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BY A NEW SUPERINTENDENT.
EDITORS JOURNAL: I have not forgotten the parting injunction given
as the last Convention of County Superintendents adjourned, “ Write for the JOURNAL-good, practical communications.” But I have been so pressed with duties in the field, that hitherto I have neglected to obey that injunction.
The winter" campaign," however, is now over; and more from a desire to compare notes with fellow superintendents, before entering upon the summer's work, than in the hope of being able to comply literally, even by obedience to your command, I forward you this.
Entering upon this work of school supervision, for the first time, by appointment, to fill a vacancy, and assuming the duties of the position in the midst of the examination of teachers for the past winter schools, of course gave me no opportunity of forming a plan of operations, and left me free to look over and explore the field before determining upon a method of procedure. School visitation and intercourse with the teachers has been conducted this winter with a view to determine:
1st. What is needed to secure greater efficiency in and benefits from our common schools ? 2d. What lists can a Superintendent apply to determine with reasonable certainty a candidate's qualifications for teaching?
And in giving the results of my observation, permit me to say, if I fail to provoke a little controversy in this matter, or to draw out from others having more skill or experience than myself, views corroborative or otherwise, I shall deem my purpose in this communication to have failed.
In regard to the first point named, if I should say we needed better teachers, it would be considered a very trite remark, and one which would be readily assented to in every place where from any cause there had been dissatisfaction at ary time with any teachers. And if I demanded an answer to the question, " In what respect better?” the answer would be as varions as the localities making complaint. In one district it would be, capacity to teach advanced scholars; in another, more“ government;" in another, more tact for teaching small children, etc., etc.
Now in all these standards, it occurs to me that the demands made are not often the results of personal observation of parents and school officers, but the summary of complaints of the pupils, and indicate that the teacher has failed to interest more or less of the pupils in the
24 [VOL. II.-.No. 4.]
work of the school-room,-failed to so charge its very atmocphere with the spirit of its object, that every attendant shall feel there is something to be done, something to be accomplished, in every hour, by every exercise and in every movement of the school session. Therefore I say, we need teachers to engage in this work, who have a definite aim, an objective point, clearly in view in everything they undertake, and who will enlist their pupils with them in the attainment of it, whether that object is the accurate and rapid solution of abstruse mathematical problems, the proper analysis of complicated grammatical sentences, laying the foundation of great interest in and acquaintance with descriptions of this "grand old world” in which we live, in the primaty geography class, or conducting a recitation in reading in the first reader, and thereby inducting into the means by which “all things may
be known. We cannot make classical or scientific schools of our common schools, nor can we hope, except gradually, to bring about such a public sentiment that all our school houses will be models of convenience and ease, and be furnished wi:h all facilities for helping and illustrating the teaching.
Moreover, I have observed that it is not a uniform rule that in the largest, best arranged and best furnished school-houses, the best schools are found. It has ziven me real pain to find in some rf these the globes cove.ed with dust, and pushed into the corner, the outline maps used only for window curtains, to save the trouble of opening and shutting blinds, the charts and numeral frame discarded, and thus the public spirit and enterprise of the district turned from a blessing into a curse by being the means of forming or fostering habits which can only be detrimental in any station in life. Such things I have found, but not frequently, I am glad to say, and these have been offset by many, where with poor school-houses, leaky stove-pipe and broken stoves, green wood, little or no blackboard, no maps, charts or globes, patient, earnest, laborious, honest teachers were by the power of their skill and enthusiasm, quickening into life and activity every latent power of thought and expression and volition of their pupils.
Under the present system of qualifying teachers, it is the fault of superintendents, if teachers are employed who do not know enough to teach. A great majority of them are fully qualified in that direction, and yet our common schools are lacking in that efficiency for good which they ought to possess, because of this failure in teachers to address themselves to the work as I have indicated. Many who are failing in this regard, ranking as third or fourth rate teachers, might succeed much better than they do. This faculty is not altogether innate; in some measure it may be acquired, and superintendents ought to re
quire it, school officers ought to require it, and school patrons ought to require it, as a passport of recognition in the profession of teaching.
In regard to the second point mentioned, I have already indicated my judgment of tests to determine teachers' qualifictions, and it is upon this cheory that I have arranged my“ questions” for the Spring examinations. I have observed that the most successful teachers, almost invariably possess the power of logical and simple analysis-by this, I mean a common sense way of dissecting—which they apply in almost every department of instruction, and which is almost universally relished by scholars of every grade; often have noticed that students in higher arithmetic or philosophy, would become as interested in the recitation in the second reader or intermediate geography, as the classes engaged in those branches. Such teachers also make great use of the blackboard or slate for illustration. It is required of the pupil to do, immediately and accurately, whatever and all they have been helped to conceive. Now such tests as will develop a teacher's "faculty" to seize upon and use the most correct and simplest forms of elucidation in any branch, it appears to me are better tests of qualification to teach, than any power to bring to bear set formulas of any character to produce the correct answers of questions.
