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What Can Teachers Of Normal Children Learn From The Teachers Of Defectives?

Creator: Martin W. Barr (author)
Date: December 1903
Publication: Journal of Psycho-Asthenics
Source: Available at selected libraries

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*Read before the Pennsylvnia -sic- State Educational Association, Morristown, Pa., March 10, 1904.


BRIEFLY to enumerate the various points that teachers of normal may gain from teachers of defective children I should say:


FIRST -- HOW to study the child: (a) Through physical characteristics. (b) Through habits, special idiosyncrasies, and their effect. (c) Through temperament; whether traceable to heredity or en-vironment, or both.-


SECOND: -- How to discriminate and place in the several groups of normal, backward and defective.


THIRD: -- A knowledge of possibilities and of limitations in the several grades of normal, backward and defective.


FOURTH: -- To individualize standards for the day's work; requiring not so rigidly that each shall accomplish the same task, as that each shall exercise his or her capacity to its full meas-ure in the given task. In other words, to require the best the child can do and to demand no more.


In this connection also the teacher of the abnormal learns to note fatigue signs, and to discriminate between them and the play-off of mere trifling, of naughtiness, or of pure indolence.


In fact, necessity has given the teachers of defectives such constant practice in this individualizing that to one of long experience, insight becomes intuitive.


By means of it the teacher is not only enabled to detect what is within, but to assist the child also to detect and to reveal it by reproduction, and to seek stimulus in healthful competition with his fellows, so that he develops unconsciously through activities that, alternately assisted and independent, act naturally and without strain, co-ördinating to induce stability of purpose and of habit.


But, may not the teachers of normal children do this also? True, they may, but can they? When the attention is constantly impelled and directed toward promoting and graduating a mass, is not this condition of touch be-tween individuals the exception rather than the rule? And do not habits en-gendered by such daily practice become more those of a general directing force than those of a trainer or a promoter of physical and mental culture? There is neither time nor opportunity to cultivate both, and, as I understand it, a large proportion of teachers in public schools find that not only their repu-tation, but their very living depends upon ability to move the mass and to cover ground measured out by a system. So many shoved on to make room for so many more; so many books gone through in order to take up so many more. There is no time for noting assimilation or its absence; individualiza-tion is lost in the imperative necessity for generalization. The masses must move at whatever it cost. It is a great system! No greater we claim in any country, but that many children are its victims, we of the medical profes-sion have good cause to know. It is equally true that many good teachers are often sacrificed and absolutely forced away from that individualization which they themselves hold to be the highest art in their profession. It is in this very essential point of getting in touch that the teacher of the ab-normal has a decided advantage over her sister teacher.


Having seen how the pressure of necessity and of circumstance impels one set of teachers toward and the other away from the study of the child, we shall now by comparing, find the methods used by each in awakening and developing mental power to be also diverse. Briefly stated, one begins with physical activities inducing co-ordination and exhilaration physical and mental, and gives to study its periods of rest and recuperation -- a zest in preparing for future preconceived experimentation. The other begins with mental activities, inducing often in-cördination and exhaustion both physical and mental, and seeks rest and recuperation only, in physical activities.


The teacher in schools for normal children in this particular also, is ham-pered by a system; one modified in some slight measure by the partial intro-duction of manual training, but with comparatively few exceptions, her chief, often her only resource is the ubiquitous book. In fact, it has not been so many years since the schools seemed to have been created for the express benefit of publishers and book dealers. Fine they are one must admit. Too much cannot be said in praise of the modern school book, but at best, it can but give knowledge second hand; knowledge, moreover, that must be paid for in a corresponding exhaustion in lieu of a building up of mental energy. This the teacher of the feeble and the backward knows she cannot afford to risk, or to lose. She will tell you, moreover, that all knowledge is not bound up in books; that an accumulation of facts, making a mere storehouse of the mind may even prove burdensome and worse than useless unless built into the mental structure by applying and experimenting.


The futility of compelling attention for long periods by the mere superim-position of will-power has been satisfactorily demonstrated to her, nor would she -- save in exceptional cases of discipline -- do it if she could, feeling that with many, the result would be mere automatism or more frequently de-ception.

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