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PUBLISHED BY THE UNGRADED TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
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SARAH E. FISKE, on Class-Management
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Rose M. BRACKEN
Dr. C. Banks McNairy, Superintendent of the Caswell Training School (the State School for Defectives), Kinston, N. C., says:
“The method used here is the one which seems especially adapted for
The Aldine Method
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THE DRAMATIC FESTIVAL by Anna A.T.
Craig. A Consideration of the Lyrical Method as a Factor in Preparatory Education. With an Introduction by Peter W. Dykema. Fore
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Spofford Morgan. Introduction by Elizabeth
Manual for Teachers and Students. $1.25 net.
by W. Bateson, M.A., F.R.S., V.M.H., Director of the John Innes Horticultural Institution. Third Edition Revised. With 3 portraits, 6 colored plates and 38 figures. Frontispiece, 21 plates and 119 illustrations in the text. $3.50 net.
THE CAMBRIDGE NATURE STUDY
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With 58 illustrations. 40c.
Introduction to the Study of the Senses. By
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W. P. Westell, F.L.S. With 50 illustrations. 650 net
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HOW TO FILL THE GAP BETWEEN SPECIAL
CLASSES AND INSTITUTIONS
The problem of feeble-mindedness is very much before the public, and everywhere in this country, community surveys, the use of mental tests and studies of family histories are furnishing evidence that the feebleminded are an increasingly important factor in all forms of social and educational work.
Along with the other agencies that are interested in finding a solution to this far reaching problem, the public school authorities have become aroused and are providing classes which it is hoped will furnish training for pupils who are not able to make good in the regular grades. Before discussing my subject: “How to Fill the Gap Between the Special Classes and Institutions” I wish to review what the public schools have attempted to do in preparation for this time of leaving school. It is generally believed that the special class is the first step in the attempt to solve the problem. Its function is first: to educate the community and the teachers of normal children to realize the situation; second: to seek out the feeble-minded children and help them, and by so doing, help the normal children who have been retarded; third: to relieve the teacher who gives perhaps thirty per cent of her energy to the few feeble-minded pupils she may have. This energy is taken from her normal pupils and does not materially benefit the feebleminded, as only in the special class can we do our best for these children; fourth: to secure justice to society, for it is a matter of social justice that 1 feeble-minded be recognized and trained as far as it is possible to do so.
The pupils should be selected by a trained expert who uses a combination of tests and who will win the confidence of parents as well as give a diagnosis of the child's mental and physical condition. In many places the high grade improvable feeble-minded children have been selected by such experts and then placed in classes under the direction of trained teachers. The number of pupils in a class is wisely limited to fifteen to a teacher, and through individual work she tries to fit her pupils for adult life. Special classes take feeble-minded children as early as possible---say-from seven to eight years of age. Some eventually return to grade and are able to complete a part of the fourth grade work; a few more are transferred directly to the institution; but the majority should remain in special classes till they reach the school age limit.
Three methods have been adopted: first, to have the special class occupy a room in an elementary school building and care for the mentally defective children of that immediate district; second, to group these pupils in a central school; and third, a combination of both individual classes and centers. In Massachusetts until recently, children were allowed to leave school at fourteen, but with the raising of the compulsory school age limit to sixteen, we found ourselves (two years ago) face to face with the problem of what to do with the special class children who must remain in school until they are sixteen years of age. In Boston in order to provide the next necessary step beyond the individual class, the regular grade pupils occupying two six-room buildings, were accommodated elsewhere and these buildings were used as centers—one for special class girls and another for special class boys. Pupils for these centers were selected from individual classes all over the city (one or two from each) as their fitness to profit by this special advantage was recognized. The separation of the sexes has proved to be of distinct advantage both to pupils and teachers, thus adding to the efficiency of the work. Little difficulty has been experienced thus far in transportation over long distances, the city paying the car fares.
At the centers advanced manual work is begun and grading and classification are possible. The program is so arranged that each child has one and one-half hours physical, one and one-half hours academic, and two hours manual work each day. The girls are given a trained teacher to instruct them in domestic science, millinery, sewing, embroidery, crocheting, knitting, mending and preserving. The boys are taught brush making, boot blacking, wood working, serving of luncheons, dish washing, simple tailoring, gardening, assistant janitor work, and other forms of comparatively unskilled labor. In this way we attempt to carry on the training of special class children from seven to sixteen years
age. In my judgment, the special class should be still further supplemented by work rooms where, under favorable conditions, pupils over sixteen may be provided with work for which they would be paid. Cobbling, chair caning, tool sharpening, brush and mat making, are industries which might be carried on profitably. They could thus be guarded and controlled in part without being taken from their homes. This brings up the question of how long the public schools should assume the responsibility of these children beyond the school age limit. It seems to me that it should do so for another year or two at least, unless there is some other agency ready to do the work. The school funds are used for work with adults in continuation and evening schools and centers—why not for the much needed work with the feeble-minded?
The most important factor is the teacher who presides over the special class. She must be one who is quick to perceive, able to adapt, whose sympathies are keen and whose outlook is broad, but who combines with these gifts, steadiness of purpose and the power to raise and hold her pupil to his best. A sense of humor will help out in many a situation. In Boston the teachers are given time in which to visit the children's homes, learn the conditions and confer with the parents. The teacher knows how much freedom can safely be given to the child; 'she knows his limitations and when work is undertaken for which he is not adapted, she is able to suggest other lines. She could keep in touch with him and advise him as the need arose, if she had the time; but the demands of her classroom are all that should be asked of her strength. In some cities, visiting teachers whose function is that of social workers, have done this work most acceptably.
Most of us will agree that the ideal condition would be for many of the mentally defective to go from the school directly to the institution, and thus safeguard the public from inefficiency, unemployment, pauperism, vagrancy, degeneracy, and all the other social consequences of feeblemindedness. Since this is impossible, we must attempt to fill the gap between the special class and the institution by providing a system of aftercare for the feeble-minded who are forced to compete with the normal in the working world. As has been said, “It is not sufficient for society that the subnormal should be properly trained in school; it is the business of someone to see that they meet the difficulties of the earn-a-living world. It is of small use to train laboriously in school for shop or farm and then see the graduate enter messenger service or other unskilled and spasmodic labor. Pioneers are needed to make this new adjustment, to study the situation, plan for it, and to enter into it. It is time for them to think together, plan together, and for others to help put the results into operation.'
The child may have been prepared for appropriate employment, but he cannot be given the necessary power of self-direction. The subnormal person (young or old) does not have that guiding power within; he must have outside control that should never be relaxed. The need is for a person or persons who will provide this oversight and follow the career of each individual, continuing the guidance begun by the teacher. He should be closely connected with the representatives of various educational, religious, philanthropic, civic and medical organizations. This person should be strong, tactful, persistent, one who has been a teacher of mentally defective children and also, if possible, with training as a social worker. The after-care work would naturally divide into two parts; first, the obtaining of information about pupils; second, oversight of pupils at work and knowledge of where suitable positions can be secured. In order to do this it would be necessary to canvass the employers of comparatively unskilled labor and to arrange to have notifications sent to the officer when there are vacancies to be filled.
Miss Bridie, Assistant Superintendent of Special Schools in Birmingham, England, has sent me the following information concerning the way in which suitable positions are being secured for pupils still of school age: