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Mr. STRONGE school-keeping is the direct means of his material advancement, has The teachers
encouraged effort in every direction. More especially is this the case
with that not inconsiderable class of teacher with fair-sized school and - continued.
moderate ability, who, under the old system, could scarcely hope to pass the severe examination required for promotion to the higher grades. To such a man the difference between fair work and strenuous exertion was represented by a few-a very few-pounds of result's fees. Now, however, with a reasonable amount of professional skill, and careful and conscientious discharge of duty, he may expect his triennial increment in due course, and eventual promotion.
The question of outside preparation for school work has, of recent years received much attention. This is a matter which, I confess, I broach to teachers with a certain amount of diffidence, having a lingering feeling that while no direct or prominent rule of the Commissioners lays down the extent or nature of this preparation, I am urging the teacher to do extra work not included in his bare official duties. This is, of course, wrong, for all teaching, whether good or bad, is much improved by preparation, and for the young teacher some previous reflection on the points of the lesson is absolutely indispensable.
“One thing I invariably recommend—that is, that the teacher should reserve for his own use a set of the Readers in use in the school and carefully annotate and underline the books. But something more regular and definite is needed, something handy in form and easily inspected by the Board's officer, and I would therefore suggest that each teacher be required to keep a teaching diary in which brief skeleton notes of each day's work might be entered, so brief as not to make undue demands on the teacher's time, and so complete as to ensure
that precision and confidence which only preparation can give." Proficiency.
As regards improvement in the various subjects of the programme, this improvement is most marked 'in reading and writing, in composition, singing, and drawing. The knowledge of problem and mental arithmetic still leaves much to he desired. There are no subjects of the programme that show more plainly to the inspector the painstaking care and skill of the teacher than reading and penmanship. The mumbling tone in which the pupils once read is gradually disappearing, and again the teachers have copy-books of excellent writing to
show. On reading and writing Dr. Bateman observes : Reading "It is in reading that the evidences of increased intelligence are most
marked. The false grouping, the expressionless tone, the want of intelligence, and the indistinct articulation which characterised what I may call "results reading” is becoming less and less noticeable. I have only found reading bad in about six cases, or less than 5 per cent. of the schools.
Sometimes, however, an effort to banish monotonous drawling results in exaggerated emphasis and intonation, or where a difficulty has been found in making junior pupils observe the punctuation marks the children read into the context of the passage the numerals with which they are taught to mark the respective pauses ; the result is ludicrous.
"Tablet sheets should altogether be prohibited. The old programme of examination for teachers conspicuously neglected reading, and therefore produced a fair proportion of men and women backward in pronunciation, though apparently unconscious of their weakness, for their schools are unprovided with dictionaries.
“In some places the pupils omit the letter H in pronouncing such words as 'them' and 'this,' and incorrectly insert the same letter in the pronunciation of butter and kindred words.
“The teachers would do well to fix the central thought or leading feature, the very heart of the lesson, in the pupils' minds. The faculty of extracting with ease and quickness the pith and marrow of an author's meaning is a valuable acquisition. Readers dealing with Irish Mr. STRONGE. and English history are in common use. I only know of two schools where the Board's Readers are now used.
" Writing receives much greater attention with commensurate results. Writing. At the same time the subject is rarely taught on any scientific method ; I have heard a few times a good lesson on the proper heights of the letters illustrated on the black-board by use of the large parallel ruler; and on the proper and improper formation of S and kindred letters. One of my Dublin teachers informs me that he finds the vertical system of writing the easiest to teach, and the results appear to justify his opinion, for with a very poor class of children, and unsuitable furniture, he has taught his pupils to write well. Vertical writing appears to entail no risk of spine curvature and no straining of the eyes; it seems also to lend itself most readily to continuous writing, which is of much practical importance.
“ The same style of writing should be taught throughout the school. Experience shows that there is as much character in the writing of the old boys' from schools, where a particular style was obligatory, as in that of old boys' from schools where each one wrote as he wished. The great difference is that in one case the character is expressed in good writing, while in the other it is indicated by a scribble.
