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Should Teachers be Re-Examined.
(By request we copy from the National Educator, Allentown, Pa., the following article on the re-examination of teachers.—Ed.]
Our old friend, Prof. H. W. Fisher, for many years County Superintendent of Bedford county, Pa., a native of Bucks county, who is now at Pittsburg, has written the following sensible article, which appeared in the Pittsburg papers a few days ago. He expresses our view and that of many educators so well that we cheerfully give his article entire. He says:
“While attending the teachers' examinations held in this city and Alleghany, il occurred to the writer that the teachers of Pennsylvania are overmuch examined, simply to gratify the notion of some people that they ought to be examined. Two hundred and sixty-nine applicants were working away at a set of technical questions, and of this number one hundred and twenty-two were not candidates on their first examination, but actual teachers, among whom were not a few who have passed this annual ordeal for seven, eight and nine years. Were it true that ability to answer questions in technical grammar and arithmetic is a measure of fitness to teach, there would be some excuse for these examinations.
But not one of the teachers on examination will enter her schoolroom on Monday better prepared for her work; indeed, these examinations have little to do with making teachers.
When in 1854 the act creating the office of County Superintendent was passed, the law contemplated but one grade of certificate, and no re-examination, except the holder was called to teach branches other than those enumerated in this act. When, however, the first examinations were held, the superintendents found it necessary, owing to the illiteracy of many candidates, to issue a low grade of certificate which took the name of provisional. This departure, it was thought, would be temporary, but from that date to 1867 these certificates became so numerous throughout the State that the Legislature legalized them, named the branches in which applicants must be examined, and authorized the issuing of professional and permanent certificates. At the same time the law provided that provisional certificates should be good for one year only, and that they could not be renewed without an examination. Hence, where superintendents obey the letter of the law we have these annual re-examinations. There is, however, no uniformity of practice on this subject. Some superintendents endorse the certificates of worthy holders ; others endorse none; some endorse those issued by themselves only; others endorse regardless. Thus, for thirty-one years have these provisional certificates been on the market with a value as uncertain as the whim of many who grant them, and what was originally believed to be a temporary expedient has grown to be a part of our educational system. It is an open question whether these re-examinations are of any practical benefit to our schools. They do not test ability to teach, nor are they an exhaustive test of scholarship. Many a worthy teacher who has studied the educational wants of children and the means for meeting said wants goes down before the nexperienced novice if both are placed on a regulation set of ex. iamination papers. Success in the school room measures one's ability to teach, and readiness to answer examination questions forms but a small factor in this ability. All superintendents should have the legal power to renew provisional certificates from year to year on the basis of merit and success in teaching, dropping those who do not succeed. At the next meeting of the State Teachers' Association, at Harrisburg, this subject will doubtless form one of the leading topics for discussion.
The Pathway to Success.
A young man in the city of New York had been several years attempting to build up a law practice; he had a slight acquaintance in the city, he was not naturally of a very social nature, and he had very little faculty of bringing himself to the notice of influential men. The work that had come to him had been done faithfully, but the stream was a shallow one, and seemed as likely to dry up as to deepen. The young lawyer became discouraged, and began to question whether he had not made a mistake in choosing a profes. sion, and even to fear that his life would be a failure. Just at this time a friend, also a lawyer, who was going into the country for the summer, invited him to occupy the house which his family were about to leave. Glad to have more commodious quarters at a reduced expense, he accepted the invitation, and found among his friend's possessions a large and valuable law library. It so happened that he had in his hands at this time a case on appeal to one of the higher courts; he had nothing else to do and the library was close at hand, and he spent the summer in a study of the case so thorough
and painstaking that he mastered the whole history of jurisprudence bearing upon it. He expected very little profit from it, but he had the satisfaction of doing a piece of work artistically and ideally well.
Autumn came in due time, and with it the argument of the case in question. It is a common saying among lawyers that cases are oftener won in the office than in the court-room. The young lawyer showed himself a thorough master of his case, and presented it with such clearness, simplicity, and vigor that he held the attention of the judges to the very close. One of these judges had already decided to leave the bench and return to general practice ; the argument of the young man arrested his attention, and resulted in a letter suggesting an interview. That summer's work bore fruit in a partnership in a leading law farm and in a practice which is to-day among the most lucrative and influential in the city.
