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School Organization

( Originally Published 1897 )



Nature of Organization.-School organization is a system of arrangements that is designed to secure constant employment, efficient instruction, and good discipline. Its object is to enable teachers and pupils to do the most effective work with the least friction and in the shortest possible time. It is the purpose of organization to put children in their proper classes, to secure to each subject the time due to its importance, and to place each teacher where his work will be best performed.

In the organization of a school the interests of the scholars must be the first consideration. These interests will require a wise course of study to be prescribed, suit-able accommodations and appliances to be provided, and such a distribution of the teacher's time to be made as will enable each pupil to be profitably employed. If the work is systematized and all the machinery of the school arranged to do the work of teaching efficiently, the control of the pupils will be more satisfactorily secured,, and the training will become more effective.

Advantages of Classification. -Classification enables the teacher to estimate the progress of his pupils, to economize his time and labor, to evoke the intelligence and activity of each scholar, and to make special preparation for the work of each day. It supplies the means of increasing the efficiency of instruction, of finding constant and suitable employment for each pupil, of establishing easy control, and of preserving order and decorum. Classification stimulates pupils, as the competition of those in the same division is an incentive to exertion. It cultivates greater attention among pupils, and where the class is large enough, a good teacher receives inspiration and arouses enthusiasm.

In a school where the pupils are well classified they aid the teacher by assisting one another during the recitation. It is well-known by educators that the presentation of new matter, first by the teacher, then by the apt scholar, and finally by the less successful pupil, is a repetition that does not weary, but becomes a direct gain to the permanence of the knowledge imparted. When the slower pupils are called upon to answer questions, their ability to do so avoids the necessity of further tests. When the more deficient members of the group are looked after, the apt and more industrious pupils will take care of themselves. If the classification is bad, or if individual instruction is depended upon, there is a lack of enthusiasm, much time is wasted, and the government is defective.

Difficulties of Classification.-A perfect classification of the pupils of a school is impossible. It cannot be attained so long as pupils differ in natural ability, physical strength, home advantages, and purposes in life. The limited period of school life, irregularity of attendance, the admission of pupils after the term has begun, the existence of optional courses of study, and the lack of a sufficient number of teachers, are difficulties in the way of an ideal classification. Obstacles are also presented by the great number of subjects to be taken up in small schools, by differences in the progress made by many pupils in different branches, and by the necessity of giving some recognition to the age and size of children.

Grades of Schools.-Schools are organized with reference to the periods of development in human life. In a national system of education, which recognizes no class distinctions, there is little overlapping of courses of study. Each grade or period has well-defined characteristics. The kinds of schools, the nature of the discipline, and the qualifications of the teachers, are determined by the wants of the different stages of physical and mental growth. (See Appendix, Courses of Study.)

From the third or fourth year to the sixth or seventh the child is trained in such a way at the kindergarten as to develop healthy, vigorous physical growth. Here happy childhood is realized, right habits are cherished, helpful emotions are tenderly fostered, and hurtful feelings are gently repressed. When admitted to the elementary classes of the Public School his restless activities must be rooted in right habits, his knowledge of nature must be extended, and a love for learning must he cultivated. He learns to read, to write and to have some idea of number. His physical well-being is promoted, his intellect is sharpened, and gentle manners and good morals become a part of his nature. As he passes to more advanced classes he enters upon a larger and even happier life. The wonder-worlds of science, history and literature begin to open to his mind, his language faculty is constantly developed, and his reasoning powers have made consider-able progress. By the time he reaches his thirteenth or fourteenth year he is ready to enter the High School. A broader curriculum is now taken up. Self-control develops rapidly under a system of good government. Instead of a single teacher, he is instructed by several, who are, perhaps, specialists in their own departments. At the age of seventeen or eighteen he enters upon his college or university course. Here he is left more than ever before to his own efforts. He reaches the highest steps of the educational ladder with, it is presumed, extensive know-ledge, much intellectual power, and habits well formed. He has also, perhaps, acquired a special acquaintance with some department of study, and his attainments and inclinations may have weight in pointing out his calling in life.

It is well that care should be taken to guard the transition periods of an educational course from their peculiar dangers. The teacher who receives the children from the kindergarten should have some knowlege of kindergarten methods. Pupils in the first form of the High School should have few teachers, and these teachers would be benefited by having had experience in teaching before entering upon High School duties. On similar grounds, the university professor will be more successful in controlling young college students, if he has taught a few years in a High School.

