One reason I started this blog was to connect with other teachers. As an educator, I sometimes feel I am hacking a trail through jungle, only to look back and see new growth already creeping over the path. Nothing remains. Of course it does (after all, “2 teach is 2 touch lives 4ever”), but as we’re trail blazing, it seems we’re very much alone, pioneers. Which is ridiculous, because teachers everywhere have been hacking trails for centuries (do I sound conflicted?).
So I was intrigued to come across a book entitled The Teacher and the School written in 1911 by Chauncey P. Colegrove. Colegrove was the “Head of the Department of Professional Instruction” at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He writes that his book is “the outgrowth of many years of study, observation and experience.” Fantastic! He’s put together all of his blog posts in one convenient publication.
Colegrove’s overarching “supreme conviction” is that the teacher is the life of the school. “Every other educational problem can be reduced to this question of the fitness of the teacher,” he writes in his preface (p. viii). Looks like Colegrove figured out what the latest research is finally confirming.
He encourages young people to get professional training in the art of teaching. He believes that teaching is “best acquired by (1) observing good teaching, making lesson plans under guidance, and discussing the plans and work of other teachers; and (2) by practice-teaching under competent supervision” (p. 20). A fan of “understanding the child,” he encourages all would-be teachers to delve into the new research on child psychology.
However, he laments that society is changing: “Our intense modern life with all its complexity, its rush and roar of traffic, its social unrest and keen competition, its tendency to congregate in cities, makes greater and greater demands upon all classes of our people; and if the American race shall be able to bear the strain—shall be saved from degeneracy—the physical and nervous energy of our children must not be exhausted in the process of education.” Teachers alone, he believes, can prepare students for this “new world.”
Colgrove bemoans the fact that the average monthly salary of women teachers in the United States is only $38.00. He is discouraged by the focus on “negative incentives” which he calls “criminal and foolish.” Such incentives include “pulling the hair, boxing the ears, blows on the head, washing out the mouth with soap and water, and binding a cloth over the mouth to prevent whispering” (p. 389). He advises against calling students “idiots, dunces, and stupid things.” (What really happened in “the good old days?)
I must admit that I feel connected to Chauncey (and it’s not just because I love his name). His observations and advice still hold water one hundred years later. Perhaps a century hence, some teacher will read my blog entries and give a nod to my musings.
I will share one last quote that Chauncey attributes to “an English teacher” (why do English teachers always seem to have the last word?): “Educational salvation lies, not in bricks and mortar, nor in sumptuous equipment (Chauncey, would Ipads fall under this?), not in courses of study on paper, nor in elaborate machinery of whatever kind, but in the subtle influence of informed and cultured men and women up the pupils committed to their care. However thoroughly and liberally public authorities discharge their school duties in other respects, all is in vain unless the ranks of the teaching profession, in its various grades, are so recruited that the daily work of the school is done with knowledge, skill, and sympathy. To have built schools, to have filled them with pupils, and to have devised means of supervision, are all excellent things in themselves—as machinery. It is the teacher alone who can supply the driving power.”
You know, Chaunc, if you had a blog, I’d subscribe.