|Helping rural teachers grow: a cooperative program for the education of elementary teachers in Caledonia central district, Vermont, developed through participation in the cooperative study of the Commission on Teacher Education|
Arthur John Holden
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Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Elementary school teachers, In-service training, Social group work
In 1936 the writer accepted a position as superintendent of schools in Caledonia Central District, a rural area in northeastern Vermont. With a background of extensive observation in rural schools in Europe and the United States, a year of field and research work with the Vermont Commission on Country Life, four yearsĂ experience teaching in Vermont rural schools and a year spent in studying rural education at Teachers College, he appreciated many of the difficulties confronting rural life and education, and considered this a desirable opportunity to study and attack some of the persistent problems of education in rural areas.
Through the shared undertakings of the first few years the beginnings of understanding between teachers and superintendent were developed, as well as a growing mutual confidence. Widening contacts with the people of the area brought insight into and appreciation for many of their attitudes.
In 1939 the District was invited by the Commission on Teacher Education of the American Council on Education to participate with other institutions and school systems in its nationwide cooperative study of the education of teachers. With the consent of the school directors, the superintendent accepted the invitation of the behalf of the District. It was understood that participation in the study would not obligate the District to adopt any particular practices nor resort to any preconceived experimentation. Rather, it was an opportunity to join with other institutions and systems in a cooperative attack on problems of the education of teachers, the contribution of the local district to be made primarily through clarifying and developing its own program of in-service education. By the Commission, ˘The enterprise (was) conceived and administered as a project in implementation, joint effort and group thinking.÷It should be stated at this point that the decision was made to concentrate the initial effort in Caledonia Central District among the teachers of the elementary schools.
The need for improved and continuing education of rural teachers in service is well appreciated by workers in the field. Compilation of outstanding problems in rural education as referred to recently by a group of county superintendents shows ˘teaching service÷ and ˘curriculum÷ fourth and fifth respectively in order of mention. Among the changes in rural education most urgently needed, as reported by a larger group of superintendents, ˘better trained teachers÷ and ˘broader curriculum÷ again rank fourth and fifth in frequency of mention. In each of these lists the problems and needs of higher rank concerned housing, equipment and size of school. These problems were not generally urgent in Caledonia Central District.
That curriculum improvement is closely related to teacher education is now generally recognized. The relation of the two, as well as a clue to the type of teacher education program which can contribute to curriculum improvement, is made a clear in the following statement:
The shared experiences of teachers, in discovering worthy purposes for their own seeking, in knowing rural children better, in providing rich and fruitful opportunities for growth, may be expected to increase the insight and efficiency not only of their fellow teachers but also of curriculum specialists and committees.
Participation in the program of the Commission on Teacher Education raised several questions concerning the work in the District. The relationship started as the superintendentĂs commitment; how could it become the undertaking of all teachers as well? How could a group of meagerly educated teachers with elementary conceptions of education become active participants in such a broad and extensive educational endeavor? With all local personnel fully occupied by their normal round of activity, how could time be spared to make a contribution to the work of the Commission? What is a desirable program for the education of teachers in service in this District? The present project was undertaken as a quest for answers to these questions.
Though affiliation with the Commission brought to the fore the problems to which this study is addressed, in a broad sense the program of education of teachers in service began with the incumbency of the writer as superintendent. Relationships with teachers and public were continuous through the periods before and after the Commission affiliation. Events of the later period were in part the fruition of the gropings of the earlier. The program is therefore reported as it developed through both periods.
The report describes the setting of the project and states the basic underlying concepts. It analyzes the educational relationships existing at the outset and establishes guides for the development of the program. It recounts and analyzes steps taken to date and evaluates the accompanying growth of teachers. The program is criticized in retrospect and certain of its broader implications are identified.
Since the actual writing of the report has covered a period of many months, a few of its allusions to current events are anachronistic. But it has not seemed necessary to change them. They stand as reminders of the world flux that has been in progress during the course of the project, a condition which has made it all the more timely. The project was initiated during the year when Italy subjugated Ethiopia. It inched along as Spain went down to fascism, and appeasement triumphed at Munich. The closing day of the CommissionĂs conference at Bennington was the day the Germans invaded Poland. The Battle of Britain raged while the Chicago workshop was in session. During the year when the teachers of the District began to show growing control of democratic processes Pearl Harbor was attacked. These world-shaking events do not dwarf the significance of a program such as is reported in the following pages. They serve rather to underscore the crucial urgency of the need for educators to educate themselves and to develop with utmost speed those relationships of man to man which serve as the foundation for durable peace.