State Control.-In the interests of education there should be a judicious division of authority and responsibility between the State and the section or municipality. The selection of teachers and the expenditure to be incurred are matters for the locality concerned. The State should prescribe the course of study, decide what text-books are to be used, fix the qualifications of teachers and inspectors, and determine the duties of all school officers. If the schools are to be well organized and the pupils efficiently trained, the recognized features of good management must be guaranteed by law. Those principles of school organization that have been accepted as sound by the leading educationists of the country should be embodied in the statutes and regulations, and should govern all school authorities. The removal of pupils from one locality to another, and the frequent changes of teachers, render it important that uniformity in the organization of the schools should be a marked feature of the educational system. This uniformity does not call for sameness in methods of teaching and discipline. It assumes, however, that there is a period where the High School work should begin, and another where it should end ; it assumes also that the qualifications of teachers will be better, and the cost of text-books less to the people, when these matters are not left to each district to determine for itself.

Basis of Classification.-The general test of classification is, no doubt, the attainments of the pupils. These may be known from their record, or by means of a preliminary examination. The knowledge which a pupil has of the subjects taught, his intellectual power, his age, and his health, should receive consideration. When a pupil is backward in some subjects, though well up in others, it becomes necessary to balance contending claims. If there is any doubt regarding the class in which the pupil should be placed, it is better to put him too low than too high. To promote, if necessary, is an agreeable duty; to degrade is a hard and unpleasant task. A new teacher will do well to adopt the classification of his predecessor as a temporary arrangement. In this way he learns the ability of each pupil before a permanent organization is made, and saves himself from hastily making any changes that may turn out to be imprudent. The final classification should be so judicious that few readjustments have to be made. Any modifications should come only from promotions-it is not desirable to put pupils back except in clear cases of in-attention to duty. It is evident that the organization of a school or the classification of the pupils, is a comparatively simple matter in a country where the system of education is marked by uniformity. When there is variety in the courses and standards followed in different schools much time is lost, and much trouble arises whenever a change of teachers takes place.

Ungraded Schools.-Rural schools suffer much from frequent changes of teachers and from the employment of those who have little experience. There is a lack of wholesome competition among pupils of the higher classes, and the great number of lessons to be taught by each teacher is a serious drawback to effective work. These difficulties would not be so great if trustees realized the importance of securing teachers competent to look after a number of classes at the same time, and to inspire pupils with a love for work. It requires experience to learn how to keep several other classes profitably engaged while a class is taught a lesson.

A new teacher should, if possible, get a knowledge of the school before he enters upon his duties. The number of classes, the extent of the course taken up, the discipline and modes of teaching of previous teachers, the names of the pupils, and the views of the community, are matters that may be ascertained with advantage. Before he enters the school his plans should be ready. Nothing impresses children more favorably than to meet a new teacher who is ready for his duties. The first day is of great importance. A few cheering words of welcome to the pupils, and a request that they attend to certain work while he temporarily arranges the classes, will be received with favor. There must be no disposition shown to speak disparagingly of his predecessor's work. " How do you like your new teacher I " is a question likely to be asked pupils when they reach home. The teacher who makes a good impression the first day has gained much.

No teacher can foresee all the difficulties with which he will have to contend. He cannot anticipate them by any perfect scheme of organization. His temporary arrangements should be carefully examined. He should make a thorough study of his pupils individually and collectively. He should find out their attainments in the different branches. Generally, reading and arithmetic will furnish a safe guide in estimating the ability of each pupil. It may be better not to take up every subject on the pro-gramme until the permanent organization is secured. Pupils should feel from the beginning that they have plenty to do. A teacher who has to take several days to settle down to work does not know the essential elements of school management. In less than a week he should understand fairly well what modifications are desirable in the classification. In matters of organization, hints from the inspector are always valuable to the beginner.

Graded Schools.-Graded schools are possible only in cities, towns and villages. Besides being more economical than ungraded schools, they have several advantages in the matter of efficiency. They are a saving of labor. The teacher in a rural school has from twenty to thirty separate classes in different subjects to look after, and perhaps only five or ten minutes to devote to many a recitation. He finds himself largely limited to the hearing of lessons. Individual instruction is often almost out of the question in an ungraded school, on account of the number of lessons to be taken each day. Individual instruction is too much neglected in graded schools, but this may be the fault of the teacher. It is a fact, how ver, that children learn more by class than by individual instruction. Pupils are sometimes kept back in a graded school, and are forced to " mark time " until the dull ones are ready to advance. This is a result of bad classification, and not a fault of the system.

