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improvement, scattered over a town, county, or the state even, together, as often as their convenience will allow, that by an interchange of views, and acquaintance with each other, they may form new bonds of sympathy, and channels of united effort in promoting its success. It is applying to the advancement of public schools the same instrumentality which has proved so useful in every other great enterprise of the day.
The earliest association of the kind was formed in Washington County, and within a period of a little more than a year from its organization, it has held twelve general meetings in the different towns in the county, most of which have continued in session through two days; secured the services of a local agent to inspect the schools, and deliver lectures in every district ; and by the circulation of books, periodicals and documents on this subject, has awakened a very general and lively interest, and laid the foundation of great and progressive improvements in the organization, instruction and discipline of public schools.
The Kent County association was formed in February last, and has held general meetings in most of the large neighborhoods of the county, which have in most instances been numerously attended by parents and others residing in the immediate vicinity.
The Smithfield and Cumberland Institute has held ten public meetings, and includes among its officers and members some of the most ardent and intelligent friends of education in the state.
The Rhode Island Institute of Instruction was formed in January last; and its officers and members, by attending and addressing public meetings in different parts of the state, have already rendered me very important co-operation, and done essential service in the cause of educational improvement.
A more particular account of the organization and proceedings of these associations will be given in the Appendix.
These associations should be extended so as to embrace the females, and especially the mothers of a district or town. Let the mothers read, converse with each other, and become well informed as to what constitutes a good school, and the fathers and brothers who are voters will be reminded of their neglect of the school interest of the district or town. Let them visit the places where their little children are doomed to every species of discomfort, and improvements in the seats, desks, modes of warming and ventilating school-rooms, will follow. There is a motive power in the ardor and strength of maternal love, if it can once be properly informed and enlisted in this work, which must act most powerfully and beneficently on the improvement of public schools, and the progress of society generally.
6. By assisting school committees in the selection of teachers.
Whenever called upon by school committees, and especially in reference to schools which from their location might become
under good teachers, models in all the essential features of arrangement, instruction and discipline, for other schools in their vicinity, I have felt that I was rendering an essential service towards “ the improvement and better management of the public schools," by aiding in the employment of such teachers. If but one good teacher could be permanently employed in each town, the direct and indirect influence of his teaching and example would be soon felt in every school; and his influence would be still more powerful and extensive if arrangements could be made so as to facilitate the visitation of his school by other teachers, or so as to allow of his making a circuit through the districts and towns in his vicinity, and give familiar and practical lectures and illustrations of his own methods of instruction. It is ne. cessary to the rapid progress of education that parents, committees and teachers, should see and know what a good school is, and feel that “as is teacher so is the school.” Whoever may fill the office of Commissioner of Public Schools, can render important service to the schools by keeping a memorandum, or entering in a book all applications from teachers, their names, age, attainments, moral character, experience, the kind of school they had taught, or should prefer to teach, the compensation they would be content to receive, their references, the places where they had taught; and on the other hand, the kind of teacher wanted by any district, the grade of school, number of scholars, rate of compensation, &c. &c., and thus assisting good teachers to desirable situations.
7. By encouraging the more extensive and permanent employment of female teachers.
In all the schools visited the first winter, or from which returns were received, out of Providence, and the primary departments of a few large central districts, I did not find but six female teachers; and including the whole state, and excepting the districts referred to, there cannot have been more than twice that number employed. This is one evidence of the want of prudence in applying the school funds of the districts, and of the low appreciation of the peculiar talents of females, when properly educated as teachers,—their more gentle and refined manners, purer morals, stronger interest and greater tact and contentment in managing and instructing young children, and of their power when properly developed, of governing even the most wild and stubborn minds by moral influences. Two thirds at least of all the schools which I visited, would have been better taught by female teachers, who could have been employed at half the compensation actually paid to the male teachers, and thus the length of the winter school prolonged on an average of two months. Convinced as I am from many years observation in public schools, that these institutions will never exert the in
fluence they should on the manners and morals of the children educated in them, till a larger number of well trained and accomplished females are employed permanently as teachers, either as principals or assistants, I have every where and on all occasions urged their peculiar fitness for the office. I have reason to believe that at least fifty female teachers, in addition to the number employed last year, are now engaged in the public schools of the state. But before the superior efficiency of woman in the holy ministry of education, can be felt in its largest measure, her education must be more amply and universally provided for, and an opportunity afforded for some special training in the duties of a teacher; and a modification of the present practice and arrangement of districts be effected.
8. By introducing a gradation of schools in the manufacturing and other populous districts.
It was very soon evident that in many of the large villages, and particularly in the manufacturing districts, the privileges of the public school were wasted in consequence of the large number of children of all ages, in a great variety of classes, which were crowded together under one teacher, or at most two teachers, in the same room. To remedy these evils, in some instances committees have been induced to classify the children according to their attainments, placing the younger and less advanced in a primary school, under a female ieacher, and the older and more advanced by themselves, under a well qualified male teacher.
