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BY FRED GLAFKE, JUN., MENDON, MICH.
The law provides that the boards of examiners shall grant certificates to such applicants" as shall be found qualified in respect to good moral character, learning and ability to instruct and govern a school.” Examinations enable us to decide in regard to only one of these legal requirements. While they are all equally indispensable in the ideal teacher, it will be the aim of this paper to deal with the second of these cardinal virtues and the manner of ascertaining the mental qualifications of the teacher.
The question naturally arises, how and how often shall the teacher be examined ? Examinations, like other tasks, if worth doing at all should be worth doing well. It seems hardly probable that the qualifications of a candidate can be correctly judged by giving less than ten honest questions in each of the following subjects, viz: arithmetic, grammar, geography, civil government, U. S. history and physiology. A smaller number may suffice in the other branches required for third grade. Care should be exercised in the preparation of the questions, to select such as will not repeat a principle or process contained in others of the same set. Thus it would be a waste of time to require the square root of a number in one question, and in another to require the diagonal of a square, having given the length of a side. The questions should contain the essentials of a subject and very few of the “polite” and “elegant” principles or facts. We should ask fair, open questions and mark the papers closely. Unnecessary work should not be required to exemplify a given principle. It is deemed a more sensible question to require the interest on $500 for two years, seven months, six days, at six per cent., than on $342.37 for two years, seven months, twenty-nine days at seven and three-quarters per cent. It can not aid the examiner in the least to load a question in this way and only tends to kill time.
Much has been said of the state questions, pro and con. It has always been difficult to please everybody. Different county boards maintain different standards. Some require an average of 80 per cent., others 70 per cent., or 75 per cent. Some establish a minimum limit, others do not. In some counties the applicant must average 80 per cent. in all branches and not fall below 70 per cent. in any in order to obtain third grade; in others it is only necessary to average 75 per cent. in all. A teacher informed me that he attended an examination in which a fellow-applicant fell below 15 per cent. in arithmetic and received a third grade certificate because he “made up” on the other branches and brought the average above 75 per cent. These being facts it should occasion no surprise that such state questions as the last two sets should not be popular in all parts of the State.
Different examiners mark the same paper differently. Steele in his “Astronomy” says, “much amusement may be had in a class by the comparison of the moon's apparent magnitude. The estimates will vary from a saucer to a wash-tub.” Perhaps the variety of opinions on the same paper is not so great as in the case of the moon's magnitude, yet we know there is a variety. These variations are caused by various circumstances—real or imaginary“the questions were difficult," "applicant lacked time," and numberless other causes, each having a bearing on the examiner's judgment. Any plan that does not provide fair questions and allow ample time is defective. In some counties (my own among the number) candidates for third grade are expected to complete in one day and this, I presume, is quite generally practiced. Would it not be better to devote two days and be less charitable in the marking? I believe too little attention has been given to maintaining the standard of the third grade. It should be more difficult to obtain a third grade, but the difference between the third and the second should not be so great as we have been in the babit of making it. We should guard well the outer gate, but when once admitted, every inducement should be offered the teacher to produce a desire for something better. In 1886 there were in the state of Michigan, 11,122 qualified teachers; of these 288 held state or normal certificates; 193 held first grade, and 512, second grade. In other words 10,129 legally qualified teachers out of a total teaching force of 11,122—91 per cent. of the whole number-held only third grade. These facts speak for themselves.
On the whole it is better to have all the questions for the year furnished by one authority. A true teacher ought
A true teacher ought to be the last person in the world to complain of the severity of examinations, and I believe that the chronic grumbler either does not understand the object of examinations, or is using the trade of teaching (you can not call it profession) as a stepping-stone to something higher (!)
How many persons have sailed the occupation of teaching into a haven of some more agreeable profession? Of the 11,000 teachers in the state, about 3,200 make teaching a permanent occupation; in other words, two out of every three teachers in this great commonwealth are using teaching as a means to acquire something else. Whether teachers can do the best work in school while contemplating the advantages and studying the possibilities of some other occupation or condition is a question I leave for you to decide.
Does not this suggest something radically wrong in our laws or methods of licensing? Why is not medicine or law made a stepping-stone to teaching? Because it is so easy to become a legally qualified theacher and, by comparison, so difficult to acquire a legal status in the two professions named. It is not contended that the standard in those professions is too high, but that in our own it is too low. No system of examinations can of itself make the best instructors, but it certainly might be made to work a great benefit. The education of our youth is the dearest interest of our people and should be protected against incompetence and mere pretension. To do this the teacher must be protected against unjust competition. Page says: “ The measure of public protection will be in exact ratio to the teacher's protection. Is it
not necessary that something be done to elevate the standard of the practice of teaching? There is as much pleasure, generally, in the pursuit as in the possession of a desired object, and the object is usually prized in proportion to the labor or effort expended in obtaining it. Hence, if a teacher's license shall in the future mean more ability and greater proficiency in the subjects taught, teachers will more fully appreciate the honor of being legally intrusted with the education of the young, and this will reflexively produce in the teacher a desire for something still better in the way of license. Our best teachers among those who make teaching a permanent occupation strive to hold the higher grades of certificates.
