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about we soon cease to know at all, to any practical
It is obvious that in selecting assistants you should seek to find as far as possible, those who possess the qualifications you would most desire in yourselves.
It is also clear as the result of modern experience that the head teacher in every school ought to be responsible for the choice of each of his own assistants. But having secured him, what is the best use to make of him? There are two opposite views on this point. There is one which gives the assistant the care of the whole work of a class, and another which makes him the teacher of a particular subject and sends him from class to class to give lessons on it. Both systems may be seen in operation in very good schools, and it would be hard to say that all the truth lies necessarily on one side, or that one mode of dividing the labour is necessarily and always right. It is here as in governments:
That which is best administered is best. One system gives scope for special ability, and assigns to each the work for which he is presumably fittest. But the disadvantages are serious. In the first place, the teacher of one subject only—the French or Arithmetic master-is generally without influence. When a man confines himself to one subject he is apt to see his one subject in a false light, and to lose sight of its relation to the general culture of the pupil. Perhaps too if he has a stronger will than his colleagues he demands proficiency in his one subject at the expense of others. The class system avoids this particular danger, but it has the obvious disadvantage of setting each of your assistants to teach several subjects, of which it may fairly be assumed he can teach some much better than others.
There must be a compromise between these two systems. I believe that which in the long run secures best the unity and coherence of the school work is to assign to an assistant a definite portion of responsibility, not to move him about from place to place, but to attach him to a class for a sufficient time to make it clear that the progress or backwardness of the class is to be distinctly attributed to him. Each assistant should be clearly identified with the work of particular scholars and mainly responsible for it. On the whole a distribution of assistants among classes, effects this purpose better than their distribution among subjects. Experience is not favourable to the plan of making one teacher take the exclusive charge of arithmetic, another of writing, and another of literature. The class system calls out more varied power, prevents the mind of the teacher from always running in the same groove; and is more interesting to himself. He wants a change of occupation and of subject as much as his pupils. At the same time while this seems to be the best general rule, it is clearly important to utilize any special gift possessed by an assistant and to find out in the case of every one such assistant what is the subject he can teach best, or in what work he feels most interest. If over and above his proper and ordinary work in his class, an assistant who is fond of drawing, or who sings well, or who is skilful in the book-keeping and supervision of registers, has appropriate special work assigned to him,—work which belongs rather to the whole school than to the class, such work will be a clear gain, not only to the school which will thus turn all its best resources to account, but also to the assistant himself, whose interest in the prosperity of the school as a whole will thus be much augmented.
So we may conclude from these considerations that on the whole the class-master plan should prevail in the lower classes, and the plan of employing specialists in the higher, but that the evils of too exclusive a dependence upon either plan should be carefully guarded against throughout the school.
Another form of compromise between the two systems succeeds well in some good schools. To each class of from 30 to 40 pupils two teachers are attached a senior and a junior. The class is divided into two for arithmetic, languages, reading, and a good deal of viva-voce questioning, and each teacher is responsible for his own section. For all lecture lessons the sections are thrown together and the class is one. The most important lectures are given by the senior teacher, others by the junior; but both teachers are present at all lectures, and responsible for seeing that their respective sections understand and profit by them. This plan has the further advantage of putting a younger teacher under the supervision and practical training of an elder; and also of relieving the younger teacher occasionally
for his own studies or for higher lectures. Responsi
But though it is well to confide responsibility to asbility to be sistants it is essential to watch its exercise carefully. confided to Assistants, The principal teacher should hold frequent periodical
examinations to see what progress is being made, should himself stand by and listen to the teaching, should make himself thoroughly acquainted with the methods employed by his assistant, and with the sort of influence he exerts.
I once knew a large private school in which this was done by the cunning device of letting a small pane of glass into the wall of each class-room; and the principal prided himself on being able to pervade the whole establishment at all times, and peep in when
Limits to their responsibility.
it was least suspected. But this is not what I recommend. It is not espionage, for this always destroys the self respect of those who are subject to it. Nor is it the half-apologetic way which some head-masters have of coming into the class of an assistant with some pretext, as if they felt they were intruding. It is the frank recognition of such oversight as one of the conditions under which the work is to be done, and under which alone responsibility can be properly concentrated in the hands of the principal. It is indispensable that there should yet con
centrated be unity in a school, that the plans and methods in use in the in the various classes should harmonize and be mutually Head. helpful. And to this end the occasional presence of the principal in the lower classes should be part of the recognized order of the school. He will not interrupt or criticize of course in the presence of the scholars. He will in their eyes rather appear as in friendly co-operation with the assistant than as a critic. But he will criticize nevertheless. He will carefully note mistakes, negligences and ignorances; and make them the subject of private counsel to the assistants afterwards. In many large schools, it is the custom to have School
Councils. every week a short conference among the teachers, in which they and the head-master compare notes and consult together about the work and about the pupils. Whether the number be small or great, some such comparison of experience is absolutely necessary if the school is to be at unity with itself, and if its parts are to fit together. I once visited an Endowed Grammar School, in which the head-master and the usher, both clergymen, both on the Foundation, both separately appointed, carried on their duties in separate rooms. They had not spoken to each other for fifteen years. The head-master explained to me that the low state of
his own department was attributable to the worthless character of the preparation obtained in the usher's class; and the usher with equal frankness, told me that it was of no use to take any pains with boys, who were to come under so foolish a régime as that of the Upper Department. These cases it may be hoped are rare, but instances of practical isolation, and want of harmony in the work of classes, are not rare, and I hold it to be indispensable, that the principal of the school should know everything that is going on in it; and should habitually test and observe the work of his subordinates, not because he suspects them, but because thorough and intelligent co-operation towards a common end is impossible without it.
No general rule can be laid down about the age of assistants; the whole question is a personal one, to be settled by the individual characteristics of the people within your reach, and not by any fixed rules. But I
may confess to a strong sense of the services which may often be rendered by young teachers as assistants. Much experience in elementary schools of the working of the pupil teacher system has not led me, as it appears to have led many others, to distrust that system, and to wish to see it universally superseded by an organization dependent on adult teachers alone. You know that by the regulations of the Council Office, one grown up assistant master or mistress is allowed to count as two pupil teachers in assessing the sufficiency of the staff. They are about equal to one such assistant in point of cost, but I have come to the conclusion that in a great many cases the two pupil teachers do more work than one assistant. And I have no doubt that in secondary schools the system of student teachers might often be adopted with much advantage, and that you may get