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“ My reception here has not been what I expected, but first impressions are often deceitful, and I am willing to look upon it in that light. We shall soon come to a better understanding, I trust, and the first step will therefore be to get acquainted with one another. I have brought a daily register, and shall now proceed to enroll your names; and as there are so many large scholars among you, I hope you will assist me. How many of you can write tolerably fast and well ?”
Quite a number of hands were raised, and I selected four boys and two girls, who were to put down on a slip of paper the names and ages of the pupils, and also whether transient or permanent. My energy was somewhat rekindled as I saw the six monitors do their work in a business-like manner, and a tolerable state of order prevailed during the proceeding. The papers being handed to me, six new monitors were selected, and furnished with paper, for the purpose of making an invenary of the books in possession of the pupils. When I took the papers, thanking those who had assisted me, and remarking on the creditable manner in which the work had been done, every face seemed visibly brighter, ard I felt that the white flag of peace was gradually unfolding.
It was time for the afternoon reccss, and to avoid the confusion I dreaded so much, I asked the children whether they were in the habit of singing. Being informed that Mr. T. had taught them a number of hymns and popular songs, " Then let us sing · The Prisoner's Hope,'”
“ said I, “And when we begin the chorus, you may slowly march
I out into the yard."
Several “hip, hip’s” were uttered by a few impulsive boys, but I warningly shook my finger, and the "hurrah” was suppressed. The children sang the song, now so popular, with precision, and under the
, inspiring strains of the “ Tramp, tramp," they walked down the aisles and into the street. True, they marched the tramping words with a vigorous stamping of the heels, but seeing that I showed no signs of displeasure, they confined themselves to this one symptom of mischief. Many of the girls remained inside, singing song after song, and I listened with genuine pleasure to their fresh young voices.
. Recess being over, I conducted an exercise in reading, and then arranged a mixed spelling-class, in which the whole school took parts. All seemed interested, and I found a surprising proficiency in the art of spelling among those much abused “contrabands,” who seem intelligent and well taught, although rather lawless. Their scholarship is a credit to the teachers of the public schools; their conduct, I think, must be laid at the door of those who “ make or mar » God's noblest gift, a child's pure soul—the parents.
Our spelling exercises closed in time to admit the singing of another
song, and when the last sound of “ The Battle-cry of Freedom” had died
away, I stood alone in the open door of the school-room. The following four days of my first week in school were less turbulent than the first; no acts of open insubordination have forced me to resort to the rod, but cases of usiruliness and habitual laziness were by no means rare, and I entertain serious apprehension of the future. From ninety to one hundred pupils is twice the number a teacher can instruct with profit and pleasure, unless they are graded. Here I have every grade, from the primary to the grammar school, and only fifteen hours a week devoted to their instruction in the English branches! How to do my duty, and impart not only real knowledge, but also the sadly neglected ethics, is a mystery which I vainly try to solve. No matter how simple I make my lesson plan, some necessary branch is sure to be crowded out, and others are merely touched upon. '
Well, time will show a way out of this dilemma, I hope, and so I close my record for the first week. Looking back upon it I feel how granāly we plan our work, demi-gods in lofty resolutions--and on how small a scale we operate-dwarís in action; it is a bit of inferior work, but may be helpful by-and-by. With Mr. T's permission, I reduced the chaos on platform and desk to a semblance to order; the dirty ink-jars, bottles and rags have found an asylum in a closet under the platform, having discovered it one day; the books are all piled up behind the easel, where we cannot step upon them, and every other article has found a place where it is handy. Mr. T. ironizes my“ rage for order,” as he calls it, and prophecies its speedy end in the dog-days. But I had encouragement and help; the girls volunteered to assist me, and when the work was done, they all exclaimed how nice everything looked, and how new. Even the naturally careless boys said it wassomething. Oh, those boys; they are so incorrigiblv fond of slang!
BY P. DONNELLY, POMEROY SCHOOL, MILWAUKEE.
The teacher who has experienced no difficulty in teaching reading, is singularly fortunate, or possesses qualifications for that part of a teacher's duties which thousands would like to possess. In essaying to write on this subject, my purpose is not so much to “unfold the tale," of how to do it, as to induce others whose invariable success in teaching how to read, entitles them to speak with authority. However, if I only succeed in raising up mountains of difficulties, I shall be gratified when some daring genius will have cut a safe path across, dug a level
tunnel under, or, with some terrible explosive, blown them clear out of sight.
I have often wondered why I did not succeed better in teaching some children how to read. I have heard many others make complaints in the same direction. When I reflect on the many obstacles which must, necessarily, be overcome, I am surprised in just the opposite direction, viz., that I succeed so well! To train the eye of the child, to take in, at a single glance, the countless thousands of combinations of letters, each combination differing from every other, and yet differing so little, as to be barely perceptible, is a work stupendous in magnitude. Every distinct word is an individual picture to the eye, and every picture presents to the mind a new thought. The first obstacle which presents itself to us in teaching reading is that of form, and, though a preliminery one, oftentimes hard to overcome. Teachers who have had experience in teaching children to read the alphabet, can all testi y as to the difficulty experienced in making them perfectly familiar with the twenty-six pictures of the nursery gallery. All those call to mind some bright little eyes which spent six months, and, perhaps, a year, in tracing the curved and straight lines of the letters, and, yet, were forgetful of the names of some. The indifference with which the modern system of teaching treats a thorough knowledge of the names of the letters before undertaking to read words which contain connected ideas, I cannot regard otherwise than as pernicious in its effects. So prevalent has the habit become, of teaching children the names of words without first teaching them the name of the letters, and next the name of the syllable (a, b; ab: e, b; eb: i, b; ib: etc.) that pupils no longer consider it necessary to spell every word of the reading lesson, and a consequent dependent spirit is cultivated. Under this new system the pupil is deprived of the power of helping hiinself, and when he stumbles or falls, depends entirely on the teacher to help him. While I would not entirely resort to the old method of teaching reading, I would be studiously careful not to neglect it. Everything new is not an improvement on everything old; and, in the manner of teaching reading, the old system, as a whole, is far better than the new.