In a well-graded school the division of labor among the teachers increases their skill. The teaching is superior. The teacher can prepare himself better for his work. There is more ambition among the pupils, and hence a greater desire to excel and secure promotion. Among children in a graded school there is more activity to think and observe for themselves. Better organization secures better discipline. There result greater regularity of attendance, more punctuality, better order and more industry. The superiority of the moral training given in a graded school is clear as compared with what could be given in ungraded city schools. It should not be forgotten that the pupils of country schools are freed from many of the evil influences of those attending city schools. The country boy, in spite of the disadvantages of his school, often surpasses the city boy. This fact is an argument in favor of rural life, but not in favor of ungraded schools. It too often happens that too much assistance is given to pupils in graded schools. In rural schools pupils are obliged to depend much on their own efforts, and those who succeed generally acquire the valuable habit of self reliance. Here, again, defective teaching in the graded school, and not the organization, is at fault. It is evident that in all matters pertaining to good teaching, good discipline and good training, the graded school is superior to the ungraded one. The objections to be guarded against are : Too little individual instruction, too much explanation to pupils, too much uniformity, and too great a tendency to sacrifice the interests of backward children. All the assumed advantages of ungraded schools may be maintained in graded schools, and the noticeable defects of the latter are not necessarily associated with the system.

On grounds of efficiency, as well as of economy, the superiority of graded over ungraded schools is admitted by educationists. In the Eastern States graded schools have been adopted by many rural districts. Children are conveyed at the expense of the district to some central school in a village or town, where they have the advantages of an improved classification. In the evening they are conveyed back to their homes, where they retain the benefit of parental oversight and of country life.

Number of Grades.-The number of classes in a school will depend upon the number of pupils and the course to be taken up. An eight years' course may fairly represent the requirements for admission to a High School, and therefore a Public School with less than eight teachers will exhibit defects in the matter of classification. With ten or twelve grades in a school the opportunities are better for meeting the conditions arising from the differences in the ability of pupils. Subdivisions of the more elementary grades are desirable in some subjects, and it may be necessary to make promotions in the junior classes every half-year. A year at least under the same teacher is, as a rule, essential to the best discipline. In an ungraded school the curriculum may be the same as that of graded schools, but, for obvious reasons, the number of classes should be less.

It follows that a Public School which is so large as to render necessary a duplication of classes, is not free from objections. A school, for instance, that has two senior fourth book classes, doing exactly the same work, presents no advantage in the matter of organization, as compared with one where there is a single class taking up the same part of the curriculum. The latter has superior advantages on grounds of discipline. Except as regards economy, two graded schools with ten teachers each are preferable to one with the same number of pupils and twenty teachers. A High School with about three hundred pupils, under eight or ten teachers, is sufficiently large for good work. No Principal of a High School should have a greater number of pupils than he can become acquainted with. To get well acquainted with his pupils he must teach every form or division some subject.

Size of Classes.-The size of classes will depend upon the ages of the pupils, the subject to be taught, the mode of conducting the recitation, and the skill of the teacher. Young children are best taught in small classes, but with advanced pupils larger groups are essential to effective instruction. A class should never be so large as to make it difficult to retain the attention of the pupils, or to gauge the progress of each.

Reading, Latin, etc, are best taught in groups of ten or a dozen. A much larger class is desirable in such subjects as history, geography, grammar, etc. If individual teaching is needed little can be accomplished in large classes. On the other hand, emulation and enthusiam are wanting in small classes of advanced pupils. If explanations and illustrations constitute the plan of instruction, there is a loss of power and time in teaching a few. If the question method is adopted, pupils will be overlooked if the class is too large.

If the work is to be well done, only a very skilful teacher will be found competent to manage a class of more than forty pupils. In some subjects the number should be less.

When a class is too large there is much waste of energy. Much time is lost in keeping order. Careless pupils count the chances of escaping detection, and only some of the class receive the benefits of the teacher's instruction. A teacher of only average ability, who would fail with a class of forty, may do good work with a class of twenty.

