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We shall best honor ourselves, and bless our State, by listening confidingly to, and promptly carrying into effect, whatever suggestions and advice such a man as Henry Barnard, in his ripe experience, and noble devotion to the good of his race, may deem it his duty to offer upon matters pertaining to the great cause of popular education in Wisconsin.
TEACHERS' INSTITUTES. Highly as the Normal School deserves commendation and encouragement in the great work of preparation of teachers, I would not forget that other agencies are vastly important-chief among which are Teachers' Institutes. It has been nearly twenty years since they were first instituted by Hon. Henry Barnard; and they have now come into general use wherever education is progressive.
“Our Normal School," writes Hon. HENRY S. RANDALL, of New York, formerly Superintendent of Public Instruction of that State, “is but a drop in the bucket-graduating a handful of teachers annually, while probably five thousand new teachers enter the schools yearly. The teachers' departments in the Academies do something ; but they take in but a small portion of the whole number, and in very many cases really do nothing towards preparing the teachers for their business besides instructing them in the necessary branches. They do not instruct in the art of teaching. The only feasible plan I have seen for any thing like a general fitting in the latter particular, is by our 'Institutes,' as they are called. I need not explain them to you. They are usually much too short-teaching but two or three weeks. But even in that time they do a wonderful amount of general good. They get abroad correct ideas on leading points, and some familiarity with routine. They, at least, start teachers on the right track, and in a uniform direction. Could a State Normal School supply enough teachers for the Institutes, and could the latter be extended through the two months immediately preceding the opening of the winter schools—one in each County, and such arrangements made that the mass of the teachers would attend them-it would, in my opinion, be a better system of preparation than any State has yet had ; and it certainly would not necessarily be a more expensive one than ours.”
In several of the States— Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine, among them—the ablest instructors in the several departments in common school instruction are employed by the State to attend a series of Institutes, so arranged that they can pass rapidly from one to another, and thus during two or three months in the autumn, the teachers of the entire State have the opportunity of being benefited by their experience and instructions. At these Institutes, the teachers undergo thorough drills, reviewing the studies appropriate to their calling; and are taught to think and act with manly independence, simplifying and making attractive the rudiments of knowledge, and shaking off that slavish adherence to the strict letter of the text-books so common with timid and undisciplined minds. “They afford to the young and inexperienced teachers,'' says Hon. HENRY BARNARD," an opportunity to review the studies they are to teach, and to witness, and to some extent practise, the best methods of arranging and conducting the classes of a school, as well as 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 will be followed out and proved. The tendency to a dogmatical tone and spirit, to onesided 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 the social and pecuniary estimate of the profession.”
“The general opinion,” says Mr. BARNARD, in his Connecticut School Report of 1853, "as to the utility of these Institutes in their two-fold operation on the profession, and the community generally, has been confirmed by another year's experience. They have enabled even experienced teachers to refresh their memories as to the leading principles and facts of the several studies usually pursued in our district schools, by rapid reviews, and, in some instances, it may be safely said, by new and better methods of presenting the same to their pupils. They have brought the young and inexperienced teacher to profit in the work of self-improvement bị hints, suggestions, and practical illustrations, from those who have acquired skill and reputation by years of laborious and successful experience. They have stimulated the older and the best teachers of the State, to renewed and more zealous efforts to perform their duties with even greater success. They have helped to awaken and diffuse a great degree of mental activity and professional feeling in the whole body of teachers. Beyond the circle of the profession, for whose special benefit they are held, these Institutes have interested a large number of citizens, parents, and young people, in the subject of education, the principles of school architecture, methods of teaching, the government of children in the family and school, and other leading features of school organization and administration.”
Alluding to Teachers’ Institutes, the Second Annual Report of the Board of Education of Maine, remarks: “ The exercises consist of a review of the elementary branches, of practical expositions and illustrations of the most approved methods of instruction in them, of the best modes of organizing, governing, and disciplining a school, of inculcating the principles of morality, and keeping alive in the hearts of children an interest in the studies in which their minds are engaged; the whole being interspersed with the expression of the views, opinions and experience of the pupils, and practical demonstrative lectures by the teachers.”
There must be not less than five thousand persons in our State engaged more or less in the business of teaching in our common schools. The great mass of these teachers cannot be expected to avail themselves of Normal School privileges; the Teachers' Institute is their only hope. Wherever these Institutes are held, the teachers attending them are the guests of the families of the immediate neighborhood and surrounding country; and these families, becoming interested in the exercises, in large numbers attend the evening lectures. Thus not only the teachers are greatly benefited, but a new educational spirit is infused among the people, which cannot but result in lasting good to every such community.