This power has a corallary in a certain nimbleness-or alertness, perhaps, would better define it; hence in the application of tests, I deem the time given or taken to "answer," an important element. Many times one half the efficiency of a school, is beaten out of it by being dragged over protruberances, and the effect is not mitigated by the fact that the inequalities are furrows of a well plowed field. On one of my visiting tours, I was accompanied by a venerable friend, who is in lively sympathy with educational progress, and whose memory still holds in vivid distinctness the methods of " long ago.” One of the schools we visited in company, was taught by young lady, small in stature, fragile and delicate in build, but keen and sharp and black of eye, and quick of movement, both in mind and body; the school-house was small, awkwardly constructed, without facilities of furniture of any kind, and it was filled full of pupils, one-half of whom were larger than the teacher, and the largest proportion of these were boys.
66 Well now didn't she jerk those big boys about lively?” was the remark which expressed my friend's idea of the teacher's method. It was a compliment. Of course he referred to mental, not physical processes; there was no time for anything but business. She had caught and conquered by guile. As an high priest I blessed her for it, in the face of the Psalmist's bene diction upon guileless hearts. Paul's "craftiness,” wherewith he caught those Corinthian's with “guile," was my justification.
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At the concluding meeting of one of the Teacher's Associations, which has been held regularly in the town of — during the winter, the closing exercises consisted of “comparing notes”-each teacher responding upon roll-call, by rising and stating wherein they should manage a school differently than during this winter to secure more efficiency. There was a great deal of unanimity upon the points: More general exercises; more attention to review; more preparation for class work; more hard work all around; less dependence upon punishment to secure order. And this from the teachers who “ more abounded” in these very things than almost any other in the district. If by any means I succeed in helping these in their work, or bring their like in spirit and power, into the field, I shall look for steady iniprovement in our schools, and count my labors in this, to me, new sphere of action, not altogether in vain.
WEIGHTS, MEASURES AND COINS.
BY MOSES B. BLISS, WEST EAU CLAIRE.
The origin of measures and weights is as old as civilization, and may be traced to a very ancient date. A precise notion can be formed of the magnitude of a line in no other way than by comparing it with another line of known length, for the interchange of ideas of measure is not entirely arbitrary, but fixed by nature, and intelligible alike to all mankind. This seems to have been perceived in early ages. Hence originated the denominations of measures taken from parts of the human body, or from other natural objects; as the hand, the foot, the cubit, the span, the fathom, the barley corn, the hair-breadth, which, though not of an absolute and invariable length, have a certain mean value sufficiently definite to answer all purposes required in a rude state of society. But as civilization advanced the necessity of adopting a more precise standard was felt. And the inadequacy of such measures as the foot, the cubit, etc., (referred to the human body) would be most apparent in application to itineracy, or the estimate of great distances. In order to avoid this inconvenience recourse was had to other methods of estimation, but which in fact amounted only to descriptions more or less vague, and not to measures. Thus in ancient authors we frequently read of a days' journey, a days' sail; and even at the present time we hear of an hours' walk, and so forth.
In looking among the objects of nature for a standard of measure perfectly definite, and at the same time invariable and accessible to all mankind, a very slender acquaintance with geometry and natural philosophy will suffice to show that the subject is beset with innumerable
difficulties. In fact nature presents only a few, if any such elements, which, with the aid of profound science, and a refined knowledge of the arts, can be made subservient to the purpose, and none at all which are applicable without such aid. Attempts to do so we shall hereafter show.
The oldest of the English standards in existence, the yard, dates from the reign of Henry VII, but it has long been disused, and that which, till the year 1824, was considered the legal standard, was a brass rod, in breadth and thickness of about half an inch, placed there in the time of Elizabeth.
Various attempts were made, between the two above dates or periods, to obtain uniformity and accuracy.
A second standard was constructed by Bird, in 1760, similar to the former, and declared by the act of 1824 to be the legal standard of the kingdom, in which the unit of measure for the first time defined in the following terms: “ The straight line or distance between the centers of two points in the gold studs in a brass rod, now in the custody of the Clerk of the House of Commons, whereon the words and figures standard yard, 1760,' are engraved, shall be and the same is hereby declared to be the original, genuine standard of that measure of length or lineal extension called a yard.” The rod at the time of measurement was at the temperature of 62° of Fahrenheit's thermometer.
ENGLISH SYSTEM OF LINEAL MEASURES,
The yard, as already stated, is the unit of that measure, and is divided into three feet, and the foot into twelve inches. The multiples of the yard are poles, furlongs and miles. The relations of these different denominations are exhibited and their decimal proportions shown in their well known tables. Measures of surfaces and measures of volume or solids are measured by yards, feet and inches, either square or cubic, expressed in the table decimally.
For all sorts of liquids, corn and dry goods, the standard measure is declared by the acts of 1826 to be the Imperial gallon, the capacity of which is determined immediately by weight, and remotely by the standard of length in the following manner: According to the act, the Imperial standard gallon contains ten pounds avoirdupois weight of distilled water, weighed in air at the temperature of 62° Fahrenheit, barometer at thirty inches. The pound avoirdupois contains 7,000 troy grains, and the contents of the Imperial standard gallon are 277,274 cubic inches its subdivisions being pints and quarts, and multiples -pecks, bushels and quarters.