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A Home For The Teacher

( Originally Published 1915 )

The "Teacherage." — The housing of the teacher for the country school is one rural problem of which country people are unconscious. But, as National Commissioner of Education Claxton says, the housing of the rural teacher is one of the vital problems for the country. The country needs leaders. It needs social leaders most of all. We cannot hope to make teaching in the country attractive to men and women of ability unless we furnish them a reasonably comfortable and happy place in which to live. Recently, I said to a director of a school soon to be consolidated, " Whatever you do to the old school-house, do it so as to make of it a home for the teacher when you get the new consolidated building in the yard across the road." " That is so," replied he, " but I never thought of it before" I am of the belief that this is one of thousands of similar cases in the United States to-day. There is an old school building. The building is too small for a consolidated school but it may make a comfortable house for the teachers of the consolidated school. To be sure the roof must be raised and another story added. The place must be beautified but, since it is to belong to the district, let the children have a part in selecting material for beautifying the place. The landscaping of the yard may well make a school problem and the lessons learned from that applied for years to come in beautifying the homes of the district. Dr. Bailey says somewhere that instead of abandoning the old school-house, he would like to see a school, a church, a museum and library and a Grange hall on the four corners of the crossroads. Let us add to his four buildings a home for the teachers to be near the library-museum or, what may be better, let the museum-library be in the new consolidated building and the fourth corner be occupied by the home for the teacher. We have long had parsonages for the preachers, why not " teacherages " for the rural teachers?

" Teacherage " for the Redirected School.—Farmers are too poor and the school of to-day enters so little into their thought that they simply will not be taxed for a teacher's home. The school is not doing much directly to help the farmers economically, and hence the farmers are not willing to give the school the economic support which it deserves. But with the coming of home projects to be supervised by the teacher, with the making of the school the centre for the dissemination of information from the Farm Bureaus, the State Experiment Stations and the United States Department of Agriculture and Education, there will come a very different mental attitude toward the economic support of the school.

Teachers Should Live in the District.—The teacher should live in the district and be a part of it socially. His house should be near the school-house. The teacher of agriculture should be hired for twelve months in the year with the privilege of having a month's vacation in the winter. The writer has in mind one town in Massachusetts which hires the teacher of agriculture for twelve months in the year with the proviso in the contract that he may be off two months in the year, providing one of the two months be spent in some approved agricultural college.

The school should be the teacher's summer office. He should make constant use of its laboratories, its library, its microscopes and other apparatus. The building should be provided with a good telephone, and if a farmer is in need of information on a certain problem he should be able to ask over the telephone whether the school library or laboratory has any answer to his problem. If he has a topic to discuss in Grange, Farmers' Club or other meeting, he should be able to go to the school-house to study his topic and the teacher should be the assistant librarian to help him.

Home Projects.—In Minnesota and Massachusetts they have some of the actual farm work supervised by the teacher of agriculture and the home work by the teacher of domestic science. There pupils carry on home projects, a discussion of which was given in connection with the subject of Pets in Chapter III. These home projects are an organic part of the pupil's school work. He must succeed with his home project or fail to make his grade at school. If his project be a three months' project, he takes up a new project at the end of the three months but carries on his old project without the supervision of the teacher and without receiving so much credit for the old project in his work at school. Some projects require three months and some require six months or a year. This home project work makes of the teacher of agriculture a man who resembles the County Agents of the Farm Bureaus, except that the teacher of agriculture works for a district or township only instead of for a whole county. There is great need to-day, in nearly every rural community, for just such a man. There is hardly a farm problem that some farmer somewhere has not met and successfully solved. There is need of some person whose business it is to know where that farmer lives and to reveal him to his neighbor who is in need of his help. Then, too, the number of questions that are being sent to the State Experiment Stations and the United States Department are so numerous and some of them so poorly worded that they do not get the attention which they deserve. If the question is one to be answered by the State Experiment Station or by the United States Department of Agriculture, the teacher is the one to tell a farmer so, and to help him formulate his question so that it will get the attention it is entitled to. It may be a specimen is to be sent and the farmer neither knows how to gather the specimen nor how to ship it. The teacher of agriculture is the man to help him. It may be that the question is best answered by an experiment in the home district ; if so, the teacher of agriculture is the right man to help some one to try that experiment. This makes the work of the teacher of agriculture an organic part of the economic activity of the district. It makes it necessary for the teacher to have a." house by the side of the road." And it enables the teacher to return to the district, many times over, the rent for the teacherage and to make the school the centre of interest for the community.

Material for Home Projects.—There is certainly material enough for home projects. Cooperative buying and selling is a good undertaking for a boy or girl who has the time and the business ability. The school-house should have on file at all times a full list of markets and quotations of farm supplies. The making of a piece of good road, the helping in the rural church, the making efficient of some part of the rural government, the helping on the farm and in the country house, growing an acre of corn or potatoes, the care of poultry, the breeding of garden vegetables, the making of pastures and hay fields, the rejuvenating of an old orchard, starting alfalfa, soy beans, cowpeas or other new crops, the testing of different varieties of grain, the testing of dairy cows and a hundred other things may be taken up as home projects. Human life is complex and the farmer's life is the most complex of all. He must be master of weather, markets, men, forces, animals, plants, diseases, and with it all help to furnish social and religious activities for the community. For this he needs institutional help. The school is the institution to help him, but how different it must be from the rural school of to-day ! But of one thing we may be certain—change is inevitable. The teachers who will not change cannot continue to control the rural schools of to-morrow. The rural school requires a chapter by itself, for the rural school occupies the strategic point for the reorganization of rural social institutions.

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