Story of a School (1949)
This pamphlet was one of a series published by the newly-established Ministry of Education.
The booklets were widely used in initial and inservice courses for teachers. The Story of a School was the most successful. Written by AL Stone, the former head teacher of Steward Street Junior School in Birmingham, it described how it was possible to introduce progressive teaching methods even in an archaic building.
The complete text of Story of a School is shown in this single web page.
Story of a School was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 23 March 2017.
Story of a School (1949)
London: His Majesty's Stationery Office 1949
painting done by a child at the school
during the author's headmastership
for the Ministry of Education
Crown Copyright Reserved
aged seven to eleven
HIS MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE
at the following addresses:
York House, Kingsway, London, W.C.2
Price 1s. 0d. net
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
The Whitefriars Press Ltd., London and Tonbridge
THE JUNIOR SCHOOL has escaped much of the limelight which has naturally, in recent years, fallen on secondary education. The importance, however, of reviewing traditional methods and ideas at the junior stage was brought out in the Consultative Committee's Report on the Primary School, issued in 1931, and recently reprinted. Unfortunately, the general principles which should underlie the education of children from seven to eleven, which were so admirably defined in that Report, are still far from being universally practised. The White Paper -"Educational Reconstruction" - published only five years ago, said:
Instead of the junior schools performing their proper and highly important function of fostering the potentialities of children at an age when their minds are nimble and receptive, their curiosity strong, their imagination fertile and their spirits high, the curriculum is too often cramped and distorted by over-emphasis on examination subjects and on ways and means of defeating the examiners. The blame for this rests not with the teachers but with the system.
Improved methods adopted by local education authorities for allocating pupils to secondary schools at the age of eleven are beginning to relieve the examination pressure on the junior schools, and it is hoped that these schools will take full advantage of the new freedom which is being offered to them.
In "Story of a School" Mr. A. L. Stone, formerly headmaster, describes the successful and original work which has been done in the Steward Street Junior School, Birmingham. What he has achieved in an environment which others might well have found discouraging shows how much can be done with courage, sympathy and imagination, and in arranging for the publication of this pamphlet the Minister hopes that it will encourage other teachers to experiment on this and other lines.
The Ministry is indebted to the local education authority for Birmingham for so readily giving permission to publish Mr. Stone's account of his work. Teachers and others will appreciate the authority's desire that the school should not be embarrassed by visitors as a result of the publication of this pamphlet.
It was in 1940 that I became headmaster of a primary junior school situated in the older part of a large city, where the houses are thickly clustered together amid factories and small workshops which are engaged in the many trades carried on. Some 240 children attended this school, all of them between the ages of seven and eleven. Of the 240 who attended, the majority lived in back-to-back houses, very few of which had bathrooms. A number of children were living in rooms or in houses in which there was no glass in the windows; most of the houses in some way or other were suffering from the effects of raids. For some months before I came to the school a certain amount of home teaching had been done, and children had been brought together into school only a few weeks before I arrived. For the first six months many of the school's hours were spent in the air-raid shelters. The school itself was bounded by factories on three sides. The playground was entirely overlooked by factory windows and nowhere was there the possibility of encouraging a blade of grass to grow. The nearest park was half a mile away and there were no open spaces in the near vicinity where children could play in safety. The majority of them played in the back streets, or crept into forbidden premises of neighbouring timber and builders' yards which afforded excellent opportunities for all kinds of imaginative play, but from which, all too soon and all too painfully, they were, without fail, ejected.
