Слике страница
PDF
ePub

less, under this law, a greater number of dismissions will take place the current year, than occurred during the last.

Do not facts like these admonish all the friends of education, and enjoin it upon the State, to vise all practicable means by which the qualifications of teachers can be increased ? In addition to the Normal Schools,--some evidence of the success of whose pupils will be laid before the Board by Mr. May, late Principal of the Normal School at Lexington,- I wish to suggest another expedient,-one which has been adopted in the State of New York, for two or three years past, and which has proved eminently successful ;-I refer to

TEACHERS' INSTITUTES.

These are constituted and sustained in the following manner:

In the spring and autumn of the year, those persons, male and female, who propose to keep school, the ensuing season, assemble at soine convenient and central place; and not only form classes for mutual improvement, but they employ some distinguished teacher or teachers, 10 preside over their meetings and give them instruction. Here they are indoctrinated, not merely in the general principles of school government, the means and modes of order, discipline, classification, motive-powers, &c., but they go through the actual drill of classes and routine of the schoolroom. These teachers elect form themselves into classes, in all the branches they expect to teach ; they study lessons and perform recitations, just as is done in a school. The exercises are interspersed with discussions, and the evening is generally occupied by lectures on some topic connected with the great cause of education. The Institutes hold regular sessions from day to day, usually for a fortnight, though for a longer or shorter period, according to the ability and zeal of the parties.

During the autumn which has just closed, a large number of such Institutes were held in the interior and western part of the State of New York. Several of them, having niade pressing application to a distinguished teacher belonging to the city of

Boston, to attend and preside at their meetings, he complied with their request, and spent about a month, in different places, amongst them. He reports that their members were animated by a most earnest and praise-worthy spirit; ardent for improvement and gratefựl for any aid that could increase their fitness for the responsible duties they were about to assume;that male teachers, who are to receive but ten dollars a month, for their services during the winter, travelled fifiy or more miles on foot, to spend a fortnight of their time in attending these meetings, and that they contented themselves with any fare however meagre, and with any accommodations however rude,-finding their compensation in the mental and literary advantages to be there obtained. This is a noble spirit. It is a spirit which predestines the glory of the State and the wel. fare of its individual citizens. It is a spirit which, at present, pervades the State of New York more generally, and is acting more efficiently, than in any other state in the Union. I think our own people are not generally aware what and how much have been done for the cause of Common Schools, by the Legislature and people of New York, within the last few years. That State has the most munificent fund devoted to the cause of popular education that exists in the world. It has a far more comprehensive and efficient code of laws for regulating public instruction than any other of the twenty-six states; and its system, with but few exceptions, is most wisely arranged, and is now worked with a vigor and spirit unequalled in any other part of our republic.

Why cannot this plan of Teachers' Institutes, originating in New York, be adopted in Massachusetts? We have borrowed her system of District School Libraries, and it has found almost universal favor amongst our citizens. She has borrowed our system of Normal Schools,-having appropriated at the last session of her Legislature, by a unanimous vote of both houses, the sum of $50,000 for that purpose; and her Normal School is to be opened at Albany, on the 18th of the present month. Let us now adopt the system of Teachers' Institutes, which she has projected; and thus maintain that noble rivalry of benefactions which is born of a philanthrophy that cares more

for the good that is done, than it does who are the devisers, the agents, or the recipients of it.

Many Common School Conventions have been held in Massachusetts. These have been very useful in awakening public attention, in exposing defects, and in diffusing a knowledge of principles respecting arrangement, organization, &c. Valuable, however, as these conventions have been, they have not proposed, nor, from their nature, have they been able, to add much to the qualifications of teachers, as it respects the means and modes of instruction. But Teachers' Institutes propose, not merely the exposition of principles, but an exemplification and embodiment of them, in practice. The sessions of the Institute cover a period many times as long as that occupied by the convention; and the former embraces a range of objects far more ample and comprehensive than the latter. The Institute may eflect less, in interesting the citizens at large; but it will accomplish far more in qualifying teachers for their duty.

Besides the American Institute of Instruction, whose services have been recognized by the State, and whose good influences are well known, Teachers' Associations are organized in several of the counties. Some of them hold meetings annually, and one,-the Essex County Teachers' Association,-semi-annually. In no case, however, have their sessions been continued beyond two days, at a time; and, so far as I know, classes for mutual instruction have never been formed, nor has any organization into classes for drill and recitation, ever been attempted. It is obvious that such an organization would be not only the most effective, but the only way, for bringing out the merits and for exposing the errors, belonging to the every-day detail and routine of the schoolroom.

Were a small bonus,-just sufficient to pay an experienced teacher for presiding over and instructing them, and for defraying a few contingent expenses,—to be offered to the teachers, in any county, who would annually assemble for this purpose,I know not how the same amount of money could be converted into so great an amount of good. For the time being, the Institute would have all the characteristics of a Normal School. The candidates for teaching, coming to its sessions for the cxpress purpose of preparing themselves for immediate duties,

would come with receptive and eager minds; and every body knows how much more living and serviceable is the information which is acquired at the time when it is most needed, and when it supplies the demands of a pressing exigency.

Surely, were such Institutes to be opened here, but few of those who have enjoyed nothing more than common advantages, could be so morally insensible to the great responsibilities of a teacher, as not gladly to avail themselves of such an opportunity for improvement.

Ainong the most enlightened nations of Europe, as well as in this country, men, celebrated the world over, for their attainments in particular branches of science, are accustomed to meet together, for the purpose of enlarging their common stock of knowledge, and for en kindling the zeal of each other. Of this character, also, is the American Institute, which holds its annual Fairs in New York, for the encouragement of American productions; and the Mechanics' Association in Boston, for improvements in the useful arts. For more than twenty years past, the State has granted bounties to Agricultural Societies, for the advancement of that fundamental interest, in our community,—the agricultural; and cannot as much be done for Common Schools, on which all the higher interests of individuals and of the nation are so dependent, as for prosecuting researches into the regions of abstract science, or for perfecting the useful arts of life? Cannot as much be done for improving the children of the Commonwealth, as for improving its breeds of domestic animals?

In several towns in the State, local measures are taken, to enlarge the views and increase the aptitude of teachers. In Salem, an organization embracing all the teachers in the city, has existed for several years. The male teachers, having charge of the higher schools, have proposed to themselves a more liberal and comprehensive object than their own personal improvement. Their practical foresight admonishes them that the character of their own schools must depend, in a great degree, upon the condition of the pupils who enter them, from the primary schools. Hence they see, that increased qnalifications, in the primary school teachers, not less than in themselves, will redound to the advancement of their own schools. All

the primary school teachers, therefore, are embraced in their organization; and are invited to participate in their discussions. It was soon found, however, that the female teachers, owing to that modesty and reservedness so appropriate and graceful in the sex, seldom took part in the deliberations. To obviate this difficulty, the following expedient was devised: The name of each teacher is written on a slip of paper and deposited in a box. This box is then committed to an individual selected from among themselves, who is called the depositary or drawing-master. The names are so many lots. At each meeting, and they are held once a fortnight,—the drawing-master takes a name from the box, makes known, privately, to the owner, that the lot has fallen upon him or her, and before the next ensuing meeting, that individual is expected to furnish the drawing-master with a written essay, on some subject connected with the cause of education. The essay is read publicly by him, and the subject of which it treats is then open for general discussion. Thus, wherever there is a will there is a way, for all those who are sincerely desirous of improving the condition of our schools.

As a general fact, there is incontrovertible evidence that the qualifications of teachers are advancing, throughout the State. Still the demand for increased fitness, as made known by the committees' reports, was never more earnest than at present. The existing state of things, in one or two particulars, tends seriously to embarrass committees in the selection of teachers. The number of competitors for employment has greatly increased within a few years. Extended opportunities for education are giving a tolerable knowledge of the rudiments to a much larger number of persons. An aversion to manual employments, turns away many from the farm, the workshop and other industrial occupations; and these, in the more honorable and lucrative rank which school keeping now holds, are attracted towards this profession as an eligible resource. Another fact bears strongly upon the same point. The average compensation given to teachers is much greater in Massachusetts than in any other State. Hence, in addition to the increased number of applicants springing up amongst ourselves, compa

« ПретходнаНастави »