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that it is the wish of the patrons to secure only the best teachers and assist them to classify the schools so as to obtain the best results.
These schools have attracted so much attention to the work accomplished that the good work will, in time, spread uniformly over the entire county, and the “little leaven will leaven the whole lamp," if properly cared for.
The work of classifying and grading has beon successfully carried out in the districts where the best scholarship has been reached, and in the last three years about sixty pupils have completed the common school course of study from the country schools.
At first some objections were urged against classification examination, etc., expense of paper, and the old, old story, "examinations are too straining on the minds of the pupils-excitement too great, etc.”
But since parents and school officers have observed the wonderful advancement made in penmanship, use of capital letters, punctuation, spelling in manuscript and ability to express thought in writing, brought about by this method of teaching, the expense of material is considered a trifling matter.
Practical application of principles and rules produce better effects than theorizing and memorizing and secure more lasting results.
The examinations have stimulated the schools to earnest work during the entire terms. The successful teachers have caused no undue excitement or strain upon their pupils in this work, and the embarrassed and timid pupils have been strengthened and encouraged by their use. Pupils who are inclined to being timid and nervous must sooner or later get over these faults, and the teacher who can pot avoid the excitement thus produced falls so much short of a successful teacher. Reviews and examinations of some character are found in all successful schools.
Our teachers' normal institute has been organized on the graded plan for three years. The course of study runs through four years, and is similar to the one recommended for use throughout the State.
Those teachers who complete the course with satisfactory results and hold first-class certificates are given diplomas.
Since this organization in the institute work, the attendance has been much increased and much more regular.
Nearly every teacher has worked to complete the course, and the instructors have been better able to give suitable work to each division, owing to the more uniform ability of the teachers in each division
The greatest objection to the institute work is the short term and want of compulsion in attendance by law.
Nearly all our school buildings are frame-size of sufficient capacity to comfortably accommodate forty to sixty pupils, lighted from each side, window sash constructed to be raised and lowered. Blackboards across one end of building, and in many buildings are made also between windows on side walls.
Lately the buildings are being lined and ceiled, as plastered walls last but a short time.
Our best blackboards are made of well seasoned broad boards, and when dressed and well painted make a lasting and good surface.
The school buildings are generally well supplied with seats and teacher's desk; but I am sorry to note that but few of our schools are supplied with maps, charts, globes, etc. However many of our teachers have supplied themselves in this direction and go to their schools prepared to work.
Since the law has required the planting of shade trees, most districts have fenced their school grounds and have thrifty groves that add much to the beauty and comfort of the school house sites. A few boards have neglected to comply with the law. The school boards have given attention to condition of out buildings and see that they are decent and free from obscene and improper language.
But a few districts maintain more than the six months term of school in each year.
Teacher's salaries range from twenty-five to forty dollars per month in the rural districts. In some instances wages are paid according to the success of the teacher, but most generally are established by the board without regard to applicant.
The course of study in our country and village schools includes no more than the common branches, that is, those upon which teachers are required to pass for certificates.
Since an effort has been made to grade the country schools, more attention is being paid to taking the regular course of study, and the law requiring the teaching of the effects of alcohol, stimulants, narcotics, etc., is being generally observed, and will assist in breaking up the old idea that “reading, rithmetic and riting” are the only necessary branches to be taught.
I said in the beginning that our schools are in a prosperous condition. I mean that the school feeling is good. We have many excellent schools distributed throughout the county that are doing their work in educating the disinterested, and school boards have learned that the best teachers are essential for the best schools, and in many districts the successful teachers are retained several terms in succession, or are sought for instead of waiting for applications.
The interest in school work is growing more general, and although our county has suffered on account of wet and dry seasons that have influenced the wages paid teachers, yet the parents are interested in educating their children, and the feeling is strong for good schools.
BY JULIA B. HOADLEY.
There is so much that needs improving in the educational work of Decatur county that my report may not give full credit to the really excellent work which has been done. There is a very healthy sentiment among our teachers for better preparation for their work and the majority are doing faithful service.
Educational meetings have been well attended and much interest manifested.
An attempt has been made to grade the rural schools. As we might expect, there is opposition; but we believe that system is necessary to the welfare of the schools and shall continue to urge the matter until we can prove our position by actual results.
Indifference in school matters is the great sin which breeds many deplorable results.
A normal institute has been held every summer since 1873 and last year the course of study recommended by the State Department, was put in operation with most gratifying results. The teachers like it.
We seek to accomplish fitting our teachers for doing more efficient work in the school room. Promotions are based on scholarship and attendance.