“ The teachers are handicapped in some schools by unsuitable furniture, and windows so located that light will not fall from the left. It is possible, however, in every case to have suitable pens, to have the copies properly passed, and to insist on neatness and accuracy. Habits of neatness, order, care, and accuracy help to form character.”
Mr. Dickie also concurs in the opinions expressed regarding reading, writing, and arithmetic
"In no subject, perhaps, has the proficiency increased more in recent Reading. years than in reading. It is rarely that I meet a school in which the pupils do not read clearly, correctly, and with a certain amount of expression. All classes above infants have two books at least to read, and with this variety, aided, perhaps, by the grouping of classes, the average fourth standard boy can read as well as the average sixth class boy of six or eight years ago. Of standard works Dickens is easily first favourite, though Robinson Crusoe was earlier presented in a cheap edition.
“ Writing, taught everywhere from the black-board, is steadily im- Writing. proving. I notice indeed in the infants' class a tendency on the part of teachers to hurry too quickly over the most elementary—the lines and pothook-stages. Composition is regularly practised -not always tanght-through the standards from third upwards. The facility attained is in general satisfactory:
“I do not consider the proficiency in arithmetic as in general of a Arithmetic. very high character. Progress is undoubtedly being made both in cal. culation and in practical or problem work, but neither accuracy in the former, nor flexibility of thought as regards the latter is sufficiently cultivated. Many teachers fail to see that a problem is of no value when it deals with only one operation, and may therefore be solved by a mere guess. The labour of inducing the younger children to think and reflect is very great, but the result once achieved is worth all the trouble.
“Recent changes in the programme which have placed the teaching of decimal fractions prior in point of time to vulgar fractions do not appear to me to have secured the end aimed at, for I rarely find decimals really understood in any earlier class than sixth.”
The training of the infant classes in boys', girls', and mixed Infants, schools is still one of the most unsatisfactory features in the National system. Infants require a special teacher and a
Mr. STRONGE. separate room. Such an arrangement is rarely to be found, Infants
except where there is an infants' department under a separate continued. roll number. Even in such cases from 70 to 300 infants may
be found in one room with from three to ten teachers over them. I have often seen 100 infants in a gallery, and three or four teachers attempting to give them instruction. Thus, even in large schools specially devoted to the teaching and training of infants, the organisation is so deplorably defective that the doubt will intrude whether it were not better to have no infants' schools at all. The infants fare only a trifle worse in mixed or boys' and girls' schools under 100 of an average where the organization does not provide a special room fully seated and a special teacher. They fare worst of all in a school under 50 where there is one room and one teacher only, for here the teacher must devote so much of his time to the standards that the infants have seldom more than one viva voce lesson daily, and spend a weary time. It is, however, a pleasure to learn that provision has been made to pay, after July of this year, a second teacher in all schools whose averages lie between 35 and 50. It should, however. be a pre-requisite condition that a second room should be provided; otherwise the advantage of having a second teacher will be largely discounted. The routine of an infants' school should be quite different from that of one for older children. The lessons should be shorter ; singing action songs, recreation and plays should alternate with the lessons in English and arithmetic, and such a system of organisation can only be carried out in a separate room. The infants' school day should close at one o'clock. By that time the children are so tired that it is quite impossible for their teacher to do any more effective work with them. A further improvement, which would apply not only to infants' schools but to all schools, is to remove all galleries and fully seat the rooms. It is only a few subjects which can be taught in a gallery, whereas all subjects can be taught in desks.
I might here suggest to the principals of the training colleges for women that they should have special classes for training mistresses of infants' schools. A King's scholar at entrance should at once specialise in her studies and practice for a position in an infant or a senior school,
Dr. Bateman has the following remarks upon the teaching of infants in his section :
“I know of one County Wicklow boys' infants' school, which has been practically reorganised by a close adherence to the suggestions given in the ‘Notes.' I observe that in the large city and suburban infants schools, of thirty-seven teachers employed, only eight have been trained. It appears to me very desirable that all teachers in infants' schools should not only be trained, but possess certificates in singing, drawing, and kindergarten. A teacher's influence is far-reaching, and the best talent should be employed for the little ones, as it is in the early years that habits are being formed ; habits of thought, habits of observation, habits of neatness ; in a word—character. The infants' schools might be more brightly conducted. The methods are usually rather 'wooden,' I rarely
find the work conducted as suggested in the Notes.' If it were, there Mr. STRONGE. would be a wonderful transformation for the better. I have had three of these infants' schools lately reorganised.”
