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A Career In Teaching And Education

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Next to the home, the school is the most important factor in the development of the character and personality of the child. The influence of the teacher supplements that of the parents, and his function is not only that of instructing the pupil in the various school subjects, but also that of teaching the pupil to know and use his own powers. No work is more important than that of the teacher. Where the schools are good, the average man or woman is likely to be a better individual and citizen than where poor teaching obtains. This is a natural result, for the teacher's opportunity to lead his pupils into channels of right thinking and acting is, in most cases, a great one. It is not the teacher's part to mold his pupils according to preconceived ideas, but rather to stimulate them to react in characteristic fashion to the knowledge imparted to them, and to bring out and develop, through this reaction, their innate capacities. The teacher's work is social service of the highest type it is the work of producing men and women who will be well equipped to take their places in the life which lies beyond the classroom.

Teaching is one of the least selfish of all the professions. The teacher must always be ready to minister to the needs of his pupils; in the classroom, he must be able to forget private affairs altogether, and to devote himself whole heartedly to his work. The teacher is called upon to give forth all his knowledge, sympathy and understanding, freely and unselfishly. Service to the pupil, and through him to the community, is the aim of all teaching.

In order to render the best sort of service, the teacher should be possessed of many special qualifications. All the virtues of human character would not be too many for the teacher. But though no one can possess them all, certain virtues and certain capacities must be inherent in the man who is to be a real teacher. Unselfishness and the desire to serve have been already mentioned. With these, should go an interest in people, and especially young people, understanding of them and sympathy with them. The teacher who has these qualities will be able to get along well with those with whom he comes in daily contact. He will be patient with youth, and he will know how to adjust himself to it. An understanding of human nature, reinforced by sympathy, can accomplish far more than a large store of learning backed only by a knowledge of pedagogic principles. Insight, the ability to place oneself in the position of the pupil and to consider things from his viewpoint, will help a teacher through many a difficult situation. Sympathetic imagination and an understanding of human nature will result in the sympathetic presentation of knowledge, which is the only sort of presentation which can be relied upon to make an impression upon the pupil.

The teacher must have a strong personality and possess the qualities of a leader. This does not mean that he must be extremely self-assertive, but it does mean that he should be gifted with the ability to make himself liked and obeyed. Discipline is, of course, an important consideration in teaching, and it is well for the prospective teacher to keep in mind that a class can be best controlled by one who knows how to control himself. Self-restraint is always more effective than a show of temper, and patience will accomplish much more than force.

The power of the teacher to impart knowledge comes, to a large degree, from the qualities of sympathy and tact coupled with the necessary background of learning. The teacher can never know too much. He need not pour out upon his pupils all the accumulated knowledge at his command, but the very fact that he knows more than is absolutely necessary for the conduct of the class will soon be sensed by his pupils. And they will, as a result, have more confidence in him and more respect for him than would be possible if they felt him to be daily coming dangerously near the limits of his knowledge. Knowledge alone is, of course, not sufficient. With it must go the ability to analyze a subject thoroughly and to present it definitely and clearly. A teacher should have, too, a love for study, that he may inspire others with a similar enthusiasm, and that he may have the desire to continue to add to his knowledge of the subject or subjects he teaches.

In general, the duty of a teacher is. the imparting of knowledge to his pupils. The work of individual teachers or kinds of teachers varies, however, principally according to the type of school in which they teach and the sort of pupils they instruct. The university professor's duties, for example, are quite different from those of the teacher in the elementary school. The elementary school teacher is generally required to instruct the children in a number of subjects. In the high schools, where the attempt is already made to give pupils fuller knowledge, teachers generally teach but one or two subjects. In colleges and universities the teacher practically always specializes in the teaching of one subject or even of one branch of a subject. In some cases, professors do nothing but lecture to their classes, the questioning and examining of students being carried on under the supervision of assistant instructors.

Teachers in the public elementary and high schools are licensed by the state before being permitted to engage in their profession. State requirements for the certification of teachers vary, but may easily be ascertained by application to the local Board of Education. In most cases, candidates for teaching positions in rural ungraded schools are required to have at least a high school education and, in addition, about a year's training in a normal school, which is a school devoted to the training of teachers. Many rural schools, however, and practically all the graded city schools, require, on the part of teachers, a high school education plus a two- or three-year normal course. In order to teach in high school, a four-year college course, including some training in pedagogy, or else a full normal course is generally necessary. College instructors must, of course, have a college education, and are generally not appointed before they have finished from one to three years of graduate study.

The boards of education have nothing to do with the appointment of college instructors, who are given their positions by the governing bodies of the individual institutions. In the case of some state colleges, however, teachers are appointed by the state Board of Education. Teachers in normal schools are generally college graduates with supplementary normal school training. • There are numerous private schools and college preparatory schools, where the work is equivalent to that of the public elementary and high schools. In order to teach in such a private school, the teacher must usually meet the same requirements as for public schools. An instructor in a small private school may have to teach several subjects, but in the larger and better schools specialization is usual.

