I am constantly asked such questions as What
shall we read in this grade? What books are best for a child of such and such an age? How can we get boys interested in literature? What books should we have in our school library? This series is offered as a partial answer to such inquiries. They suggest a course of reading for each grade of the twelve years of public-school life. I have considered it best to preface each list with some remarks upon the child's physical and mental condition at the age for which that list is intended, and I have endeavored thus to make plain the reasons for placing books of a certain nature before children of a certain age.
It has been my constant aim to make this study of literature a study of life. Unfortunately our present system of education keeps the child away from the very thing for which it purports to prepare him; namely, life; and, therefore, until conditions are changed we should give him that picture of life, known as literature. For this very reason, stress should not be placed upon dates, forms, and remote sources of masterpieces. The teachers of the American publicschools are preparing children, not for university professorships, but for effective citizenship. Therefore, use literature for soul-culture and not as a mere memorydeveloper.
Costly books have not received mention in this volume. In the very best schools the library fund is deplorably meagre; and, therefore, we teachers must try to be content, oftentimes, with selections instead of complete editions, with a popular edition instead of a “ de Luxe.” But a good teacher can make a pupil forget the poorness of a binding through the richness of the thought. I would not undertake to state what edition of a classic is the best; it would be largely a matter of personal preference, after all. That each teacher may judge for himself, I will give at the close of this series a list of all the principal bookpublishers of America, whose catalogues will tell their own story. I believe that this list itself will come as a great relief to the professor who is constantly asked the question, What is the address of such and such a company?
Possibly, some teachers will not agree with portions of this little book. Perhaps I am wrong; perhaps they are. I beg of them to consider those words of Emerson's: The difference from me is the measure of absurdity. This question of the choice of books is, moreover, no common one; it sometimes seems beyond settlement. May I not plead, in closing, the words of the poet Vaughan :
“ As great a store
Is a rare scant performance." * Mr. Holliday was recently professor of English in Alabama State Normal School, and is the author of "A History of Southern Literature."
The Choice of Books
Of the making of books there is no end.' Year after year this is becoming niore and more a truism. What shall we read? We, wondering, ask. We are almost drowned by the flood of our own intellectual progress. Compilers bring to our rescue collections from “the world's best literature," series of “masterpieces," the "ancient classics," the “modern classics," this, that, and the other, until we are almost crushed by the weight of our very agencies of rescue.
In the public schools we wish to give our children some grasp on these mighty thoughts of the ages; we are most zealous in our desire to have the youthful mind long for a closer walk with those who have experienced, felt, and expressed in undying words. And this is well. We are sure that a great book is the precious life-blood of a great heart; we are sure that next to acquiring good friends the best acquaintance is that of good books; ” we are sure that "reading maketh a full man.” But what is best for these young readers ? From the vast library that has accumulated since the founding of civilization what volumes shall we bring before the eyes of our children? We dare not trust to chance. The “browsing” habit of reading is dangerous. Certainly the book that is fit for the man of twenty-one is not necessarily fit for the child of twelve. Just as certainly the book that is a joy to calm old age may be utterly distasteful to the man in youth.
First of all, therefore, this fact should be recognized: Make the book suit the child and not the child the book. A youthful book for a youthful mind and a deep book for a deep mind. Because you, as a teacher, are not interested in a certain volume is no proof that it will not interest a child. You may want facts and theories; but the youthful mind longs for the fairyland of imagination. And just here is where one of the many uses of school reading is to be found—that among the formal, unceasing and often soul-wearying grind of grammar, arithmetic, geography and the other “conventionalities” of education, we, by this means, may keep alive that "celestial spark”-imagination. “Unless the constructive, creative imagination be developed, the child cannot be the creative being he was meant to be for the good and glory of himself and of the world."
Here is where so many teachers fail in their teaching of literature. They try to turn every masterpiece into a sermon. They try to show, through Irving's Rip Van Winkle, that little Johnny should sit still back there in his seat and be a good little boy. Literature was not created for the purpose of preaching. A story that has more moral than story will never succeed with a child. Let the little one read his Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and nursery rhymes, and the pure joy obtained from the mere reading will do his soul good. Nor among older pupils should literature be studied to prove some philosophy, some creed, some doctrine. Literature is worthy simply as literature. It is the storehouse of the mightiest thoughts and emotions of the mightiest minds and hearts of all ages. Therefore induce your pupils to read widely, knowing that by the mere process of absorption their minds and souls will become stronger.