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1848 TO 1863. On the first of January, 1848, Prof. George R. Perkins, was appointed Principal of the New York State Normal School, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the lamented Page, who, in his eminent success and early death, had realized either alternative of the injunction to “succor or die,” laid upon him by his friend Horace Mann, when he assumed the charge of the school. Prof. Perkins had been connected with the school since its organization. He was familiar with its workings, and the plans of Mr. Page, and his success in his department had evinced bis fitness to carry the experiment of the State Normal School to a successful termination. The winter of 1852, was a crisis in its history. The appropriations for its support were made by the Legislature, annually. An occasion was thus furnished for narrow minded men to attack the system of Normal Schools, charging against it that it was unable to supply teachers to the State to such an extent as to warrant its continuance on grounds of public policy. So far were these attacks carried that formal notice was given in the Legislature of an intention to introduce a bill to repeal the law establishing the school. This, with the exception of a feeble opposition on the part of a single senator in the winter of 1853, was the last exhibition of legislative hostility. Some dissensions among the Faculty, greatly magnified, led to the appointment of a committee of inquiry in the Legislature to examine into its internal arrangements, and the general mode in which it was conducted. It was gratifying to the friends of the school that these movements failed to impair public confidence. This is clearly shown by the fact that the term which immediately succeeded them, had a larger attendance than any previous one. The severe and devoted labors of the Principal, in connection with the movements above alluded to, acting upon a constitution naturally sensitive, had so impaired his health, as to render his resignation necessary, to the deep regret of the friends of the school. The Executive Committee in their Annual Report to the Legislature, bear full testimony to his private worth and public services.
During the period of more than four years in which Prof. Perkins continued its Principal, the school enjoyed a good measure of success. The average number in attendance for each term was 216, and the whole number of graduates was 309, of whom, 146 were males, and 163 were females.
On the 20th of September, 1852, the position left vacant by the resignation of Prof. Perkins, was filled by the appointment of Samuel B. Woolworth, who for a period of twenty-two years, had been the honored Principal of one of the largest and most important Academies in the State. In this position he had fully earned the reputation of being one of the most popular, thorough, and successful educators in the country. In almost every state were men occupying high social and civil positions to whom he had given their early instructions and impulses, and whose success in life was in a great measure due to his influence. When therefore the Executive Committee of the Normal School desired to make a selec
a tion of Principal for their Institution, they could not have labored under much embarrassment in making choice of the proper person. Upon the accession of Prof. Woolworth, some important changes were made in the organization of the school. The policy adopted soon after its commencement was to supply its teachers from among its graduates. While this policy contributed to give effect to the early plans on which the instruction was based, it failed to bring into its faculty the enlarged and liberal culture of minds trained under more rigid discipline and a wider range of study. To correct this defect, the Executive Committee resolved to establish the following professorships :
The English Language and Literature,
It was intended that those appointed to these Professorships should be thoroughly educated men, and that so far as practicable, the positions should be permanent. The influence of this plan has been most salutary. The appointments of subordinate teachers whose positions are regarded as less permanent, are still made from the graduates, so that incitements to effort for higher attainments and marked distinction, are presented to the pupils of the school.
During Dr. Woolworth's Principalship, the school seems to have been in the full tide of its prosperity. For the first time in its history, it was found necessary to dismiss those who had been appointed by the Executive Committee to fill vacancies to give room for those who had received regular appointments. The average number in attendance for each term, was 255, and the whole number of graduates was 288, of whom 193 were females, and 95 were males. In February, 1856, Dr. Woolworth resigned the position which he had held for three and one-half years, with much credit tò himself and usefulness to the State, and accepted the place vacated by the death of Dr. T. Romeyn Beck. He is now the efficient Secretary of the Board of Regents of the University.
On the resignation of Dr. Woolworth, the Executive Committee appointed as his successor David H. Cochran, who was at the time occupying the position of Professor of Natural Sciences in the Institution. Previous to his connection with the Normal School, Prof. Cochran had been favorably known as Principal of an important Institution in the western part of the State. He was familiar with the management of the School, and possessed the entire confidence of its pupils, officers, and friends. Since his accession no material changes have been made in its organization. The requirements for admission have been raised, thus shortening the time previously allotted to some of the more strictly academical studies, and lengthening that assigned to the theory and practice of teaching. In addition to the Experimental School of Practice, a Model Primary School has been organized for the purpose of more thoroughly acquainting the graduates of the Normal School with the practical details of primary teaching. This department is now in a flourishing condition. During the period that the school has been under the control of Dr. Cochran, the average number in attendance for each term has been 233, and the whole number of graduates 411, of whom 157 were males, and 254 were females.
The Normal School has now been in operation nearly nineteen years. Its present condition and the more apparent results of its working, may be gathered from the following extract from the last Annual Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of New York.
“During the past year (1862,) two hundred and twenty-five applicants for admission were examined, of whom one hundred and ninety were admitted. The whole number in attendance has been two hundred and ninety-three, and of these, ninety-nine were males, and one hundred and ninety-four were females. The average age of these pupils was nineteen years and seven months: and the average period during which they had been engaged in teaching prior to their admission into the Normal School, was six months. All the counties of the State, with the exception of four, have been represented in the school.”