High Schools.-In the organization of High Schools some of the difficulties to be met in the case of elementary schools do not arise. Other difficulties have, however, to be considered. These are such as result from a more advanced curriculum, an increased number of subjects, and the introduction of optional courses of study (See Course of Study). The division of the work among the members of the staff must be made on a different basis, and the special scholarship of each teacher has to be considered.

The classification of the pupils should depend mainly on their knowledge of the obligatory subjects. So far as possible each optional subject pursued by a pupil should be begun where it is prescribed in the course. As this is not always practicable, pupils will often be obliged to take the optional subjects in a higher or in a lower form than the one in which they are classified. In small High Schools care must be taken to prevent a multiplicity of classes. When the staff is large valuable improvements in the classification may be made. There may be three or four divisions of the pupils in each of the lower forms, each teacher may be limited in his duties to fewer subjects, and the optional subjects may present less difficulty in classification. The problem of organizing a High School is often a complicated one, and its solution demands much executive ability.

Mixed Classes.-Boys and girls are generally taught together until they reach the High School stage. In secondary schools co-education prevails in Canada and in the United States, and gains ground in England. In Germany, and especially in France, it has not met with favor. Economical advantages had doubtless most weight at first in placing boys and girls in the same class. Experience has justified this departure from the former rule. The objections raised against mixed schools are well known. It is said a uniform discipline cannot be administered ; that girls cannot stand the same strain as boys ; that the courses of study should be different; and that girls, if taught with boys, become forward and self-assertive, and lose that innate modesty and delicacy of both feeling and action which should characterize the female sex. In opposition to this, it is held that discipline is better in mixed classes ; that neither boys nor girls should be pressed with work beyond their physical strength, and that the principle of options meets this objection. It is, moreover, contended that the rudeness of boys is checked and the nervous timidity of girls is lessened by means of co-education; that the character of boys is refined and that of girls strengthened by the system ; that the manners of both are improved ; and that the traits to be desired in either sex cannot be cultivated except by the proper association of the one with the other.

It is after all a question of judicious management. Under a skilful teacher either system will exhibit good results. A man who is lacking in character and in powers of discipline will do more harm in mixed classes. One who has the qualifications of a scholarly and Christian gentleman will have greater opportunities for good in an institution where co-education is established. A High School, which has some lady teachers of high attainments, and such accommodations as guard the interests of discipline, and provide for a choice of options, will promote most effectively the intellectual and moral training of both boys and girls, if the system of co-education is carried out in most of the classes.

The relative merits of male and female teachers have been much discussed. Objection has been made to the custom of giving gentlemen higher salaries than ladies for similar positions. It should be understood that "filling similar positions " does not prove that there is no difference between the training given by a man and that given by a woman. The question has its economical aspects, and supply and demand, rather than sentiment, must largely govern. The real object of the teacher's work is often lost sight of in the discussion. To impart knowledge, or to prepare pupils for examinations, is not the highest aim of the educationist, but to form character. In some positions a lady's influence is superior for this purpose to that of a gentleman. For young children a female teacher is assuredly preferable. In the case of grown-up boys, and even of girls, some valuable characteristics of training cannot be secured without those features of discipline which are exhibited by the best male teachers, It should also be remembered that even boys-and certainly girls-are improved by having in the High School one or more female, teachers. A great mistake is made in supposing a girl should go to an institution where she will receive instruction only from ladies. No better kind of mental and moral development can be secured by a young woman than that which she may gain in the ordinary High School.

Manifold Classification.-When each subject taught in a school forms an independent basis of organization, the classification is termed manifold. It has the advantage of exactness and simplicity. There is a better chance for progress in the branches adapted to the individual tastes.

On the other hand, it presents enfeebled motives to exertion in those subjects where a pupil is weak. It leads to " lopsidedness." It renders necessary a rearrangement of the classes after every lesson, and in a graded school this would cause much trouble and disorder. In buildings arranged and schools organized on the Prussian or class-room plan, the manifold (synchronous) system of classification has some advantages. The benefits do not, however, make up for the inconveniences that arise. Much time is wasted, and the readjustments cause confusion in the work of teachers and pupils. There is great difficulty in constructing time-tables to suit the complex system of organization that is produced, and there is no satisfactory means of fixing responsibility as regards discipline.

