Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

impossible to discuss any one of them without entrenching upon the others to some extent. Likewise, it is evident that each is capable of amplification into a paper of this length or more. This discussion will necessarily be more in the nature of an outline.

There has long been the thought wherever normal schools have been established, that there needs to be an application of the theory learned in the classroom in order that such theory may become more fully understood and more firmly implanted. Some might argue that the purpose of such a school is to teach would be teachers how to teach. However such an assumption would soon manifest its absurdity to any one who would reasonably consider the proposition. It requires only a little reflection upon the conditions under which such work is commonly carried on to realize that the teaching act so far as it applies to schools as now constituted, is not learned in a training school. Through the revelation and general application of principles of teaching, the young person may be said to be taught the teaching act, but scarcely otherwise. Serious objections may be raised to the above denial of power, but when one stops to think that much of the practice work of any one student is often confined to one, two or three subjects, and those frequently in the same grade, it is evident to any one conversant with the teaching problem at all that these would-be teachers are sent out without very much knowledge of the course of study from the subject-matter standpoint, and very little experience from the standpoint of child life. It must be, then, that this practice is used to fix some of the fundamental principles upon which the general problem of handling subject-matter and child life is based.

Negatively stated, the purpose of such a school cannot be the teaching how to teach any one grade even, for such an assumption would make the work of teaching the most wretchedly formal work that could be undertaken. From the subject matter side it might be so reduced, for that is more or less fixed and could be formalized. However, from the child side we are saved from this formalism for the living child will never permit the formalist to have such an easy time as would come from doling out what has been given in the normal school practice class. Positively stated, the purpose of such a school is to give the would-be teacher a better and more comprehensive grasp upon subject-matter; a greater interest in knowledge and a deeper desire to make such knowledge prevail; and experience in the application of such principles of mental activity and growth as will make this young person a thorough student of the problem of adapting material to a growing mind so that the assimilative process of the child's mind may have the best opportunity to function. To have the student know the subject as it has been organized, to know the general laws of mental activity as they have been reduced into laws of teaching, and to be a constant student of the process by which the child takes from the material presented that which he can assimilate to his own life are the things a training school may hope to have a reasonable share in doing. Let it be remembered that it is only a share the training school may have, for the task is too great for the student to compass in the time allotted.

If the above be done with a fair degree of success, it will not often occur that a supervisor of teachers will be disappointed on account of the failure of a new teacher who has been trained in a normal school. Such a teacher will not show her inability to cope with the problem in hand by saying this is the way we were taught to do it in the training school. The successful teacher will know that the specific activities in which she engaged in the training school last year have nothing to do with this present situation, save as these new conditions reveal the same principles in which she was so carefully trained the year before. Training schools must leave the students independent thinkers, persons with open minds for that which manifests any new turn of the principle involved, and must not make them formalists.

The above marks to quite an extent the relations that should exist between the training school and the departments of the normal. The departments do not exist for the sake of the training school, nor does the training school exist for the departments. Both exist that the student may be more fully led to see how subjects of study have come to be, and how this study of how subjects have come to be is a fundamentally interesting thing to a teacher. Both likewise exist that this student may see something of how mental activity has been generalized into the laws known as principles or guides in teaching and how by the play of mental

activity upon the organized subject-matter the mind of the child comes to be directed into those channels of thought that the world proclaims at this time as civilizing. From the above it is manifest that the co-ordination between departments and training school should be the closest possible. It is a co-ordination requiring the utmost activity of the man in the department, guided by the experience of the teacher who is capable of watching the application of the principles as they unfold before classes, not just one class. To adopt a fixed policy of having the teacher in a department work out all of the organization by and through teaching the material in a class or classes of children would be shortsighted indeed. In some cases it would work admirably, perhaps, but in more it would be hazardous to all concerned. Besides, the person at work upon the organization of subject matter needs to see it in its application by some one other than himself, at times, to get the exact perspective of the thing. To adjust all of the departments to the notions of those of a training school would be to argue that one or two people had all the wisdom of this teaching business and that this wisdom would die with them. Usually the frailties of humanity prevent the realization of the needs here to any great extent. That experimentation is an expensive process, that energy is being dissipated on every hand, , and that confusion of the utmost kind is possible from the lack of definitely driving home the work of the departments is beyond the possibility of contradiction. However, it takes a very big man or woman to direct a training school and do it in harmony with the principles of organized subject-matter of a department. It likewise takes breadth of view upon the part of men and women in departments to be told that their organization is falling short, and that they must set about finding the cause of failure. Everybody is ready to say that the ideas of co-ordinate effort should prevail, that it is not at all unreasonable to have this happy coordination; but it must not be forgotten that there are frailties among teachers as among other people, and as a result the thing is

not easy.

