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The Board of Education has decided to assist and co-operate with the San Francisco State Normal in establishing and maintaining a model school. We believe that this work is very important, for much good can be accomplished, not only by the proper training of normal students, but also by the influence it will have over the teaching force of our city and state. The normal school faculty has come amongst us, not to in any way criticise or interfere with our school system, but to assist and help us in every way that it can to strengthen and improve our conditions. It is sincerely hoped that the entire department will take a deep interest in our State Normal School located in our city, and help in every way to have the next legislature re-enact a law giving to us a normal school building and a model training school, and an increased appropriation to maintain and to equip this most important branch of public education.
In conclusion, let us sum up what we consider the most important changes necessary for the improvement of our city school system. We would not have you understand, however, that these changes will be brought about immediately, but by degrees they will be introduced, thus strengthening and improving our department.
1. The centralization of responsibility in the principals.
2. Supervision of the schools, by experts, along certain lines, for the purpose of strengthening and improving all of us in our work.
3. Conducting the department on strict business principles.
4. The appointment of teachers to the department on merit, and not for personal or political reasons.
5. As far as is possible, the treating of all schools alike, giving each the same privileges and the same advantages.
6. A rational method of promotion of pupils.
9. The adoption of a course of study which shall not be too revolutionary, but along the lines of modern educational thought.
10. To devise a plan for overcoming the evils of the unyielding graded system.
11. The formation of a class for deaf mutes.
14. An attempt to amend the compulsory education law, by the establishment of a truant school, organized by teachers especially adapted for that kind of work, and also by truant-officers.
15. The reorganization of the teaching of physical culture, and placing it in the department on a proper basis.
16. As soon as possible, the introduction of nature study in our department.
17. The board intends to assist and co-operate with the San Francisco State Normal School in establishing a model training school for the proper preparation of attending teachers, and also where we can go and receive new inspiration along the proper methods of instruction.
18. School buildings.
CONDUCTED BY CHARLES H. ALLEN.
Some Thoughts on Teaching Arithmetic.
There is a quaint saying, that if one knows two things, he can solve any arithmetical problem capable of solution. One of these things is, What to do; and the other, How to do it.
A little thought will show that there is much more than a mere surprise in these two statements. They mark a distinction that should be clearly recognized in class-work. The What to do is a question of perception, judgment, and reason, and belongs to what may be called the logical part of the work. The How to do it is merely and solely the operative, or, if you please, the semi-mechanical, part.
A child can master the operative part of arithmetic with little difficulty and at a comparatively early age, if he is not at the same time burdened with the logical. In all operative work he should "learn to do by doing,"—that is, he should not be confused - and I use the word understandingly — with a mass of so-called explanations and reasons.
There are reasons — sometimes very attractive ones — for each step in the operative work. These, if the child is trained to observe closely, he will finally discover for himself. After he has fully mastered an operation, a slight amount of guidance will enable him to discern clearly the rationale of the work.
To illustrate : A class can be taught to divide one simple fraction by another, and to do it with considerable skill, in a single half-hour recitation. But I have seen a hundred teachers, in an institute, spend an hour in discussing the ways and means of making him understand the work. That discussion, before a class who were about to begin division of fractions, would have so confused as to completely “rattle" them, and they would have given up in despair. Fortunately, there was no class of learners present.
Now, suppose the subject-matter to be presented in three steps: First, to divide a fraction by an integer; second, to divide an integer by a fraction ; and lastly, to divide one fraction by another. Let the operation in each step be thoroughly mastered, leaving out all explanations, but securing the right results in every case. Pupils can learn to do this well, and what a child can do well, he likes to do. Let him work scores of easy examples until the work is done with zest, each striving to secure the result before rather than from his neighbor.
After all this, a little time devoted to examining the whys and wherefores may be made exceedingly interesting and, if it is carefully done, profitable. The pupil is no longer troubled about the mere work, — that he can do, and so can give his whole mind to the analysis of processes. Of course, he will find that they are all essentially the same; that the three ways of dividing a fraction by a fraction are all resolvable to one. This very discovery will give it all an added interest.
And upon this general plan all the operations of arithmetic should be taught. Use small numbers, the easiest combinations at first, but do not attempt to apply to the solution of problems until the operative work is mastered.
When the solution of problems is taken up, a new field is opened. In a problem, certain things are given and other things are required. If the problem is at all complicated, there are known relations -- or relations that should be known - existing between the things given.
First, then, the child must learn to read the problem understandingly. Two thirds of the blunders in such work arise from the fact that the pupil does not clearly apprehend what is given and what is required. It is an excellent plan to use the last part of to-day's recitation in having the problems read aloud that are to be solved before the next recitation.
An observant teacher can easily discern whether they are well understood, by noticing how they are read, — noticing whether the emphasis is placed upon the proper words. Hundreds of times, in my own teaching, this has occurred.
The pupil says, “I cannot solve this problem. Will you give me some assistance ?"
“Read it to me," is the reply.
It is read without emphasis, and in a manner showing that it is not understood.
“No; read it again : what is given here, and what is required ?” hint may be needed as to where the stress of voice should be placed ; but when the question is fairly understood, the pupil says confidently, “O, now I can do it.”
How much better the result attained is than it would have been had I solved it for him. Now he masters it himself, and becomes stronger ; had I solved it, he would have copied my work, and received little or no benefit.
The What to do, in most problems, can, by the use of mathematical signs, be indicated. It is well to insist that this be done before the operative work begins. Let a statement be made that the pupil knows will, when reduced, bring the correct result.
