Page images
PDF
EPUB

layed improvement, merit our most thoughtful consideration. The teacher's vocation from the vastness of its influence for good or for evil, demands and should have the best talent and energy that can be procured; and any proper means that will tend to cause teachers to improve rapidly their address, appearance, and bearing, to become more cultured, to develope their minds and expand their views, to increase their stock of true information and their power for real teaching, and that will tend to harmonize, systemize and utilize all their efforts, unify their plans of school government and their methods of training and teaching pupils, should be adopted.

THE PLAN FOR PROVIDING FOR TOWX SUPERINTENDENCY OF SCHOOLS.

The following seems to me to be a plan, which if adopted in conjunction with state and county supervision, and state normal schools and county institutes—what we now have—would be of incalculable benefit to our free common schools: It is to let the legislature provide:

1. That the district clerks of each town which is now or may hereafter be organized in this State, and has not adopted or may not hereafter adopt the “ The Town System of School Government,” together with the clerks of the joint districts, the school houses of which are situated in such towns, shall constitute the town board of school directors for such towns.

[Then, as the adoption of the “ Town System of School Government creates for the town adopting it a “ Town Board of School Directors,” each town in the State would have such a “ Board of School Directors." And by proceeding in part according to sections 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12, and wholly according to sections 8 and 13 in chapter 128, general laws 1869, an executive committee would be constituted for each town in the State which is not already provided with one. (See School Code, 1870, pages 137-139.)]

2. That the supervision of the public common schools for each town in this State shall be vested in a town superintendent of schools, whose term of office shall commence on the fifteenth day of August and continue for a term of two years, and till his successor is appointed and hired, and his contract is signed.

3. That the town superintendent shall be a duly qualified teacher, holding during all of his term of office, a first or second grade certificate from the county superintendent of the county which includes the town in which he is appointed and employed.

4. That the law and the executive committee shall entirely ignore the three things, as follows: 1, his place of residence; 2, his religious belief; 3, his party politics.

5. That he shall be appointed by the “executive committee” of the “ town board of school directors," and he shall be hired or employed by this committee in the same manner as other qualified teachers are employed by said committee, or by a district board; his powers and duties shall be prescribed by law; and his compensation shall be from the treasury of the town in which he is employed, from moneys collected by the town treasurer for this purpose, and shall be paid monthly. His contract shall be in writing, shall be signed by the town superintendent and by the president and secretary, and shall specify his wages per year as agreed upon by the parties.

6. That he shall have a general and a particular supervision over all the public common schools in the town for which he is appointed and employed, and, under the direction of the executive committee, he shall have the general and the particular management of such schools; and that he shall report to the county superintendent of the county which includes the town in which he is employed, as sooon as he shall have ascertained, the name of each teacher employed, the wages to be paid each teacher, the number of each district or sub-district and the name by which it is generally known in the vicinity ; also, that he shall at once report any change of teachers that may be made during

the school year.

7. That it shall be his duty to spend the same number of hours in school each day that is required of other teachers; and that he shall divide this time equally or as near it as the circumstances will permit, between the different districts or sub-districts and departments.

8. That he shall have power, and it shall be his duty to convene all the teachers of his town on the Saturday before his schools begin, and to consult with and advise them concerning school government, the objects for which schools are instituted, and the methods of governing training and teaching to be employed in them, with a view to harmonize, systemize and utilize all their efforts, and to unify their plans of training and teaching pupils and their modes of conducting schools ; provided, that none of the teachers employed in his town keep Saturday as their Sabbath ; but if any of the teachers keep Saturday, the day of meeting shall not be Saturday, but it shall be such another day as shall be most convenient for the greatest number of the teachers.

9. That it shall be his duty during his first and every alternate circuit to spend two full and consecutive days in each school or department; being there in the morning to see the school begin, and there through the day till its close. The first day he shall spend in observing closely all that passes, and in taking such notes as he may need at any future time. The second day he shall call the school to order, take full charge of it and teach it all day; while the teacher shall sit by and observe and take notes. The next two days he shall spend in another school in the same manner and order; and so on till he shall have visited all the schools in his town.

10. That it shall be his duty, during his second and every alternate circuit, to spend one full day in each school or department, teaching the school, while the teacher shall go to some other school or department, as directed by the town superintendent, and stay all day, and observe closely and take such notes as will aid her to improve as a teacher. The next day the superintendent shall spend in another school in the same way; proceeding thus until he shall have visited all his schools a second time. Then he shall begin again as before, and repeat these operations as often as he can during the school year.

11. That it shall be his duty to organize a “town teachers' association” for his town, and to call and conduct, at least, one meeting of the association in each four weeks. ,Said meeting shall be Saturday; and the hour of assembling shall be nine o'clock in the forenoon; the intermission shall be from twelve o'clock at noon till thirty minutes past one o'clock in the afternoon; and the hour of adjournment shall be thirty minutes past four o'clock in the afternoon, except during the time from the first day of November till the first day of April, for which time the hour of adjournment shall be four o'clock in the afternoon; provided, that none of the teachers employed in his town keep Saturday as their Sabbath; but if any of the teachers in his town keep Saturday, the day of meeting for such town shall not be Saturday, but it shall be such other day as shall be most convenient for the greater number of the teachers; or in lieu of this, in such cases, three evening sessions, of two hours each, may be held.