It is a pleasant theory to assume that a child can learn the name of a word, just as quickly as he can the name of a letter. But as letters are the elements of which words are composed, we should not lose sight of the old practice of building on a solid foundation, upwar... In other branches of teaching, we are unanimous as to the propriety of resorting to a knowledge of the elements on which the science or art rests. This principle holds good in teaching reading as well as in teaching other branches. It has been truthfully said that “repetition is the mother of learning;" but, sometimes, certain plans may be introduced which will
greatly lessen the necessity of repetition. In the matter of teaching reading, a great necessity exists for a plan which will render the pupil's necessity for the repetition of letters, syllables and words, no longer imperative. If any teacher has that plan, he would confor a boon on thousands, by speedily imparting it. I have thus far only considered the difficulty of mastering the obstacles which the forms o words present. This I regard as the most serious obstacle to be overcome. When the pupil can, without hesitancy, express every word at sight, the work of teaching him where, and how long to pause: what words require, and to what degree, emphasis; where, and what inflections should be used, will be, to say the least, an easy matter.
Great progress has been made in the manner of teaching Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography, Penmanship and History, but, in teaching reading, I think our system, so far as it may be called a system, is worse than it was a quarter of a century ago. It is true that more people learn to read now than then; but this does not affect the position. My opinion on this subject may be wrong, and may, perhaps be the result of not being a good reader myself, therefore, incompetent to teach others. But I give it for what it is worth, hoping to see soon, from abler pens, the true theory.
THE WASTE OF SUMMER SCHOOLS.
BY ALBERT SALISBURY, BRODHEAD.
In school expenditure, as in other things, an intelligent economy is always desirable. But would it not be well if some of the self-constituted watch-dogs over district treasuries would tax their brains to find some other possible form of economy than the single one of “bearing,” (to borrow a term from Wall street), teachers' wages. To say nothing of better houses, and their location in more favorable places than treeless cross-roads; of better tools for the teacher's work; and of a more careful selection of teachers, with a view to greater permanence in their employment; might it not be well to inquire if the annual outlay, more or less, could not be made productive of far larger results, if applied in a more reasonable manner as regards the arrangement of terms in the school year?
The majority of country school districts have from six to eight months of school in the year. The winter term usually continues but thrce, or at inost, four months, while the summer term is oftener four, and frequently five months in length. It generally begins about May 1, and extends through all the hot weather of the season, thus covering
that especial part of the year when the labor of the children is most needful at home, and when all the hindrances to mental energy and tivity are at the maximum.
Most country boys above the age of ten have no school privileges except during during the winter term, which is apt to be made shorter than the other, simply because teachers must be paid somewhat higher wages in winter than in summer. The consequence is that the boys ere robbed of their fair share of school benefits. Yet the girls and small children do not fare so much better as might seem to be the case, even though they go, each year, through the weary round of a summer school. .
It is my deliberate opinion, the result of experience and observation, that not one in four of schools kept in July and August is worth the travel to and fro, saying nothing of the pecuniary outlay. Let any one who is not yet convinced of this, take a day's ride through the country in mid-summer, and see the very school-houses begin to nod; or, better yet, let him walk a mile or so in the sun to any country school-house, and spend a day within. If he can keep from drowsing, let him note the mental as well as physical suffocation that must prevail, and ask himself how much it is all worth.
A few districts have already adopted the plan of holding eight or nine months of school in each year, with three terms, so arranged that the boys can attend two of them, at least, and covering the hot months with a long vacation, after the custom of city schools. But not all think that they can afford this. Can a school year of six or seven months, then, be so divided as to avoid the folly of the present plan? A mere suggestion may be offered: Let school be opened about the middle of September, and hold until near Christmas. Allow a vacation of two weeks for the holidays, and then continue until about March 1, when the boys will be needed at home, to “ to get up the summer's wood.” This will give the five months required by law. A short spring term can then be added, which should close soms time in June. This is not presented as the best arrangemeat possible, but only as much better than the one so prevalent at present. One thing I may add: let the teacher then be hired for the whole year, at a uniform price. The ends to be gained are, as are already indicated, first, to give the boys a better opportunity; second, to increase the general efficiency of the schools by shunning the summer heat and its consequent lethargy.
But if any change be wrought by which the present ignorant and inconsistent waste of money and labor can be avoided, it must be begun by a wholesome agitation on the part of teachers and county superintendeuts, or the districts will never awaken from their placid following of “ the traditions of their fathers."