The tutor is, in most cases, a sort of "free lance" that is, he is not employed by a school, but teaches individuals privately. He should have expert knowledge of the subject or subjects he wishes to teach and, as his work is often that of helping in their studies those who, for various reasons, are backward in them, he has need of an infinite amount of patience, tact, firmness and self control. Usually the tutor works with one student at a time, for a period of not more than an hour or two. Some young men tutor while they are still at normal school or college. Provided that they know their subject, and can adapt their teaching methods to the varying needs of the individuals they instruct, they may be as successful as the man with more experience who perhaps tutors in addition to teaching regularly.

There is yet another type of teacher, and the demand for this type is steadily increasing. Many of the larger industrial establishments, mercantile houses and banking houses have established their own schools, where instruction, both academic and technical, is offered to employees. The National City Bank of New York, for instance, has a complete educational system. Instruction of all types, ranging from elementary school subjects for office boys to that of highly specialized technical subjects to fit university graduates for executive positions, is carried on there. The teachers in such schools are generally college graduates and, if they are required to teach subjects of a technical nature, have usually some practical experience as well as theoretic knowledge of those subjects.

Young men who wish to enter the teaching profession have plenty of opportunity for the necessary preparatory study, both in public and private institutions. Every city has at least one public high school, and state universities and normal schools offer courses in academic subjects and in the theory and practice of teaching, to both inexperienced and more mature students. Many young people begin teaching as soon as the laws of the state permit them to do so, and continue their education at a normal school or a university during their summer vacations, or sometimes in the evenings. Many of the large universities maintain schools of education, where pedagogical training may be acquired.

The teacher's work is not easy. The person who enters the profession because it seems to promise short hours and easy tasks is doomed to disappointment. Not only are the hours longer than they seem, because of the hours of outside preparation which the conscientious teacher is bound to make for his classes, but the constant nervous strain makes the smaller number of hours in the classroom more wearing than a longer period of work elsewhere might be.

Teachers have not always been adequately paid, but there has been considerable improvement in this respect within the last few years, and the tendency is still upward. Some rural communities have paid their teachers as little as $300 a year, but in larger places the pay is much better. In most cities, and especially in the larger ones, public school teachers usually work under a fixed salary schedule, which provides a minimum, a maximum and an annual increment. The minimum salary for elementary school teachers ranges from about $1,000 to $1,500 a year, and the maximum from about $1,500 to $3,250 a year. High school teachers receive from about $1,500 to $3,800 a year. The opportunity for promotion to principalships in elementary schools is good, provided the teacher is college-trained and has executive ability. Elementary school principals receive from about $2,000 to $5,000 a year. Principals of high schools receive from about $3,000 to $7,000 a year, and city superintendents up to $15,000 a year and more.

The public school teacher is usually protected by tenure ofoffice laws, and so a position for life, with a pension for old age, is practically assured. Teachers in large private and preparatory schools of well-established reputation are generally certain of a fairly good income, and instructors in business houses are usually well paid.

For the real teacher, his work is in itself almost sufficient reward. He finds joy and pleasure in it, though it be difficult and, at times, trying. The true teacher does not find his work monotonous, for if he approaches it in the proper spirit it cannot be monotonous. He teaches, every term, new pupils, and so the knowledge he desires to impart to them may be presented by him from a new angle. He must adapt himself to the students under him, and in so doing he finds in his work a certain freshness and difference which gives him a new interest and delight in it. Then his life among those who are young and enthusiastic serves to preserve his own youth and enthusiasm, if he projects his personality, as he should, into that of his pupils.

The man who takes up teaching gives up definitely all prospects of ever becoming wealthy; but the teacher's life is one which offers such large opportunities for personal influence that it must be an attractive one for the man of high ideals of service. It is a life which should, and often does, bring out a man's best qualities, and which opens up to him a larger sphere of personal usefulness than might almost any other career. The difficulties of the work will be as nothing compared to the pleasure and pride one can take in it, if he is by nature equipped for teaching. An honorable position in the community, a firm place in the affections of many people, a sense of large service rendered to the individual and to society—these are the rewards of the teacher who enters upon his duties as upon a ministry, and who devotes his life to the wonderful work of developing fine men and women.


EVENDEN, EDWARD S.: "Teachers' Salaries and Salary Schedules in the U. S." National Education AsSOciation of the U. S. Addresses and Proceedings, pp. 537-712, 1920.

KRERS, HENRY C.: "Being a Good Teacher," Hinds, Hayden and Eldredge, Inc., New York, 1918.

McFEE, INEZ N.: "The Teacher, the School, and the Community," American Book Co., New York, 1918.

PALMER, GEORGE H.: "The Ideal Teacher," Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1917. "Salaries in Universities and Colleges in 1920," U. S. Bureau of Education, Bulletin No. 20, 1920, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1920. "State Laws and Regulations Concerning Teachers' Certificates," Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1920.

WOODLEY, OSCAR I., and VIRGINIA, M.: "The Profession of Teaching." Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1917.

WRIGHT, HENRY P.: "The Young Man and Teaching," The Macmillan Co., New York, 1920.


American Educational Review, American Educational Co., Chicago. Journal of Education, New England Publishing Co., Boston.

Normal Instructor and Primary Plans, F. A. Owen Publishing Co., Dansville, N. Y.

Primary Education, Primary Education Co., Boston.

School and Society, Science Press, New York.

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