House of Education
Practising School Report
Sampling of notes:
“Has quietly effective manner.”
“Bright & keen, not always wise, untidy mind, acquiring dignity.”
“Quick to see her mistakes, worked hard with dulle children.”
‘Gives impression of detachment & uncertainty…must learn to get interest rather than nag and say “don’t.” ‘
“Must guard against sentiment.”
“Promising. Thinks of children not herself. Serious minded but lacks ideas.”
“Anxious to learn. Ideas good but not well sorted. Criticism welcomed.”
“Plucky, conscientous, but makes mistakes thro’ ignorance & lack of intellectual grasp.”
“Improving but stilted and too dependent on book.”
“Creates a calm & quiet atmosphere. Has authority. Teaching lacking interest due to ignorance.”
“Good common sense. Has ideas which sometimes arrive too late.”
‘Good when sure of her ground (this rarely!). Not always the “seeing eye.” ‘
“Tried, but is still not in touch with the children.”
“Imaginative & thoughtful. Begins to understand how to introduce a lesson.”
“Courageous. Tried hard. Showed initiative, but class laughed at her.”
“A bright manner.”
“Excellent. Trained in good habits.”
“Gives full thought. Knows what aiming at. Detail excellent.”
“Vague atmosphere- must be more constructive. Did not hold class.”
“Needs more orderly approach mentally & practically.”
“Did not give whole mind to work.”
“Rarely exerts herself. Not enough preparation. Improved after scolding.”
Reading through the criticism lessons was one of my favorite aspects of my morning in the archives. As I scanned over these old books, jotting down phrases that spoke to me the most, I felt at times like I was in the classroom observing these fledgling teachers, seeing the students as they responded to the lessons. Alternatively, I would envision myself back at home amidst my own “pupils”…and I was at times pained to compare my own teaching methods with the suggestions I found in the pages before me.
I developed in a very short time an overall sense of what was expected of a teacher being trained at the House of Education. She must be thoroughly prepared for a lesson, having a full and detailed grasp of the material, yet she must present the lesson in a gentle yet firm way that sparks the children’s interest without giving them the upper hand. She had to engage them, help them, encourage them, and direct them, without being overbearing and without giving them too much to do. She was expected to be tidy, disciplined, organized, and serious without being rigid or dull. Personal intellectual growth and attention to good habits was to characterize her outside the classroom. Talking too much and silliness were frowned upon.
Thinking about how I approach lessons with my own children, I drew some encouragement but I also felt deeply reproached, thinking of how my own evaluation might read. My tendency towards laziness and lack of preparation would certainly be noticed. Disorganization, failure to be imaginative and engaging, and inability to discipline my “class” would also be among the comments, I’m sure.
However, not only did I leave that day with my mind full of new ideas on how to approach teaching within my home, I was also mildly encouraged as I thought of the few areas in which we already excel. The atmosphere of our home, most of the time anyway, is pleasant and fosters learning and discovery. We curl up together on our big couch and read interesting books, and all the children, though still quite young, have had their favorites and have gotten caught up in a story and have begged for more. They love to run to the globe and find the places that we’ve talked about. They will sometimes draw pictures or act out a story with dress-up clothes and toys for props. They run for their nature note books when they see a bird or an insect or a plant that interests them.
Now several weeks removed from that day spent in that dusty library, I am even more thankful for the time granted me to peruse the boxes of books and photos and letters and notes. I uncovered many a treasure amongst them, and though my hand cramped up from all the writing down of all the little jewels I wished to take away with me, I can look over them now and remember and enjoy the bits and pieces that I recorded of a lifestyle of learning, a most remarkable set of people engaged in a unique venture, preparing educators for something new and different, something that continues to have an impact on teachers and home educators throughout the world.