« PreviousContinue »
quently are not devoid of this peculiarity; and it is especially a marked feature of officers in the army. In truth, functionaries of every class, in a greater or less degree, are apt to bear the impress of conceded if not real power. They move like planets among their satelites, and perhaps unconsciously exhibit an air of distance and dignity comporting with their station or fancied pre-eminence.
But common sense, intercourse with society, love of nature and human sympathy all conspire to self-forgetfulness. Possessed of these ennobling qualities, the teacher, the clergyman and functionary of every grade are lost in the man. When our hearts beat in sympathy with other hearts, and the love of self is blended with love for those whose elevation and happiness we are aiming to secure, Then it is that simplicity, earnestness and sincerity will be the only distinctive marks of office and responsibility.
FREQUENT EXAMINATIONS OF SCHOLARS.
BY PROF. GEO. BECK, PLATTEVILLE NORMAL SCHOOL.
EXPLANATION.—The following paper was read before the State Teachers' Association last summer. Being under the impression that it had been forwarded for publication, the writer has often wondered why so able a paper should not find a space in the Journal of Education. Owing to long-continued illness of members of my family and myself, my own papers had been neglected; and on putting them to rights, the within document was found. So that whatever cen. sure may be due, on account of the non-publication of the article, is not due to the publishers of the Journal, but to the undersigned. Justice to the author has caused this explanation.
A. EARTHMAN, Secretary. In every department of life in which certain qualifications, either physical or intellectual, are required for eligibility or promotion, some means must be employed by which the possession of these qualifications may be determined.
Theoretically, at least, this is implied in the organization of every school, for even if no required standard of attainment is demanded for admission to school or class, it is very desirable that we may by some means be able to test the progress of the pupils under our charge ; but with regard to graded schools in which admission and promotion are made to depend entirely upon the pupil's reaching a definite line in his progress, it becomes a matter of special importance to know whether he has actually reached that line.
In practice there are two methods by which this is usually determined, one a record of daily recitations, the other, examinations or reviews at longer intervals of the work passed over.
Some teachers make one or the other of these alone the basis of gradation, others combine both.
There appears to be a tendency among our best educators, especially in the higher grades of instruction, to discard the former for the latter, as giving in every respect more satisfactory results.
The difficulty, if not the absolute impossibility of so marking daily recitations as to represent justly the relative standing of the pupils in a class, must I think have been the experiennce of every one who has attempted it.
While I write I am reminded that there must be at least one exception to this. In a newspaper just received is a report from a large school in another state.
Among other items equally astonishing, is a list containing the names of nearly eighty different pupils who were perfect at every recitation during the term in the studies under which their names are arranged,” and each is reported in from one to four studies, under several teachers. Such a record, one would snppose, must afford supreme satisfaction to the teachers and those pupils reported, if not to the others.
Where daily marking is done according to the most approved methods, if necessary care is given, it requires considerable of the teacher's time. If he mark the members of the class as one by one they recite, the care required to estimate and mark accurately, withdraws his attention in part from the class work which requires it all, and if this is given his memory will hardly enable him at the close of the recitation to mark each pupil with that precision which justice demands, especially if the class is large; while if the marking is made upon
each pupil's estimate of his own work, as sometimes is done, it becomes still less reliable as a basis of comparison.
But these are not the only evils, or the worst ones, attending this method of teaching.
That the teacher may give his pupils as good a record as possible the tendency is to avoid questions which may not be answered directly from the text of the lesson, while the pupil, hampered by the fear of failure, strives to adhere closely to the language of his book, endeavoring to catch from teacher or classmate each indication, by word or look, of the correctness or incorrectness of his recitation.
The recitation should frequently take a range much wider than the strict limits of the lesson assigned, as its object should be to lead the pupil to seek new views and applications of the principles he has studied, and this will often greatly increase the difficulty of marking properly the work done by each individual.
After the best has been done, and supposing the daily marking to be for the time perfectly satisfactory, it is not by any means the best basis for classification or promotion, for this should depend not so much upon the character of each day's recitation, as upon what is more permanently retained, and this can only be determined by examination, carefully made upon the ground nominally passed over. This examination should be chiefly by writing, in those grades and studies in which it is practicable.
I do not now refer to examinations which are to glorify public occasions, astonish visitors and edify committees, but to those that belong to the real work of the school, and upon which each day's honest work shall tell.
Concerning the argument that daily marking is a sharper spur to faithful daily work, than examinations held at longer intervals, my own experience, which, I think, is not peculiar in this respect, has convinced me that when promotion is based upon the latter, it furnishes a greater stimulus.