In rural schools the principle of manifold classification is seldom applied, except in the "doubling-up" of classes. It may also happen that large pupils, who attend only a while in the winter, are behind in grammar for instance, though fairly well on in arithmetic. Such pupils may be fit for the fourth or fifth class in the latter subject, but require to be taught with the third class in the former subject. In ordinary graded schools such readjustments are out of the question. In High Schools the arguments are against the manifold classification, except in so far as concerns the optional branches. For example, a pupil of the third form may take physics in the second form and Latin and botany in the first form.

Single Classification.-The formation of character, and not the development of individual tastes, is the work of the teacher. The different branches have their respective educational values. For young children specialization has its dangers. To prevent the undue cultivation of some faculties a premium should not be given to high rank in any one department. Average attainments should be the main test of promotion. No subject on the course should be neglected, and therefore a minimum standard in each subject is needed. Physical culture is important, and therefore bodily strength should have some weight in classification. Moral education is of prime value, and therefore good conduct should form an essential factor in the advancement of pupils. An all-round education is what children require, and on this account there should be a graded course of studies for each form. As a consequence, the single classification is the preferable one in the organization of schools, and with the modifications already mentioned it has come into general use.

Division of Work.-With a staff of two or more teachers in a school the work of teaching may be divided on the basis of subjects, or on that of forms. Until pupils reach the High School the latter of these methods should be followed. With a class under his constant control the teacher has better means to study the disposition and ability of each pupil than he could have if his attention were divided among several classes. In the case of young children the development of character would suffer if the responsibility of discipline were divided. In elementary classes it does not follow that proficiency in teaching needs specialization. The range of the work for junior pupils is not extensive, and the teacher who, for instance, manages science well may be equally successful with arithmetic or literature. In graded schools there is some tendency towards narrowing the teacher. If the sole business of a teacher were to give instruction in one subject, as arithmetic or grammar, this narrowness would be intensified. The growth of a child does not depend exclusively upon proficiency in the branches of study. The most potent factor in the true development of the child is the personality of the teacher. Intellectual and moral growth is retarded if, in the case of a young pupil, a new personality meets him in every recitation.

"They would recommend that the specialization of teachers work should not be attempted before the seventh or eighth year of the elementary school, and in not more than one or two studies then. In the secondary school it is expected that a teacher will teach one, or at most, two branches. In the elementary school, for at least six years, it is better on the whole to have each teacher instruct his pupils in all the branches that they study, for the reason that only in this way can he hold an even pressure on the requirements of work, correlating it in such a manner that no one study absorbs undue attention. In this way the pupils prepare all their lessons under the direct supervision of the same teacher, and by their recitations show what defects of methods of study there have been in the preparation."-Report of the Committee of Fifteen.

In the lower forms of a High School pupils should receive their instruction from only a few teachers. To divide the subjects taken up among four or five teachers is too sudden a change of method from that previously pursued. When pupils have been a year or two in a High School, discipline itself will justify modifications of organization. They get more breadth of view from contact with different minds. The best teachers must be specialists in their respective departments. No one person can successfully instruct pupils in all the advanced work of secondary schools. In the case of university students it is well known that a high standard can be attained only by means of a large number of professors, each of whom has made a specialty of his own department.

Promotions.-Promotions should be made at regular periods, and generally at the same time for all the forms of a school. Except for the lowest classes, once a year is often enough to make regular transfers from one class to another. Promotions at irregular periods disarrange the work, lead to confusion, and show weakness of organization. A teacher should, however, advance pupils any time during the term, if their attainments warrant such promotion. In a well-classified school it will be a rare occurrence to find a scholar who will suffer by remaining till the proper time for promotion.

Attainments and application should decide whether or not a pupil is fit to enter a higher class. It may be well in some cases to make conditional promotions. The teacher is in a better position than any other person to judge what promotions should be made. His knowledge of the class should be so definite that, apart from the records he has kept, he should be able to say who are ready to enter the next form. The oral tests which good teaching renders necessary, and the written examinations (Chapter XVI.) which are inseparable from the best instruction, will furnish him with more reliable data for deciding upon the respective standing of pupils than can be secured in any other way. Circumstances render it essential in some schools that the results of a final examination should form an important factor in determining promotions. It is better for the teacher that he should not bear the full responsibility of making promotions in the higher classes. At the same time, any system of examinations which hampers the teacher in the organization of his school is unsound in principle and troublesome in practice.



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