L'Umile Pianta:

For the Children's Sake.

On the Possibility of Doing P.U.S. Work While Keeping Strictly to the Time-Tables.

By K. Clendinned
March 1915, p.24-31 [link]

It seems to me that this subject may be taken in more than one way. The title at once suggest to thoughts, with which I proposed to deal separately.

First, is it possible to take the lessons of two or more classes at the exact time prescribed in the Time-table? and

Second, is it possible to accomplish the term's programme without giving any more time to one subject and any less to another than that allotted?

In other words, how far is it possible to do the P.U.S. work keeping strictly to the Time-table and the Programme?

For many simple and obvious reasons with which I scarcely like to burden you it is quite impossible in a school to take all the lessons at the set time and for the set period. For instance--

The school morning is half an hour shorter than that of the printed Time-table.

There is no Saturday school.

One cannot afford half an hour out of such short hours for drill, singing, play, and dancing in IA and IB.

Where there is a considerable number of children they must as a rule all drill together and all play together.

Class IV cannot sing daily while the rest are playing.

The big girls are the making of play-time. They have learnt to use ten minutes so well.

And who has known the visiting master or mistress for languages, art, music, etc.? They by no means always come in the afternoon, and people teaching privately will know as much about this as I do, and far more about outside classes that their pupils may attend at all kinds of hours.

All this entails and interchange of lessons; and the music teacher often monopolizes the piano and a room for two whole days a week, quite upsetting the drill, and odd ten minutes devoted in the Time-table to Tonic Sol-fa, French and German songs.

There are less apparent reasons for deviation. For example--

(1) Reading, writing, and number must be secured to 1A before the school "break," after which they go home. In the Time-table one or other of these subjects falls after drill and play each day.

(2) Beside the morning work there is an afternoon Time-table to be planned; and painting, handicrafts, therefore are relegated to the latter in the case of 1b. (Natural history is also a good subject to omit from a morning Time-table which is twenty minutes shorter than the prescribed.)

(3) French in Classes II and III, coming at the same time twice a week, present some difficulty, especially as children in the former are not, I believe, supposed to read or write.

(4) On certain days ten minutes after Class II has begun Geography, Grammar, English History, and Natural History 1b is due to have Painting or Handicraft. This is very difficult to arrange, and the alternative of taking Classes II and III working together in the same subject where there is only one teacher necessarily involves a change of hour for one or other of these lessons.

As to the possibility of doing the work while giving the fixed amount of time to each subject, irrespective of the hour at which the lesson is given, my own experience in general subjects is almost entirely confined to the lower classes, and to the others in languages. When I speak of "doing the work" I mean, besides the actual accomplishment of the set amount in Bible lessons, History, Geography, etc., a really satisfactory progress in reading, writing, dictation, arithmetic, and so on.

These are the main points which have impressed me:

(a) That with a number of children ten minutes does not seem enough for reading and French where one teacher has to take Ia and Ib together. Perhaps it is enough for writing in Ia if all books are to hand and all pencils in good order, but I prefer a quarter of an hour or even twenty minutes.

(b) That it is practically impossible to keep to the programme in arithmetic. A new pupil must always go on where reason demands, or, rather, if he chance to be 9 years old or more, must invariably go back and unlearn, or at least learn the reason of a few of his many already acquired parrot-like operations and formulae.

(c) That in repetition I never remember a class containing several who cannot read, satisfactorily learning three hymns, two poems, and two passages of Scripture.

(d) That with children who learn slowly it is worth while to devote a portion of the repetition time to the words of their songs. They will blunder along in a hopeless confusion of meaningless sounds. "But surely," people say, "children soon catch the words of the song!" Many, of course, are able to repeat a verse of six or eight lines of average length after once hearing, but some less intelligent children of even 10 or 11 years old, whom one is striving daily to make think, will persist in the most absurd nonsense, until detected by their neighbours or through being called upon to sing alone.

(e) That with regard to writing--I speak particularly of transcription in Class II and IB--it is most important not to leave these children to regularly and too frequently alone. Such an arrangement, however, seems invariably necessary on account of there being seemingly more important lessons in other classes at the moment. The value of devoting more of one's own time to this than one is prompted to arrange for in drawing up a time-table, is enormous. We once completely reform the writing of Class II by stopping all independent transcription for a time, and handing the class over to someone who came to help with Ia and Ib earlier in the morning, and who stayed on later for this express purpose. The result was most satisfactory. The writing "idea" (if I may so call it) was quite changed, and I believe that other children in the class benefit by it to-day. Transcription--or rather, copying from the board--is very useful. It is a change, and it certainly makes for neatness. The teachers hand shows how a transcribed piece should look; there is something, as it were, between the print and the child's own clumsy version. Experience has taught me the value of a little "copying."

(f) That a second daily reading lesson of about quarter of an hour for young children attending school in the afternoon is a tremendous help. Their progress compared with that of others at the same age attending only once a day is very marked. A special book--often the "Children's Heroes Series" set--for the term is taken.

I will refrain from enlarging upon the involved state of affairs when there are children working partly in one class and partly in another; nor will I discuss what happens when one has a child of 10 who cannot read. Suffice it to say that one is inclined to wish that either he would go away or else that every other child would vanish into empty air, leading one free to follow absolutely strictly one of the ideal timetables to which have been so cleverly, so thoughtfully, and so comprehensively drawn up.

Typed by Nicole Williams, June 2014