The pupil should learn that his daily lessons are not like grains of corn in a measure, from which, if one or more be taken, it only diminishes the mass of that amount without injury to what remains; but, like the link of a chain, each one of which must be connected with its neighbor, and separately welded, or the whole is useless.
Then, too, the written examination affords a more tangible and, at the same time, impartial basis of class standing; one whose justice, if not admitted by every pupil, is at least less open to the charge of unfairness than the other, and if promotions are to be made between the same grades, by different teachers, it would seem to be the only method not liable to very serious objections.
Another point, illustrating still further its justice, is this: that all the members of the same class are called upon for precisely the same work, which of course is not the case in daily recitation.
It is not as a basis of classification alone that the written review is useful. There is nothing else equal to it for showing to both teachers and pupils their respective weak points.
I well remember my own surprise and chagrin at the result of the first written examination to which I ever subjected a class. I thought I had taught them with reasonable success, and they appeared to be making satisfactory progress, but the examination opened to me some revelations I should not otherwise have received, and proved to be one of the best lessons I ever had on the “theory and practice of teaching."
I would like to see the record of a written examination of those
classes before alluded to, in which were so many perfect recitations. I do not unconditionally condemn all records of daily recitations, for they may, in some forms and under some conditions, have their uses, but not properly as a basis of class standing, or a test for promotion.
For want of some such test as a written review affords, many a pupil passes through his entire course of study, ignorant of the character of his work or the value of his acquirements.
The examination should not follow too closely in the track of the daily recitation, but should prove the use which the pupil can make of the tools that he has obtained and prepared by study and recitation. It should demand thought as well as memory, and for this the recitations should be preparatory, not in matter alone, but in method.
We are liable unconsciously to fall into ruts, and to trace and retrace them till they become so deep that it is almost impossible to get out of them without great danger to our vehicle.
By way of illustrating this, and at the same time affording a partial remedy, it would be well occasionally to have some one besides the teacher make out a list of the topics or questions, upon the ground over which the class is to be examined, for minds and methods differ, and we obtain the best appreciation of a subject in its completeness, by combining views taken from different points of sight, as in photosculpture the statue is modeled from a great number of photographs taken from as many different sides of the figure, and combined by a single camera. When an examination is for promotion from several schools of the same grade, it may very properly be confined more closely to the prescribed course of study than on other occasions.
In examination, as in recitation, care should be taken to avoid what a friend calls“ positive suggestion,” but the pupil should be thrown entirely upon his own resources, and held personally responsible for whatever he may justly be required to know, concerning his subject. One important use to which an examination may be put, and usually should be, is to require the pupils to revise their papers, and at some time not long after, to have a review of the points upon which failures were made. Care should also be taken that the character of the questions, or topics given, should, as far as possible, be such that special cramming may not avail to pass the examination if the previons preparation has been neglected.
It is objected by some that written examinations do not afford a fair basis of comparison between different schools, and there is reason in the objection ; .but the difficulty lies, not in the examination itself, but in attributing to its results more than belongs to them or than they themselves claim.
If the questions are judiciously selected and the examination fairly conducted, it does show the comparative standing of pupils in the branches upon which they are examined, and this is all that it can properly claim to do, though incidentally, of course other things are more or less involved.
The character of the community in which the school is located, the material of which it is composed, the home influences and training of pupils, their regularity or irregularity of attendance, and other cir. cumstances entirely beyond the teacher's control, will often operate to make his percentage greater or less than that of his neighbor; but of one thing he may be assured, that the better and more thorough his work, the better will his school be able to show it, and such work in any direction, though not brought out every time in its full effect, will have its reflex influence in every direction, and each part well done will “strengthen and support the rest.”
But above all, do not let your efforts degenerato into a contemptible strife for
cents. Scarcely any other course you can take will have so strong a tendency to dwarf yourself, to cramp and belittle your school work or to defraud your pupils of that high and generous culture which
you owe to them, by which they should develop into true and noble men and women. One of the most distinguished and experienced educators in the country once remarked in conversation upon this subject, that when hu saw an examination for promotion, on which many of the candidates stood among the nineties, he regarded it with suspicion.
Having briefly considered the objects and character of examinations, we come now to the subject assigned me for this time, “ Frequent Examinations of Schools."
I think they should usually be at least as frequent as once each month, but this can usually be determined better by matter studied than by time alone.
On finishing any complete subject it would be well at an early day to require an examination upon it, and at such other times as may be thought best for the accomplishment of the object proposed, and this in any particular case must be decided by those having it in charge.
In short, “Frequent Examinations of Schools” should be givenhow frequent depends upon circumstances.
EARLY EDUCATION.-So much of the success or non-success of life in after years depends upon early education, that this subject assumes à degree of importance which no parent, teacher or guardian should be unmindful of. The smallest part of our education is that which we derive from text books.