This bit of history from actual life is repeated here as an illustration of a fact, which men are apt to forget in their moments of discouragement, that every life has its opportunity. At some time along the road, very likely at its hardest and dreariest point, success stands with outstretched hand. She is rarely discerned at the moment, but the man who uses every opportunity as if it were the great opportunity of his life is sure not to miss the crown when it is offered because its jewels are covered. Life is full of vicissitudes, changes, and discouragements; it is also full of rewards, prizes, and opportunities. These come often at the end of a long course of discipline and patience, but to every true worker in one form or another they do come at last. It is a battle in which there is no final defeat to those who strive lawfully; a race in which no wreaths are lost to those who run faithfully.
If you are at the point of discouragement, and are beginning to lose heart, think of the host of men who have plucked success out of the jaws of failure. Your hour of triumph will come in due time; work and wait.— Christian Union.
"Perfecting the Machine,"
It has been charged that the supervision of the present day is too much occupied with the “perfecting of the machine;" that it magnifies the importance of the mechanical and routine operations of the school ; that it mistakes the means for the ends; that it is too busy about the non-essentials; that it insists too rigidly upon uniformity in methods and results; that it treats pupils en masse and ignores individuality; that its preposterous programs and perpetual examinations are only contrivances for facilitating and enforcing cram, instead of means for promoting profitable culture; and so on to the end of the chapter. That there is a tendency to such faults is, perhaps, true. Some of them may even be quite prominent in cer. tain localities, and others in certain other localities; but sweeping assertions as to the general existence of this array of faults in the supervision, at least to any marked extent, seem to me unjustifiable, and when made they seem to be due either to ignorance or ill intent. But whatever may be the actual defects in our supervision the remedy is not to be sought by reckless and indiscriminate criticism but by the gradual process of training and bringing into the service the most capable and thoroughly equipped superintendents.
I have here a remark to make about the “ machinery” of our systems which of late has been a favorite subject of criticism especially among amateur educational reformers. They complain that too much attention is paid to the perfecting of what they call the “machine;”. that the “machine” is already too perfect; and, in fact, that the perfection of the machinery is its peculiar demerit and that this excess of perfection is one of the chief evils to be reformed. They tell us, further, that the present and past generations of superintendents, who have worked up this machinery to such a state of perfection have been for the most part but "hewers of wood and drawers of water;" that the men of the future must ignore this mechanical business and give their attention to what is more intellectual and spiritual. I have no objection to make to the demand that supervision should largely occupy itself with what is intellectual and spiritual. But what I have to say is this : The application of the terms machine and machinery to a school system has no meaning whatever unless these terms are intended to mean what we commonly designate as organization ; and organization is nothing more than a system of arrangements whereby means are adapted to ends for the production of the desired results. This is too plain to be disputed. This being the case, it is obviously quite impossible to make the so called machine or organization too perfect ; for it is certainly impossible to adapt means to ends too well. The plain fact is that the great and undisputed success of our city systems is the result of their good organization. The imperfections in the results (and they are not denied) are due not to the excessive persection of the organizations, the adaptation of means to ends, but to precisely the opposite cause,
namely, the need of still further improvement in these organizations. It is true that organizations can do nothing without the agency of living actors, but in the ultimate analysis there must be organization as a means of securing these agents; and the more perfect the organization the more success in securing agents of the right stamp. -City School Systems in the United States.
Suggestions to Teachers.
1. Get the sympathy of your class. If your pupils are interested in you, they can be more easily interested by you in their lessons. The love of approbation is a strong motive, if the teacher is liked by the pupils. The desire to please a kind teacher will lead to great efforts to concentrate the attention on the subject he teaches. Teachers should strive to be cheerful, kind, courteous, polite, and discriminating in all their intercourse with their pupils in and out of school. “Good mornings” are easily given, but not easily forgotten.
2 Get the confidence of your class. Let them see not merely that you regard the subjects you teach as of great importance, but also that you arouse no inquiring interest whose questions you cannot answer. Be prepared with your work. Acknowledge frankly your lack of information in regard to any question which comes up unexpectedly and which you have not before considered. If you do so your pupils will have implicit faith in you when you assume to speak definitely.
3. Be magnetic. It is not enough to merely attract a pupil's attention, it must be held. The teacher's manner has a good deal to do with holding the attention of his class. He should for the time make the pupils forget their individual personality and become one in aim and purpose with himself. How can this be done?
(1.) The teacher must understand his subject and have his lesson arranged so that he is not conscious of mental strain in teaching it.
(2.) He must believe his lesson to be important.
(3.) He must be earnest and enthusiastic, in order to stir up a corresponding zeal on the part of his pupils.
(4.) He must not be listless, cold, formal, or mechanical in his teaching.
4. Appeal to the natural instincts of a child. The following should be used as incentives to attention :
(1.) Curiosity. The desire to know, the inquisitive faculty that