For whom and for what purpose shall such a co-ordination be made ?-it may be asked. It is simply for the purpose of the student who is preparing to teach. It is to enable her to grasp more fully the needful things stated in the discussion of the first point. It surely is not for the sake of having the normal school write all the courses of study and dictare all that shall be done in the schools outside. Such a policy would be the ruination of not only the normal, but of the schools themselves. Such a policy would destroy the consideration of the second element of all school work and would argue directly that all children are the same and must be put through the same mold. The supervisor outside the normal school and the teacher outside, even though trained in the normal, must be left free. That the beneficial results of this co-ordination between training school and departments will find its way into the organization and presentation of subject-matter in the schools outside will be undoubtedly true, for it should be an organization in harmony with the principles of the whole school problem and not a forced condition.

We have already said much concerning the relation of this work to the student teacher. All normal schools say that two things are needed by this student. The relative emphasis is usually a much debated point. As stated above, this teaching act is not single but triple. It involves a knowledge of the thing taught, a knowledge of the child activity and an acquired ability to adjust the subject-matter to the child's interests and powers. With respect to the first, it will be necessary, even when the grade and high school work is well done, to still instruct the teachers in subjectmatter, in order that they may see the subject in its process of becoming a subject and thereby be able to divide, organize and emphasize properly. However, there is still a woeful lack of knowledge of the most elementary facts of subject-matter on the part of many would-be teachers, as one of my students found when he investigated this problem for another purpose last year. This is what he says:

“The lack of knowledge of some of the simplest facts of subjectmatter was astounding. This lack was not manifest wholly among those entering the normal, but it was apparent among those who were candidates for graduation as well.” The character of this paper is serious, and for that reason I refrain from including some of the assembled data. One is tempted, however, to use sarcasm as the most effective weapon with which to assail entrenched fadism, as did Collier's and The Ladies Home Journal, recently. However, it is sufficient to say here that either the time the normal school allots to itself for giving a teacher's mastery of elementary subject-matter is too short, or else the normal schools are making too much of outside activities in many cases; for the students do not go out with subject-matter well in hand, nor with the proper spirit of investigation concerning subject-matter.

When they are given the opportunity to teach, these student teachers show from their very questions that they have not mastered the subject-matter in its organization with reference to the grasp of the child mind. They leap from one question to another so remote in significance that the child is unable to follow at all, and gets the impression that geography or history is a matter of jumble. These would-be teachers have not seen that a teacher's knowledge of a subject comprises more than a knowledge of the facts. His knowledge comprises an organization of facts carefully selected, thoroughly subordinated and properly arranged for the child mind. That students fail to realize that there is a teacher's knowledge of a subject is manifest from the answers I have received scores of times to the questions of what constitutes a teacher's knowledge of a subject. Invariably the answer has come that it is more in quantity of the same sort of knowledge as the pupil is supposed to acquire.

Another student studying the same topic approached it from the other side. She says: "Professional training prepares the path for the student by which he may travel from the recitation room into the school room. After the student has been instructed in the art of relating subject-matter to the child, each one is granted the opportunity of applying, in the form of practice teaching, his acquired knowledge. Before undertaking the task of teaching in the practice department, it is best that the student teacher observe a model school presided over by the most competent instructor. In this way the student teacher is enabled to see how a real teacher treats the problems of everyday school life.” If we are to listen to those who have taken our work, the most crying need of today is for more adequate work on the part of those directing observation. This part of the student's course must not be regarded as the first act in the professional career of the stu

« ForrigeFortsett »