“Since the establishment, one thousand three hundred and thirteen have enjoyed its advantages for a longer or shorter period."
“The graduates and under-graduates are represented by local school officers to be doing valuable service, not only in the schools in which they are employed, but as zealous workers, imparting their knowledge of the proper modes of instruction to their associates in teachers insti. tutes and associations, who in turn apply the same to the schools under their charge, and thus the influence of this school is diffused."
During the first years of the existence of the school, as has been remarked, it encountered the most bitter opposition, and attempts were made to reduce the appropriation, and also to discontinue it altogether. So little were its aims and the importance of its work understood that it was deemed necessary to offer pecuniary inducements in order to secure pupils from the more remote counties of the State.
At the present time it has surmounted all opposition. In the character and work of its graduates, it has become favorably known in all counties of the State, which are now constantly represented in the school. The appropriation has been increased from $10,000 to $12,000, and each year the Superintendent of Public Instruction recommends the establishment of another similar Institution. In the language of his Report of 1862, “the permanence of this Institution may now be regarded as established, not only by legislative recognition and endowment, but also in the confidence and regards of the people."
As an evidence of this confidence, it may be mentioned here, that the Legislature in 1863, recognized the City Normal School of Oswego, as a State institution, and made an appropriation for its support.
STATE NORMAL AND TRAINING SCHOOL
AT OSWEGO, NEW YORK.
The NORMAL AND TRAINING School grew out of the necessities of the Oswego Schools. From the time of their organization in the summer of 1853 regular Saturday Institutes were held, which all teachers were required to attend for the purpose of receiving instruction in methods of teaching the various branches, and giving unity and efficiency to the organization, discipline, and teaching in the several departments of the schools.
These weekly meetings served their purpose very well, but as new teachers were continually coming in who required careful training in methods, it was found impracticable to keep all properly qualified for their work under this arrangement. It seemed very desirable that this special preparation should be completed before the teachers were employed in the schools.
This necessity was more strongly felt when, in the Fall of 1859, the present methods of “ Object Teaching ” were introduced into all the lower grades. This made it absolutely indispensable that all should have special and careful training in the new methods.
During the first year the Superintendent continued to meet the primary teachers every Saturday for the purpose of imparting the necessary in. struction, and giving illustrations of the new methods with classes of children. As this process required to be continually repeated, and as at best it could be but imperfectly done, the Board resolved to establish a school for the practical training of teachers. To carry out this design more effectively, and especially in view of the new methods introduced, the Board resolved to secure the services of a teacher from one of the best Training Schools of Great Britain, where these methods were practiced. They accordingly entered into negotiations with Miss M. E. M. Jones, a woman eminently qualified for her work; and who had been for fifteen years exclusively engaged in training primary teachers in the Home and Colonial Training Institution of London. Her engagement with the Board was but for one year. At their urgent request she was persuaded to remain three months longer.
Aside from the regular members of the Training Class, the teachers in the primary departments of all the public schools received a full course of instruction under Miss Jones. No pupils were admitted into the class who had not previously completed a thorough academic course equivalent to that pursued in the Oswego High School.
A number of active, intelligent teachers from abroad joined the class. These ladies are now occupying important positions in different sections of the country, several of them in Training Schools which have since been established.
The school soon gained an enviable reputation not only for its methods of teaching, but for its methods of training. As the number of foreign pupils rapidly increased, and as there was evident demand for increased facilities for the professional education of teachers in the State, in the winter of 1862–3 the Legislature made an appropriation of $3,000 annually for two years, conditional on the attendance of fifty pupils, and the privilege of sending to the school two pupils from each Senatorial District free of charge for tuition.
In the spring of 1865 this appropriation was increased to $6,000, without imposing any conditions as to attendance, except that each Assembly District should be entitled to send one pupil to the school, but requiring the Board of Education or citizens of Oswego to provide suitable buildings and grounds for the accommodation of the school.
These conditions have been complied with in the purchase and enlargement of a building located in the most delightful part of the city, on high and commanding grounds, overlooking the entire town, the lake and the surrounding country. The frontispiece gives a view of this building in perspective. Its entire length in front is 153 feet and in depth 130 feet. The center or main part is built of a beautiful
limestone found on the shores of Lake Ontario. The wings are of wood. It is designed to accommodate 300 pupils in the Normal Department, and 600 children in the Model and Practicing Schools.
Hitherto the course of instruction in the school has been confined to methods of teaching, and particularly to methods of primary instruction.
The class is divided into two sections. One section receives instruction in methods in the morning while the other is teaching in the Practicing School. In the afternoon the divisions alternate, the section that received instruction in the morning practice, and vice versa. In the instruction the teacher illustrates every point by a lesson with the children. The pupil-teachers are then called upon in turn to prepare a written sketch of a similar lesson, to be presented to the teacher on the succeeding day, when some member of the class is called upon to work out her sketch with the children, under the criticism of the class and teacher.
At the end of each month these divisions interchange. The division that taught in the morning teach in the afternoon, and receive instruction in methods in the morning and vice versa. By this arrangement each teacher instructs a class in a given grade one month in the morning session, and one month in the afternoon, and then changes grades. This affords each pupil-teacher an opportunity of teaching all the subjects of each grade for one month.