« PreviousContinue »
former divisions, whether made by towns or school committees, were confirmed.
By the act of June, 1845, the power was vested in the towns. But by the acts of June, A. D. 1846, § 1, and October, A. D. 1846, § 5, the sole power was vested in the school committees, where it now remains.
For a history of the legislation of the State relating to public schools, and for a list of various special acts authorizing towns to divide into districts and erect school houses by taxation, see Journal of the R. I. Institute of Instruction, vol. 1, pages 97, 103.
93. Location, plans, fc. The school committee are to locate all school houses, and to approve of all plans and specifications for buiding them. When the district is unanimous, and the location on the whole, unobjectionable, the committee will defer to their wishes; but in cases of dispute, they should endeavor to select such a site as will best accommodate the greater portion of the district. Plans for the erection and repairs of district school houses must also be approved by the school committee, or by the Commissioner. This provision, together with that requiring that the school committee inust approve of all rates of tuition and taxes that
may order, was intended to operate as a salutary check against the im. proper exercise of the powers given to school districts. In some districts there may be but few legal voters ; in others, the majority of voters may be persons not interested in the property in the district; and various other cases may happen where a minority should be protected against abuse of taxation. And for this purpose, the law requires the approbation of the school committee, the majority of whom will probably belong to other parts of the town, and have no private or personal interest in the local controversies and disputes of the district.
For the same reason the law requires the plan of building to be approved by the committee. The committee should therefore investigate this subject, and visit and examine the best school houses, so as to be prepared to act when called on. They will find a variety of plans in the document on school houses, attached to the Report of the late Commissioner, Henry Barnard, Esq., which they
can modify according to circumstances, and from which, at least, they may derive many useful hints.
The subject of school houses and schcol apparatus, is most fully discussed in the work lately published by Mr. Barnard, on School Architecture, which includes all the various articles published in his different reports, while superintendent of schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island, and which cannot be too highly recommended to those wishing information on this subject. The material parts of this work were also printed in the three volumes of the Journal of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction, copies of which have been furnished by the Legislature to every school district, and which will be found in all the public libraries.
94. Examining Teachers. The examination of persons wish. ing to teach as principal or assistants, the granting of certificates of qualification, and the annulling of such certificates, are among the most important duties devolving on the school committee, and on their faithful performance the efficiency of the law mainly depends.
The inefficiency of the former school system in many of the towns was owing to the fact that the duties of examining teachers and visiting the schools were too generally neglected or ill performed.
The law gives the committee the power to appoint a sub-comunittee for the purpose of examining teachers. But it is respectfully suggested that where the whole committee can meet for this purpose, it is most advisable. It will have a more imposing effect upon
the teachers themselves, and incompetent persons will be less likely to present themselves.
In making such examinations, whether by the whole board, or by the sub-committee, they should inquire first, as to moral character. On this point, the committee should be entirely satisfied, before proceeding further. Some opinion can be formed from the general deportment and language of the applicant, but the safest course will be, with regard to those who are strangers to the committee, to insist on the written testimony of persons of the highest respectability in the towns and neighborhoods where they have resided ; and especially to require the certificate of the school committee and parents where they have taught before, as to the character they have sustained, and the influence they have exerted in the school and in society.
While a committee should not endeavor to inquire into the peculiar religious or sectarian opinions of a teacher, and should not entertain any preferences or prejudices founded on any such grounds, they ought, without hesitation, to reject every person who is in the habit of ridiculing, deriding or scoffing at religion.
And while the examination should in no case be extended to the political opinions of the candidate, yet it may with propriety extend "to their manner in expressing such belief, or maintaining it. If that manner is in itself boisterous and disorderly, intemperate and offensive, it may well be supposed to indicate ungoverned passions, or want of sound principles of conduct, which would render its possessor obnoxious to the inhabitants of the district, and unfit for the sacred duties of a teacher of youth, who should instruct by exam. ple as well as by precept."-N. Y. Regulations.