I think there should be a uniformity throughout the State in regard to requirements for promotion and graduation. A normal diploma, granted on the basis of attendance is of little value. I think a normal diploma should be an instrument of sufficient worth and dignity to entitle the holder to a certificate in any county of the State.
Several school buildings have been erected in the past two years. Convenience is not always taken into consideration in their construction. Too little floor space for the number of seats used, is a prevalent fault. Grounds, out houses, fences and trees are somewhat neglected.
The school year averages about seven months and is usually divided into two terms. The wages paid are not such as to induce the most enterprising to remain in the profession. Grammar is most neglected of the common branches. Hygienic physiology is very gradually coming into use.
Intelligent supervision is the great need of our schools and one person is wholly unable, under the present management, to carefully supervise 135 schools. I hope the time will come when we will have independent township organizations and a township superintendent in each such organization.
BY H. A. MILLER.
Delaware county has from the beginning of her history been active and progressive in all matters educational. The people who settled upon her fair prairies and along her woodlands have from the first realized that neither a county nor a State can be such in the fullest sense of the term nor continue long to exist even in name unless her pillars are set firmly upon the basal rock of education.
At the present time the interest in education on the part of patrons, officers and teachers is gradually increasing, and in consequence the conditions for the prosecution of school, work are improving, until our schools may, we believe, without boasting, be classed as equal to those of the sister counties of Iowa.
There have been no revolutions in methods or means of education here, but a steady forward movement has throughout our history been maintained.
In 1873, before the State law providing for Normal Institutes was passed, Supt. W. H. Merten held an institute of two weeks duration at Delaware. The methods employed in conducting it were somewhat similar to those in vogue at the present time, and that, with several others held in different parts of the State at the same time, became the forerunners of the present normal institute, so successfully conducted in every county of the State. Through the normal institute in this county it has ever been the aim to better prepare teachers and those intending to teach for their great work. Also to inspire a professional ambition in the minds of all, and to rally and organize the educational forces of the county. To the above ends, teachers have been urged to spare no pains to be present at the institute, and study throughout the year has been advised. The work at the sessions of the institute has been upon both the subject matter of the branches and methods of instruction. Many who attend these institutes are not sufficiently proficient in the branches to make professional knowledge possible. To this class the subject matter has been made the more prominent, on the ground that what to teach must be known before a knowledge of how to teach the same can be made intelligible. With those of experience and sufficient attainments, professional knowledge has been made the more prominent and subject matter incidental. Our institute is divided into four classes, according to the experience in teaching, number of institutes attended, scholarship, etc. Recitations are so conducted as to make the work instructive in both subject matter and in methods of teaching. The work done in the various classes is also modified to suit their several wants and attainments, and in the "fourth year class” some branches not taken up in the ordinary public schools have been added, such as geology, algebra, history of the world, drawing, literature, etc.
Many new school-houses have been recently built, and the old property is being replaced by that constructed upon modern plans. Greater attention is being paid to the proper lighting and to the healthfulness of the buildings. The ceilings are much higher than in the old buildings, being in the houses recently built from twelve to fourteen feet. The windows are large, giving ample light, while the black-boards and other conveniences are more plentiful. However, in several of our districts, there yet remain the old and inconvenient houses and furniture, that long since ought to have given place to that better suited to school purposes.
Until recently the public have been altogether too lax in their care of school grounds, and undoubtedly this is manifest in other counties than our own. Too often in neighborhoods made up of people of wealth, where the houses and grounds surrounding them are tastefully ornamented, presenting every evidence of refinement, the school houses and grounds are neglected, and are not in keeping with the taste displayed elsewhere in the community. It has seemed that in many districts, utility, without one thought of taste and ornament, is the sole object sought in building the school house and in selecting the grounds. Little do such people know of the educational value of every rod of fence, every walk and of every foot of the school ground, the trees, and all the surroundings. Little do they realize the value, morally, of pleasing and attractive school rooms and grounds, as contrasted with those unattractive and repugnant.
As we have intimated, the people are coming to realize that children learn more while at school tban is comprehended between the covers of the textbook, and that physical surroundings exert a powerful influence over susceptible youth; and hence school grounds are being chosen with reference to beauty and desirability of location, and are being made commodious.
The law requiring trees to be set upon school grounds has been generally observed, and this has led to fencing and otherwise ornamenting the grounds. The taste of our teachers is being manifested in the improvement of the appearance of the school grounds, as well as in the decoration of the school rooms, some very marked changes having been made.
Out-houses, in many cases, are not kept in that condition that modesty and healthfulness require. A change may profitably be wrought in this