How often should the successful teacher be licensed? About 90 per cent. of the teachers in this state are licensed annually. (Saloonists are also licensed or "taxed" annually.)
Pharmacists, physicians, and lawyers receive a perpetual license. Ought our law to make the teacher's license perpetual and thereby place the instructor on the same footing, in that respect, with the professions, or ought successful teachers to submit to the process of examination at the end of one, two, or four years? I believe the standard of examinations should be very much elevated and the license for all grades above the third made perpetual, or perpetua) after the candidate should have held one probationary license and have given some evidence of his ability to instruct. receiving third grade the teacher should be required to hold a better grade. If anything of this sort is attempted, it will, of course, meet with opposition. No reform was ever yet contemplated without meeting with more or less opposition. Those of our taxpaying community who have no further interest in the work of education than to pay a certain sum annually would probably see nothing in it except the increase of teachers' wages.
The plan would undoubtedly be favored by our best teachers, who have done their duty in self-improvement and habitual study, and who are not afraid of examinations.
It would be favored by those patrons who have the best interests of the schools at heart.
It ought to be favored by every fair-minded person who gives the subject earnest thought. We have met here as examiners, yet many of those present are teachers; but whatever the proportion of non-teachers among us, we must recognize the fact that whatever will elevate and benefit the teacher must, indirectly at least, help the school. There is no doubt that severe, thorough examinations to warrant perpetual licenses would cause a scarcity of teachers for a time in some sections of the State. This would cause an increase of wages, and call in more and better material, and the result would be better teachers and better salaries. The question ought not to be decided by the sentiment of people who see more use and glory in a dollar than in a dictionary.
At present teaching is not a profession. Theoretically it is somewhere between a profession and a trade. Practically it is a trade with a very large percentage of the workmen only apprentices who are not really in earnest in regard to making teaching a permanent occupation.
I believe the schools of this State are as ably conducted as is possible for them to be under our system of examinations for the past few years. The new law makes no material change in this part of our educational system. The change relating to supervision will undoubtedly prove beneficial, but until something is done to raise the standard of examinations, we need look for no very marked increase of proficiency in the teaching force of the state.
After giving this subject some thought and study, the writer respectfully submits to the association for discussion, the following conclusions,
1. The standard for third grade should be materially advanced.
2. The license should be perpetual—or perpetual after a probationary license.
3. All questions should be furnished by the state board of education.
4. The granting of "specials” and “permits” should be prohibited except in cases of the most extreme necessity.
SUPERVISION OF DISTRIOT SCHOOLS.
BY C. L. BENIS OF IONIA.
In superintending any work it is important that the superintendent be acquainted with all that is necessary to make the most of the work under bis supervision. Then if he has the qualities of a general be can marshal his forces in such a manner that the work will be done as by a single mind. In any place where supervision is necessary these qualities should exist to a greater or less degree.
In most cases the works of men are doomed to decay. The magnificent structures of ancient Babylon, of Nineveh, the old structures of Greece and Rome have, many of them, no traces of their former existence, yet millions of dollars and much time and thought were expended upon them. The builders of mind are doing a work that is to last for eternity. How much more, then, should time, money and thought be put upon the work.
To dictate a code of laws or rules that would enable a person to superintend this work would be a thing impossible; because different circumstances would so modify the rules that they would be of but little value, and a person could do nearly as well to start out for himself.
More than this the superintendent finds the work in such bad shape, and the workers so little acquainted with the material upon which they work, that he has to prepare work and workers to carry out any plan. In doing this he has to lay plans and make rules as the work advances.
I do not mean by this that books on the subject of school supervision are good for nothing; on the contrary, they are of great value as suggesters. Papers and talks at an association are valuable in the same way.
The work of the secretary is not simply to plan work for others to execute, but he must plan and teach others to carry out his plans.
Our schools and the money expended on them are for the benefit of the children, and nothing should interfere with their interests. They are young and have the world before them, and the kind and amount of training they receive in school will tell wonderfully on their future prospects and happiness. That this training be thorough, and that the teachers do good work in character building, the secretary must be at work in the schools, in his study, in the school meetings, and with the patrons and officers.
In his study he should lay out a course of work to be pursued by the pupils in his county. This course, in my judgment, should be somewhat uniform