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The work which the Academies were doing at this time in preparing teachers for the schools is shown by the following extracts from the reports made by the Academies to the Regents for the academic year 1883–4. The Cambridge Washington Academy, in speaking of the extent and importance of elementary studies and the attention paid to them at this school, says:
“This practice has arisen, not only from the manifest importance of the subject, but likewise from the circumstance that so large a portion of our students are young men preparing themselves for teachers. Of the students that have attended the Academy during the past year, eighteen are now, or have been during the year, employed as teachers in district schools."
St. Lawrence Academy says:
“We have sent out upwards of sixty teachers, and yet we have not been able to meet near all the calls. Upwards of one hundred might have found employment at good wages in answering the calls actually made for teachers."
Lowville Academy reports:
“ Ten teachers of common schools have been instructed in this Academy during the year."
The Gouverneur High School says:
“The greater part of our older students, who have left the Academy, either temporarily or finally, have engaged as teachers of common schools, of which this institution has, within the last year, furnished not less than forty-one, most of whom are well qualitied and are highly useful in that station.”
Hamilton Academy reports:
“Between forty and fifty of the scholars, who have been instructed in this institution since the last report, have since engaged in teaching either select or common schools."
The Cortland Academy reports quite fully:
“The trustees, during the past season, have made an effort to instrnct teachers of common schools on a plan different from what they have heretofore been accustomed to. A class was formed at the commencement of the last term, and instructed with special reference to preparing them for teaching common schools. The principal objects proposed in the course of instruction adapted were to make thiem thoroughly acquainted with the branches usually taught in those schools, and with the best modes of instruction and discipline. The result has fully answered our expectations, and twenty-four young men from our institution are now engaged in teaching. Those who were best qualified have secured good wages; and we consider the point now fully established, that if the public can be furnished with good teachers they will employ them at a compensation which will be a fair equivalent for their labor. We greatly need the ineans of doing much more in this department than we have yet been able to do. We feel that the importance of the object presents a strong claim on the munificence of the State. Many of the young men who formed the class attended a course of experimental lectures on chemistry, and were sufficiently acquainted with this and other departments of natural science to teach them successfully. We have no doubt that a class of fifty could be formed the next season if we had the means of employing an extra teacher for this department, and with the very best effect on the interests of common.school education. We ought to be able to make the tuition of the class gratuitous, or to place it at a very low rate, because the young men who engage in teaching are generally poor and depend entirely on their own exertions for support. Any money which the Regents may appropriate to this institution for this purpose will be faithfully applied.
The Oxford Academy also reports at some length and heads this part of its report “Teacher's Department.” It says:
“A department for the instruction of teachers has been continued for two and a half months of the year, during which time an additional teacher was employed for the purpose of affording to those young men who were about to enter upon the business of teaching for the ensuing winter, advantages for instruction which they could not have when classed with the rest of the school. Instruction was given in all the branches required to be taught in Common Schools, and also bistory, Constitution of the United States and of New York, algebra, geometry and surveying, to those who could find leisure to pursue them. "A course of lectures on school keeping, and practical illustrations of the duties of teachers, was given during the continuance of the department. It is not believed that two and a half months is a sufficient time to prepare young men properly for the discharge of their duties as teachers, but it is as long and even a longer time than the department has been able to sustain itself. The effect of these instructions to teachers has been to produce a greater uniformity in the manner of conducting schools,, and it is presuned also an improvement in their condition. It may be remarked that all the teachers in the Academy found a very ready employment, and at a compensation, on an average, of $2 or $3 per month in advance of those who had not been instructed for the business of teaching. The wages of the teachers obtained at the Academy, varied from $12 to $25 per month. The number of teachers instructed at the Academy during the year was thirtyseven."
The Yates County Academy says:
During the past year, from twenty to thirty individuals have been qualified (in the opinion of the teachers) and sent out from the Academy to become teachers of Common Schools.":
The Fredonia Academy reports:
“A class was first organized in this Academy in 1832, to study the principles of teaching, and again in 1833. In these two years probably about thirty school teachers have received here the benefits to be derived from a systematic course of lectures and recitations upon this subject.”
The Rochester High School reports:
“Great efforts have been made by the principal to qualify young ladies and gentlemen, by a competent course of study, to become teachers in Common Schools. There are about twenty-five young ladies from this institution now engaged in Common Schools and the higher departments, and about the same number of males. The principal, in the August vacation, visited the villages in this and the neighboring counties, to interest the public and teachers of Common Schools in deriving aid from the instruction, lectures and examples intended for a class of teachers. Many of that class are now conducting large schools, and no one remained the time required to be entitled to a place in this report, and no compensation from tuition equalled the expense. Still the success evinces the safety of relying on Academies to qualify teachers for Common Schools. Of the young men educated during the preceding and this year, forty have been or are teaching, and many in valuable select schools, making in all seventy males and females employed as teachers.'