The great essential element of success in these Institutes, is the employment of first-class instructors and lecturers; and this involves considerable expense, too much for those attending the Institutes themselves to bear. The State, I am fully persuaded, should promptly and unhesitatingly lend a liberal helping hand in this matter. Other States have done it, with the most marked beneficial results. “It is believed," says Hon. ROBERT ALLYN, Commissioner of Public Schools of Rhode Island, in his Report of 1856, “that no money which the State expends for the benefit of its schools, accomplishes a better service than that appropriated to defray the expenses of theso Institutes.” As the Teachers' Institute is emphatically a part —and a very important part, too, of a State system of Normal instruction, I would respectfully recommend that such power as shall be necessary for the purpose, be granted to the Normal School Board to employ such number of teachers, peculiarly fitted for the work, as they may from time to time think necessary, to attend and carry on Institutes, under the direction of the Board or State Normal School Agent; to be remunerated, as the Board may deem proper, out of the income of the Normal School Fund. These Institutes might, in many instances, be held, as Mr. Barnard has suggested in conversation, in connection with the Normal School departments which are already, or
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The State Superintendent, and his Assistant, could, to some extent, lend their personal aid and encouragement. But they alone, however willing to do their part, could not impart the variety of instruction and interest necessary to give the large measure of success and usefulness to such gatherings as would be anxiously hoped and desired. Nor could the State Normal School Agent do all this work. As the Institutes are mostly held in the autumn, it would be almost impossible to so arrange them, but that two or more would frequently be held, and often at widely different points, at the same time. Superintendents and State Agents could not be ubiquitous; besides in the autumn the Superintendent is expected, if faithful to his position and the State, to be preparing his annual report, as the law requires.
As already indicated, the true policy of the State would be, to employ, as other States do, able and competent instructors and lecturers—the very best that can be obtained ; one, for instance, pre-eminently fitted to instruct and lecture on Grammar, another on Arithmetic, another on Natural History, another on music in schools, and so on. Such men would draw together an immense attendance on the Institutes, and they would leave their mark wherever they should go. Let Henry Barnard, the originator of Teachers’ Institutes, take the lead, with such a corps of instructors and lecturers as he would draw around him, and such an impetus would, in connection with the noble work performed by our Normal Schools, be given to our common school system, as has never been seen in the Great West-perhaps never in the history of the civilized world. We have a noble State—a noble army of children-a fine fund set apart for the special purpose of Normal instruction; and let us but rightly and wisely use it so as to accomplish the greatest possible amount of good, and future generations will yet rise up and pronounce our memories blessed.
FEMALES AS TEACHERS. Females, in consequence of their higher moral instincts, their more refined tastes, together with their more patient and sympathising natures, are fitted in a more eminent degree than the male sex for imparting instruction to the young. Many a female has distinguished herself in the republic of letters; and some, like Caroline Herschel, Mary Somerville, and our own Miss Mitchell, have attained to the highest grade of scholarship, and solved problems of science generally thought to be only within the grasp of the masculine intellect. It has, however, been unfortunate, that but few modes by which to obtain an honorable reputation and independence, have been, by common consent, assigned to females; and even this occupation of teaching, for which they are so pre-eminently fitted by nature, has been but too generally wrested from them. If they were universally employed, as they should be, in having all the primary schools of the State in charge, for children not exceeding the age of ten or twelve years, then there would be a wide field open for the exercise of their peculiar talent, and an honorable inducement held out to them to seek a higher education. The establishment of Normal Schools and Teachers' Institutes will have a tendency to draw out this class of talent, and prepare a noble army of female teachers, which nothing else could half so well accomplish. In New York and Massachusetts, about twothirds of the pupils in the Normal Schools are females. I confess, I rejoice that it is so, regarding it as a favorable omen for the more juvenile portion of school children ; and I shall expect to witness in Wisconsin the same results as in New York and Massachusetts.
“In all the schools,” says Mr. BARNARD, in his Rhode Island School Report of 1845, “ visited the first winter, or from which returns were received, out of Providence, and the primary departments of a few large central districts, I found 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, when properly educated as teachers,—their more gentle and refined manners, purer morals, stronger interests 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 com