12. That he shall notify the county superintendent of the county which includes the town in which he is appointed or employed, of each meeting of the association, and shall report to him in writing the proceedings of each meeting, on or before the third Saturday following the day of assembling.

13. That he shall report to said county superintendent the condition and progress of each school in his town, the success of each teacher, or the lack of success, and why it is so in each case. Also, that he shall report to said county superintendent, in March, on or before the 31st day, the condition of each school-house and its appurtenances, of all neglect of the care and protection of such school property, and by whom such neglect was exhibited ; and all new school buildings to be erected during the coming year.

SPELLING.

BY S. D. FORBES, SUPERINTENDENT OF MARQUETTE COUNTY.

If the remark of some spelling book maker is is true, " that bad spelling indicates lack of culture," we Americans, as a class, cannot claim a high degree of cultivation. Next to reading, the pupils of our public schools stand lower in this than in any other branch required by law to be taught therein. Nor can High Schools, Colleges and Universities boast of much better results. A large proportion of the graduates of every grade of school have about the same reckless, hit-or-miss style of tumbling letters together in utter contempt of Noah Webster, or any other authority, as much as to say—“here is the whole pile of elementaries, arrange them to suit yourself; I have no time for such trifling business.” It is rare to find a scholar, with even fair attainments in other respects, who can write a page of manuscript without betraying this defect in his education. The reason of this lies partly in the inherent difficulties of English orthography, but mainly in the fact that the so-called educated public do not agree with the book-maker, that good spelling is a sign of culture, and the reverse; consequently a place of first importance is not given it in the schools.

We must acknowledge that the orthography of our language is, in many respects, uncouth and illogical, and the time was when the writer, with many others, enthusiastically advocated its reconstruction on a Phonetic basis; but the same public that so abuse it as it is, objected to the change, and so the reform, if such it was, made little progress. While apparent to every one, that in many ways is it susceptible of improvement and simplification, the conviction seems to be settled, for the present at least, that no radical change is either practicable or desirable. So that the plea of “irregularity” furnishes no excuse for bad spelling:

The English language, as written, is, in one sense, more idiographic than alphabetic-word forms standing for ideas, instead of literal combinations through the vocalization of their elements. The very life of the written language resides in its word forms, as any person may convince himself by glancing at a page of phonetic print, where, though every sound is represented by its appropriate character, the whole appears dead and meanigless from the absence of those familiar forms that speak to the eye.

But my purpose was not to put in a plea for our peculiar system of spelling, as against any other, but to insist that while we acknowledge and pretend to practice and teach it, we ought to seek a revision of our methods of instruction, so as to better accomplish what we undertake; as no one, whatever his opinions of the system, but will agree that a uniformity of usage is not only desirable, but essential to the perfect use and understanding of our language.

That there are exceptional good spellers proves that our orthography presents no insurmountable difficulties, while the proofs we daily meet with that poor spellers are the rule, plainly point to some radical defect in thc common methods of instruction. Higher institutions of learning take it for granted that the student has perfected himself in this branch, in the public schools, where the law makes it a specialty, and therefore give it little or no attention, and hence, if the pupil leaves the district school a poor speller he is likely to remain such. I have before me a manuscript, in coarse hand, covering less than three foolscap pages, written by a person fresh from one of the best educational institutions of this State, which contains thirty mis-spelled words. And this is no exceptional case. The like are found in numbers among the nominally educated, teachers, included.

Having pointed out a defect it remains to find its cause, and prescribe a remedy. The fault is not that the subject is neglected in the schools, but that spelling exercises are generally engaged in to no purpose. The rapid spelling of long lists of words, as is customary in class exercises, with no reference to definition or use, never made correct writing spellers. A few are seemingly “natural spellers," and become proficients in the art without any especial effort; but the majority are pronc to “Nasbyisms,” and must have their spelling lessons drilled into them. There is no “royal road” to correct orthography. Item by item must the vocabulary of word forms be indelibly stamped upon the mind, beginning with the most familiar words, and never leaving one till its form is a fixture in the mental vision, not forgeting, however, that the form of a word is secondary to its meaning and

The prevailing method of oral spelling does not subserve this purpose. Since orthography means “correct writing,spelling lessons should be chiefly written, not as words simply, but as elements of sentences. The time spent in oral spelling except for orthoepical ends, is wasted. Naming the letters that form a word is only telling hou a thing should be done. Far better to exemplify by doing it.

A word has no force or significance until it enters into association, and becomes an element of language. Definition is the life of words, and should always accompany every literal description. Therefore, whenever a word is given to be spelled, the pupil should be required to define it, or else to develop its significance by writing it in a sen

use.

« PreviousContinue »