In this way a broad distinction is made between the two kinds of work. The perception or apprehension of facts, the judgment or the reason, acts in determining the statement, and now in the reduction of the statement the pupil can use all the skill he may have acquired in operation.
In my tests, on a scale of ten I always gave eight credits for a correct statement.
The point I wish to make is this: It is rarely, perhaps never, wise to require both, at the same time, a close analysis and a somewhat difficult operation. And, in general, the operative work should be so well mastered that it can be done easily before the logical work should be attempted.
A Leaf from My Boyhood Experiences.
I have but now finished the reading of “The Trail of the Sand Hill Stag,” by Ernest Seton-Thompson, in Scribner's. It is a most excellent article, both in subject-matter and style, and I wish it could be read to or by all the children in our grammar schools.
It reminded me very forcibly of one of my own boyhood experiences, which I will try to tell you, although I fully realize that it will not be half so well told nor prove half so interesting as the story referred to above.
My father had set apart for me a small patch of ground that I was to care for, and the product of which I could have. It was situated some distance from the house, close to the edge of a neighboring wood.
After much study over the matter I planted a couple of rows of beans on the side next the woods, for string-beans were always in demand, and I thought they would produce well in the partial sbade.
They came up well and grew vigorously, but I soon noticed that the outer row was being eaten off. One hill after another would disappear, and it looked as tho I should lose the whole planting.
In great concern I went to my father and asked him what was eating my beans.
“Woodchucks,” he replied ; “there's nothing but woodchucks that will eat beans.”
Now, I knew woodchucks pretty well, or thought I did, for I had often heard them whistling, along toward evening, but I did not know how to protect my beans.
Father suggested that I watch for him and shoot him as he came out to feed. And he took down the old musket, the one that his father had used at Concord, and loaded it up with a "boy charge,” for he well knew that these old muskets with a full load made a somewhat vigorous kick.
Cautioning me to be very careful in its use, he handed it to me and I started for my bean-patch. As soon as I had the gun in my hands I began to feel the hunter or savage instinct. I hardly think my hair bristled up, but I did feel a keen desire to slay.
And back of this hunter instinct was the feeling that the "old rascal," as I inwardly called him, was robbing me. What right had he to my beans? I had planted them, intended to hoe them, and I wanted the crop.
And so I worked myself up into a strong desire to slay the invader of my vested rights. If my hunter instinct needed any reinforcement it received it from this source.
Secreting myself behind a convenient stump, I patiently waited. Two nights in succession I spent an hour there, watching, nursing my wrath, and – thinking. What my thoughts were perhaps the sequel will tell.
On the third evening my patience was rewarded. Just as the sun was going down I saw, slowly peering over the bottom log of the fence, a pair of small, bright eyes, a face that, as the dusk was coming on, looked wonderfully human, and a pair of paws that seemed almost like baby's hands.
It was a good shot, and yet I dreaded to shoot. Slowly I raised the old musket, and resting it on the top of the low stump, looked along the barrel toward that small face.
The longer I looked, the more human, the more pleading, it appeared. It seemed to say, “Can't I have just a few beans for my supper? You have dug up and destroyed all the ground-nuts and crinkle-root upon which I used to feed, and there is nothing left.”
It was, perhaps, a foolish whim, but I could not fire at him. the musket back, carefully let the old fint hammer down upon the pan, and started homeward.
On reaching home, father called out: "Did you get your woodchuck this time? I didn't hear you shoot.”
“No, father," I replied ; "I guess there are beans enough for one poor woodchuck, and for us too."
He laughed heartily, but consoled me by saying, after I had told him all about it:
“Well, my boy, I guess you'll do."
Of course I had never read the eloquent, tho somewhat mythical, plea that Daniel Webster is said to have made on that notable woodchuck trial, but I had a good many of the feelings that he so vividly portrays.
Perhaps but few California children have seen a woodchuck (marmot). I have, however, seen fine opes in the high Sierras. One name applied to the woodchuck is ground-hog. They are burrowing animals, not very destructive, and I remember that my older brothers used to tan woodchuck skins, afterward cutting them into strips from which they braided whiplashes. They were sometimes caught in steel traps, which were placed in their holes, and sometimes an organized party would dig them out. This was rather an arduous task, as the holes were often in hard ground or among rocks.
Their flesh is sometimes used for food, but has rather a strong, unpalatable flavor.
Educational Questions, by W.C Doub. A.B. (Stanford University), county superintendent of schools for Kern County, has just been published by Whitaker and Ray. This book discusses some of the evils of the present school system, and points out the remedy, without any of the bewildering detail that sometimes characterizes a work of this kind.
Contes Bleus, par Edouard Laboulaye, is a book of charming little tales, simple and clear in language, novel in theme, and abounding in arch reflections and humorous touches Edited by C. Fontaine, B.L., Lit.D., Director of Romance Languages Instruction in the High Schools of Washington, D.C. Price 40c. D. C. Heath & Co., publishers, Boston, Mass.
History of English Literature, by Reuben Post Halleck, M.A. (Yale), will receive a hearty welcome, as it furnishes a concise and interesting text-book of the history and development of English literature from the earliest time to the present. Only sufficient facts of an author's life are given as to make students interested in him as a personality, and to show how his environment affected his work. The book contains many excellent illustrations, and a unique and instructive literary map of England. Cloth, 12mo, 499 pages, illustrated. Price $1.25. American Book Company, New York, Cincinnati, and Chicago.