It is in this class of districts that the work of improvement will go forward most rapidly under the operation of the new school law. In the prospect of its adoption, the inhabitants of Westerly have, within the last month, voted unanimously to reorganize their school system,--establishing three grades of schools to be taught through the year, and providing a thorough and liberal course of instruction for all the children of the community. Teachers, who enjoyed the confidence of parents in the private schools, have been employed for the public schools, and a tax sufficient to erect two new school-houses, and repair and properly furnish the old house, was voted without a dissenting voice.
9. By recommending and assisting in the formation of Teachers' Associations, or Institutes.
By the first designation as now generally used, is understood the temporary, and by the latter, the more permanent organization of teachers for mutual improvement, and the advancement of their common profession. Teachers in every town have been urged to hold occasional meetings, or even a single meeting, for the purpose of listening to practical lectures and discussions, or what would in most cases be better, of holding familiar conversation together, on topics connected with the arrangement of schools, on methods of instruction now practised, or recommended in thevarious periodicals or books which they have consulted, and on the condition of their own schools. But something more permanent and valuable than these occasional meetings, has been aimed at by an organization of the teachers of the state, or at least of a single county, into a Teachers' Institute, with a systematic plan of operations from year to year, which shall afford to young and inexperienced teachers an opportunity to review the studies they are to teach, and to witness, and to some extent practice the best methods of arranging and conducting the classes of a school, as well as of obtaining the matured views of the best teachers and educators on all the great topics of education, as brought out in public lectures, discussions and conversation. The attainments of solitary reading will thus be quickened by the action of living mind." The acquisition of one will be tested, by the experience and structure of others. New advances in any direction by one teacher, will become known, and made the common property of the profession. Old and defective methods will be held up, exposed and corrected, while valuable hints would be followed out and proved. The tendency to a dogmatical tone and spirit, to one-sided and narrow views, to a monotony of character, which every good teacher fears, and to which most professional teachers are exposed, will be withstood and obviated. The sympathies of a common pursuit, the interchange of ideas, the discussion of topics which concern their common advancement, the necessity of extending their reading and inquiries, and of cultivating the power and habit of written and oral expression, all these things will attach teachers to each other, elevate their own character and attainments, and social and pecuniary estimate of the profession.
One such Institute was organized in Washington County last winter, and held five meetings, at which written and verbal reports were made by teachers respecting the condition of their respective schools, the difficulties encountered from irregularity of attendance, and want of uniformity of books, the methods of classification, instruction and government pursued, and the encouragement received from the occasional visits of parents and committees. This Institute proposes to hold a meeting, after the teachers of the county are engaged for the present season, to continue in session from one to two weeks.
Arrangements have been made for opening Teachers' Institutes in other counties, to which all teachers, male and female, who are, or who expect to be engaged to teach in the public schools of the state this winter, have been invited to attend.
10. By an itinerating normal school agency.
With the co-operation of the Washington County Association, the services of a well qualified teacher was secured to visit every town in that county for the purpose, among other objects, of acting directly on the schools as they were, by plain, practical exposures of defective methods, which impair the usefulness of the schools, and illustrations of other methods which would make the schools immediately and permanently better. The same course will be pursued the present season in other parts of the state.
11. By preparing the way for at least one Normal School.
Although much can be done towards improving the existing qualifications of teachers, and elevating their social and pecuniary position, by converting one or more district schools in each town or county, into a model school, to which the young and inexperienced teacher may resort for demonstrations of the best methods; or by sending good teachers on missions of education throughout the schools of a county; or by associations of teachers for mutual improvement, still these agencies cannot sɔ rapidly supply in any system of public education, the place of one thoroughly organized Normal School, or an institution for the special training of teachers, modified to suit the peculiar circumstances of the state, and the present condition of the schools. With this conviction resting on my own mind, I have aimed every where so to set forth the nature, necessity, and probable results of such an institution, as to prepare the public mind for some legislative action towards the establishment of one such school, and in the absence of that, to make it an object of associated effort and liberality. I have good reason to believe that any movement on the part of the state, would be met by the prompt co-operation of not a few liberal minded and liberal handed friends of education, and the great enterprise of preparing Rhode Island teachers for Rhode Island schools, might soon be in successful operation.
12. By devising and making known improved plans of schoolhouses.
The condition of the school-houses, was in my circuit through the schools, brought early and constantly under my notice, and to effect an immediate and thorough reform, public attention was early and earnestly called to the subject. The many and great evils to the health, manners, morals, and intellectual habits of children, which grow out of their bad and defective construction and appurtenances, were discussed and exposed, and the advantages of more complete and convenient structures pointed out. In compliance with the request of the Committee on Education, a law authorizing school districts to lay and collect a tax to repair the old, and build new school-houses, was drafted and passed ; and in pursuance of a resolution of the General Assembly, a document was prepared embodying the results of my observations and reflections on the general principles of school-architecture, and such plans, and descriptions of various structures recently erected, for large and small, city and country districts, and for schools of different grades, as would enable any committee to act understandingly, in framing a plan suita