The training of pupil teachers and monitors is one of the Pupil teachers most important duties a teacher has to perform, for these are aud monitors. the apprentices to the craft, and upon the carefulness and skilfulness of their training depends the quality of the teachers of the future. Many regulations have been issued during the last few years, all having for their object a more thorough instruction and training of these young persons. The time during which they are allowed to teach daily has been shortened, a higher standard of qualification is required on appointment, and more stringent iegulations as to their instruction, especially that with regard to criticism lessons, have been issued. These regulations have been, as a rule, loyally carried into effect, and owing to them the monitors are much more useful as teachers in the schools.
Dr. Bateman says :
The percentage of monitors who passed their final examination was in 1904 not quite 37 ; this year it rose to 75.
“ The provisions of the important circular relating to criticism lessons are imperfectly observed.”
On the same subject Mr. Dickie makes the following observations :
“No step in recent years has been productive of more benefit than the institution of criticism lessons for monitors. These young persons now devote to the method and manner of their work an amount of thought and preparation which must have very beneficial effects on their future careers I am speaking, of course, generally, for, the practice being only lately introduced, some slackness may exist with reference to it in certain quarters. I invariably on entering a school where a monitor is employed ask for the dated notes of the last criticism lesson and the teacher's verdict thereon, and I seldom observe any irregularity.
“The teaching of monitors in the ordinary subjects of their programme is, as a rule, better in those schools in which several are employed, and special arrangements made for their instruction. It is much to be desired that centres for the education of monitors and pupil teachers could be established at least in Dublin and Belfast."
One large pupil teachers' and monitors' centre has been opened at the Central Model Schools, Dublin. The class meets two days each week, Tuesday and Saturday Saturday, from 9.30 o'clock till 12 o'clock, is devoted entirely to elementary science. There are two laboratories and two lecturers. The Tuesday meetings are held according to time table for drawing, literature and composition, arithmetic and mensuration, book-keeping, and mathematical geography. There are 35 in attendance on Tuesday and 40 on Saturday. It does not require any words of mine to explain to the principals of training colleges the advantages that will accrue to them from the establishment and growth of such classes, in providing them with King's scholars much better prepared to
Mr. STRONGE. undergo a course of training than most of those they usually
admit. I have hopes that other centres will be established in other parts of the city.
There are a few classes in mathematics in the circuit, but they are not so numerous as I should wish. There are many classes in Irish, but as I do not examine in the subject I am unable to pronounce any opinion upon the worth of the instruction given. In one large school, however, I had to complain of the training and answering of a large staff of monitors. I was informed that the monitors were learning Irish, and had not time to study their own programme.
There are a few evening schools in the circuit, and these are rather continuation schools than primary schoo's. Where continuation subjects are well taught, these schools serve a useful purpose. They are, however, of little advantage where they attempt too late to accomplish the work which should have been done in the day school.
In conclusion I desire to make a suggestion to the teachers that they should frequently visit the parents of the children attending their schools, and advise them, if asked, as to the future of their children. There should, too, be an open day annually in every school, a great school "At Home," to which all the parents should be invited. The school-room would be decorated with specimens of the children's penmanship, drawing, sewing, etc., and the parents would be entertained with readings, recitations, dialogues, songs, etc. By this means a link of sympathy would be forged between teacher, parents, and pupils, a local interest in the school awakened, regularity of attendance increased, and the school and its teacher would be regarded with respect and affection in the parish. I was present at such an "open day" in the city of Dublin recently. Everyone-parent, child, and teacher-enjoyed the day very much, and went home greatly pleased.