Second, as to literary attainments. The lowest grade of attainments is specified in the school law in the proviso to $ 55. Every teacher must have been found qualified by examination, or by previous experience, which must have come to the personal knowledge of the committee, to teach the English language, arithmetic, penmanship, and the rudiments of geography and history. An examination as to the attainments of the teacher in these branches might be so conducted as to test his capacity, in those particulars, to teach any grade of schools. Some reference, therefore, must be had to the condition and wants of the district schools as they now are. But no person should be considered qualified to teach any school, who cannot speak and write the English language, if not elegantly, at least correctly. He should be a good reader, and be able to make the hearer understand and feel all that the author intended. He should be able to give the analysis as well as explain the meaning of the words of the sentence, and explain all dates, names and allusions. He should be a good speller; and to test this, as well as his knowledge of punctuation, the use of capitals, &c., he should be required to write out his answers to some of the questions of the committee, He should understand practically the first principles of English grammar, as illustrated in his own writing and conversation. He should be able to write a good hand, to make a pen, and teach others how to do both. He should show his knowledge of geography by applying his definitions of the elementary principles to the geography of his own town, state and country, and by questions on the inap and globe. He should be able to answer promptly all questions relating to the leading events of the history of the United States and his own State. In arithmetic, he should be well versed in some treatise on mental arithmetic, and be able to work out before the committee, on the black board or slate, such questions as will test his ability to teach the text books on arithmetic prescribed for the class of schools he will be engaged in.
Third, his ability to instruct. This ability includes aptness to teach, a power of simplifying difficult processes,-a skill in imparting knowledge, -of inducing pupils to try, and try in such a way that they will derive encouragement as they go along, which must be given by nature, but may be cultivated by observation and practice. An examination into the literary qualifications of a candidate as ordinarily conducted, and even when conducted by an experienced committee-man, or even by a teacher, will not always determine whether this ability is possessed, or possessed in a very eminent degree. Hence it is desirable for the committee to ascertain what success the candidate has had in other places, if he has taught before ; and if this evidence cannot be had, whether he has received any instruction in the art of teaching; or has been educated under a successful teacher; or has visited good schools. In conducting the examination to ascertain this point, the candidate should be asked how he would teach the several studies. He should be asked how he would proceed in teaching the alphabet to a child who had never been instructed at ali in it; as for example, whether he would give him words or single letters; or letters having a general resemblance ; or in the order in which they are ordinarily printed; or by copying them on a slate or black-board, and then repeating their names after the teacher ; or by picking them out of a collection of alphabet blocks, &c. &c. So in spelling. He should be asked how he would classify his scholars in this branch, and the methods of arranging and conducting a class exercise ; how far he would adopt with the class the simultaneous method, and how far the practice of calling on each member in regular order ; how far he would put out the word to the whole class, and after requiring all to spell it mentally, name a particular scholar to spell it orally ; how far he would adopt the method of writing the word, and especially the difficult words, on a slate or blackboard ; how far he would connect spelling with the reading lessons, &c.
It will be more satisfactory sometimes, perhaps, to have a class of small scholars present at the examination, and let the candidate go through a recitation with them, so that the committee can have a practical specimen of his tact in teaching each branch of study; in explaining and removing difficulties, &c.
The same method of examination should be carried into reading, and every other branch. It is more important to know that the teacher has sound views as to methods, than that he is qualified as to literary attainments.
Fourth, ability to govern. This is an important qualification, insisted upon by the law, and indispensable to the success of the schools. On this point the committee should call for the evidence of former experience, wherever the candidate has taught before, and when this cannot be had, the examination should elicit the plans of the teacher as to making children comfortable, keeping them all usefully employed, and interested in their studies, his best system of rewards and punishments, and examples of the kinds of punishment he would resort to in particular cases, and all other matters pertaining to the good order and government of a school. In this connection, the age, mamers, bearing, knowledge of the world, love and knowledge of children, &c., of the applicant, will deserve attention,
In addition to these qualifications which the law requires, the address and; personal manners and habits of the applicant should be inquired into, for these will, determine in a great measure the manners and habits of the children whom he will be called upon to teach
The mast thorough and satisfactory mode of conducting the examination is by written questions and answers; it will be desirable, if the examination is conducted orally, to keep minutes of the questions and answers.