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G. C. MILLER.
Owing to the cold winter and rainy summer, the schools did not make the usual progress the past year. The general attendance was greatly reduced throughout the county, in many schools falling below fifty per cent of enrollment. The graded course of study for country schools has not accomplished much in securing the desired results. The course may have been of personal value to many individual teachers, but it has not secured any systematic permanent gradation.
This year closes my labors as county superintendent, after eight years of official service. I am not fully satisfied as to the efficiency of the county superintendency, with its present powers. More superintendence is required to carry out the design of the office. Many things needed to be done cannot be reached. In a county containing one hundred and fifty schools, there is enough office work to engage one man's attention most of the time. The duty of visiting and inspecting schools cannot be systematically and thoroughly performed. The greatest defect in our excellent common school system is the failure to secure the full performance of the duties enjoined on subdirectors, school boards and county superintendents, as designed and required by the law. Our public schools are sustained and cherished by the people, but they are not giving, in many instances, a full return for their liberal support. I do not advocate a radical change in the laws, but a more thorough and perfect administration of the laws required to carry out the present system to its fullest extent. The county superintendency is doing much. The normal institutes are an indispensable part of the common school system.
After the first of January, Mr. T. J. Mahoney, a young man of ability, will-assume the duties of the office of county superintendent of this county. He was elected by the votes of the people, regardless of his political affiliations, a principle that should be introduced in the selection of this officer. If the election of this officer could be removed from the excitement and influence of a political canvass, J think it would be for the best interest of the public schools. He who expects party favors is too often compelled to do party work in return.
L. S. M'COY.
From observation of the schools of this county, continued through some six years, I am satisfied that the desirable results reached by teachers in school work, fall short of what may be attained. What applies to Hardin will probably apply to the average counties of the State.
Very much of this inefficiency arises from the number of young teachers constantly entering, or trying to enter, the work, by competition discouraging or driving out the better class, thus lowering the wages. There is entirely too much crude practice required to fit these immature aspirants for instructors, and by the time they are somewhat fitted, the mass of them leave the work, to be replaced by another ephemeral class, and so the protoplastic condition is continued.
A second and very important drawback is the lack of classification in the country schools, resulting in an excessive number of recitations, with all the waste of valuable time involved and the inefficient habits of study induced to meet short and hasty recitations. Thirty, thirtyfive, and even forty recitations a day are not uncommon. School boards do not and will not take up this matter and attend to it, however much urged by the superintendent, and each teacher is left to adopt his own methods and programme, if he have a sense of order, or to go on without any system, if his mind is chaotic.
He may, or he may not, adopt suggestions of the county superintendent; and in case he does adopt and try the suggestion, he is liable to be immediately unnerved by the objections of some patron who is wedded to the past. The lack of an adopted and enforced list of textbooks naturally increases the inefficiency referred to.
It should be made the duty of some authority to secure without fail the best organization attainable as regards classification and textbook uniformity. Successful handling of anything by topic is evidence of the good teacher. Ability to handle by topic is, or should be, the final stage reached by every pupil in all the subjects studied. Extra care should be taken in the country schools against those mistakes in the development of the child's mind, which continue to mar its mental power and beauty through life. The teacher who has
never learned the value and necessity of system in study, will not teach much nor well by the topical, or any other method. But a teacher who can instruct without the book is seldom found in country schools and under the present conditions we cannot expect much improvement.
He that can best teach without the book can teach the subject better from the book than others do, but he is also the most impatient of the time lost with the mixture of books studied hastily, and at the pupil's option. This lack of classification and this multitude of textbooks in use in the schools, is a great hinderance to the teacher who does not possess natural gifts and considerable experience. The county superintendent using all his time and energy is not able to supervise all the schools of a large county and do it successfully.
In this connection I will venture a suggestion, by way of remedy, to the foregoing evils, as well as to some others.
Let there be but one treasurer for all the schools of the township, whether district township or divided into independent districts, and let him be appointed, as thought best, by the township trustees or the board of supervisors, with the concurrence of the superintendent. Let his salary be definitely settled by law. Let him receive and pay out all money for the different districts, and be authorized to visit the schools of his township and co-operate with the superintendent and school board, in the classification, and examination as to the progress of the schools in his township.
His salary will then amount to no more than the aggregate now paid treasurers. The financial work, by a competent person, can be done in one-tenth of the time that it is now done and the annual report to the State superintendent can be made in a few days; less loss will occur through mismanagement, and the people be saved in the matter of taxes, and neighborhood broils occasioned by financial anarchy in many districts. Let the superintendent be relieved from the duty of visiting every school each term, and visit those only which may be found most needing attention. Let him be required to hold teachers' meetings at least once a month in each township, and carry on through the year the work begun at the institute, and thus forward the interests of the graded course of study, now inaugurated.
The teacher should be required in his contract to attend such meetings. Preparation on the part of the superintendent for the labor can well be made office work, and belongs naturally to school supervision. As a consequence, there will be an awakened interest in districts now
lethargic; as the people can be more directly reached, teachers will be changed less frequently and will work with an incentive to meet the requirements of the new order of things, they will stay in the work longer, because more alive to the importance of their calling; after a time their scholarship will advance, their pay will be better, and the people will be far better repaid.
In writing this criticism on the shortcomings of our schools, I will say that I yet regard the work of our schools as considerable. We have not gone back, but forward. Under proper conditions we will go much faster, and do our work more thoroughly. A year ago I raised the grades required for certificates. This has worked well though often taxing my firmness. Teachers have since, as before, been required to come to examination, and show work for their license. Juvenile applicants are not so numerous, and wages are advancing perceptibly. But we need more knowledge of the teacher in his schoolroom work, more supervision, and the co-operation of patrons.
A. M. LINN.
The schools of this county are in excellent condition. Our system of school examinations has conduced very much to their improvement, and tended to uniformity in methods and work.
My successor will doubtless carry forward the good work. He receives the cordial support and indorsement of the teachers of the county. I feel in leaving the work to him, that it is in good hands.
T. S. SNELL.
We are able to report the schools of Ida county in a fair condition. The teachers have, as a rule, shown an interest in their work, though there seems to be a disposition on the part of some of our school officers to keep wages down. As long as this is continued we cannot expect teachers to remain in the profession.
Ten new school-houses have been erected during the past year, all good, commodious buildings. There is also in course of construction at Ida Grove, a fine brick school building which will cost about twelve thousand dollars.
The normal institute this year, as heretofore, has been productive of the most satisfactory results. These results are manifest in nearly every school in the county, in the way of more perfect organization, better methods of instruction, better school government and more thorough work. These institutes have exerted considerable influence in creating the demand for better teachers. It is a fact that many school officers recognize that those teachers who attend the institute, and receive instruction in methods of teaching, are doing better work than those who do not attend, but are qualified simply by their own experience.
It is clearly shown by the efforts of school officers to obtain better qualified and more enthusiastic teachers, that the educational interests of our county are gradually increasing.
The normal institute has been of infinite value to the teachers of this county, by enabling them to better discipline and more properly govern their schools, and to introduce more practical methods of instruction. The enrollment at the last session was not as large as at some previous institutes. But the deep interest exhibited and the universal satisfaction expressed by the teachers, showed their high appreciation of the efficient work of the instructors. A teachers' association was organized during the normal of 1880, which holds regular meetings and has been instrumental in awaking much interest `in educational matters is this county. Local associations are being successfully carried on in many parts of our county by teachers, and the vast interest exhibited in these meetings by school officers and patrons aids largely in making the same a success. benefit has been derived from these gatherings.
Also a library association has been formed supported mainly by teachers. Although but recently organized, it contains over one hun