The report from Canandaigua Academy, which among the schools of that day is still active and flourishing, was the first to form classes for the special instruction of teachers, is more full and complete than any of the others, and is as follows:
“ About four years since a teachers' department was organized on the following plan : 1st. That those young gentlemen who entered this school to prepare themselves for teachers should enter the classes pursuing those branches in which they wished, or it was deemed necessary to perfect themselves. In these classes the instruction is to be very extended and minute. 2d. The teachers to be organized into a class and receive a specific course of instruction on the following plan: To meet five evenings each week, and spend two or three hours together. On three evenings of each week, Hall's Lectures on School-keeping are recited till the book is finished and thoroughly reviewed. The lessons are short, and the time is filled up by the instructor in further illustration of the sub
ject, and by prompting inquiry and examination in the class. The remaining evening of the week is devoted to the consideration of a series of subjects; one being discussed each evening. Each member of the class brings in a written subject. So many of these are read as the time will allow. The important hints thrown out by the members are particularly stated by the instructor, enlarged upon and illustrated. Mutual conversation is called forth. This evening exercise is attended with great interest and profit both to the instructor and to the class. The subjects discussed on these evenings are nearly the following, and in the order mentioned :
1. The defects in common schools.
2. The circumstances which restrain and discourage the efforts of the teacher.
3. The best modes of teaching the alphabet, reading and spelling. 4. The best mode of teaching arithmetic, and the best books. 5. The best mode of teaching geography, 6. The best mode of teaching English grammar. 7. The best modle of teaching writing and making of pens. 8. Pestalozzi and his mode of instruction. 9. Government of schools.
10. Best method of arresting the attention of pupils. Substitution of signs, etc., for the ordinary questions in schools.
11. How to teach composition.
12. What plans can the teacher adopt to render his labors more extensively useful to his pupils ? This inquiry is intended to embrace the formation of school lyceums, school libraries, the circulation of periodicals relating to education, etc.
13. Construction of school-houses.
This course of instruction is designed to continue one-quarter of cach year. Hereafter a teachers' class will be organized both in the suinmer and winter terms. It is not supposed that a course of instruction is all that is needed ; by no means. The course, however, is such as to give to young men a more elevated, enlarged and accurate view of what a teacher should accomplish; prompt thought on the subject of communicating instruction leads to the invention of new methods of teaching and commanding the attention of pupils, and becomes in some degree a substitute for a long and painful experience. It is due to the teachers of this school to say, that this course has been sustained by them at a great sacrifice of time and labor, without any reward except the hope of doing good. The number of teachers who have been through a regular course in the teachers' department during the last four years is about sixty.”
We thus find from this Annual Report of the Board of Regents, that the Academies under their visitation were keenly alive to the importance of the preparation of teachers for the common schools and were actively cinploying all the means at their command to do this work. In advance of and greatly in need of aid from the State, in advance of Legislative enactment or official recognition, these Academies were slowly and under great difficulties, but courageously and persistently taking the first steps in the solution of a problem which still occupies the ablest minds in the educational ranks.
To these schools and to the men who had them in charge belong the honor and the credit of organizing the first classes in this country for the professional training of teachers. It is greatly to the credit of the State, also, that in its public policy, by successive and timely legislation, it has nourished and fostered the seed thus sown, until by its system of normal schools, teachers' classes and teachers' institutes, in the facilities offered to its teachers for technical instruction in their chosen calling as in many other particulars, it is indeed the Empire State. Although the need of qualified teachers for the Common Schools had been keenly felt by those who were most deeply interested in the success of those schools, and although the attention of the Legislature had from time to time been called to this need by the Regents of the University and by the Superintendents of Common Schools in their annual reports, no legislative action had yet been taken authorizing the organization of a system of instruction and appropriating the necessary funds to carry out the plan which might be formed. It was reserved for the Legislature of 1534 to enact the first law in this country recognizing the need of public aid for the education of teachers for the Common Schools and making provision therefor.
The act was passed May 2, 1831, and is as follows:
SECTION 1. The revenue of the literature fund now in the treasury, and the excess of the annual revenue of said fund hereafter to be paid into the treasury, or portions thereof, may be distributed by the Regents of the University, if they shall deem it expedient, to the Academies subject to their visitation, or a portion of them, to be expended as hereinafter mentioned.
§ 2. The Trustees of Academies, to which any distribution of money shall be made by virtue of this act, shall cause the same to be expended in educating teachers of common schools, in such manner and under such regulations as said Regents shall prescribe.” 1
At a special meeting of the Board of Regents, held May 22, 1834, only twenty days after the passage of the act, a certified copy of the above act was presented to the Board, and read, and it was thereupon
1 Chap. 241, Laws of 1831.