These few words give you a glimpse of the stark ugliness of the surroundings in which these children lived. It is important that you should realise how little beauty surrounded them. No taste or appreciation of beauty had been superimposed on them from the outside world, but the amazing thing was that when they were allowed to express themselves freely in certain media of expression, they created something which was beautiful. I do not think I need explain further. The inference is sufficiently strong to make any explanation of such a truth unnecessary, a truth which has been with man throughout his history. "Beauty is truth; truth beauty". It is impossible to create real beauty from an untruth, but surely beauty is within the creative power of all mankind. It is strange how, in thinking of the child, one is forced to think of mankind as a whole - his history, his development, his mistakes, his
ideals. The obvious fact was that the children in this school, with but little conscious awareness of what was beautiful, had within them, as their birthright, an ability to create true beauty within all the media of the arts. And what I want to point out here and now is that the beauty which came from these children could not have been superimposed by environment or by specially selected teachers, for we were just an ordinary inartistic lot of people, but the desire to create came because we allowed it to live, and because, maybe, in some way we could understand why it was there. We could not say where it was going or what it was to be. All we knew was that we were trying to give the children the freedom which would break down the inhibitions already developed, freedom which would enable them to go ahead and do those things which would be best for their own development.
We knew that these little individuals, who because of their environment had developed desires antagonistic to what we term social conduct, could not be allowed to express themselves freely in all the ways which their inclinations dictated. But we wondered if we could allow them to develop themselves freely within the confines of certain media which would have no detrimental effect on the social world around them, or on their own social unit, and in so doing give them a hope of finding themselves. The answer to our problem obviously was through the media of the arts.
It was doubtful if, at this early age, children would be able to find themselves through the medium of craft alone, since craft demanded a certain knowledge of technique for its full expression. Superimposing this technique, I felt, in many cases gave such young children very little opportunity of developing themselves. I knew we must be very careful that the very young child is doing what he wants to do and is not over-directed by another person. On the other hand, if we allowed the child to do exactly what he wanted to do we were giving him a licence the results of which I was not prepared to face. The child has to live in a social world as a social unit. The laws of the herd must be well and truly known and kept if he is to become a contented member of that herd. But the child must be free to develop, and it is in the creation of beauty that the true development of the individual emerges. So I turned to the arts as the basis of the education which should pervade this school.
The three R's, I decided, should become a secondary consideration, for I believed that; if I could get that confidence, that interest, that concentration from each child which arise from creative art, I had the ground well prepared then for the three R's. It must not be thought that I undervalue in any way the importance of the three R's. I believe, however, that there are things of much greater
[the following plates appeared between pages 8 and 9]
Movement (large picture opens in new window)
Interest, concentration, imagination and movement. All the arts have a common beginning in movement.
Responding easily and fearlessly to the thoughts within
importance; the development of the personality of a child, his growth as a whole, demand greater attention than the three R's.
The introduction of the children to the arts did not give outstanding results at first, but I could see the children developing better relationships when they were engaged in expressing themselves through various artistic media. The interest in these media seemed inherent. Every young child becomes completely absorbed in the making of mud pies, and the same absorption is apparent when he plays about in colour or scribbles with a stick in sand. The same creative desire with the same absorption is found when a young child sways on his feet with an inner movement to his own particular rhythmical musical theme, or when he sings noisily or quietly to himself. I wanted the child to be as free to express himself in the material given him in school as in the material provided by Nature. For a child to be free, the first essential is that he should move easily. But I knew of no way of achieving this, so I set about trying to get freedom of movement in the arts in the hope that personality would develop thereby. I introduced the children to unlimited colour, paper and pencils, to clay in big pieces in a room to itself where it did not matter whether the clay stuck on the ceiling or floor - to big mimes and massed movements (the channel of dramatic feelings) and to music, in a happy, informal and contented setting. Each one of these arts had an inherent interest for most children; we could attempt to analyse what they were developing through each art - interest, concentration and imagination. I think one can truthfully say that each child showed an interest in these arts, but in some cases interest flagged much more quickly than in others, and thus a saturation point of interest was reached much more quickly by some children than by others. One child, maybe, would reach this saturation point very quickly in colour, but could go on very much longer before reaching that point when using clay. A saturation point of interest was therefore dependent upon tile concentration which each child could develop through the strength of his interest. When saturation point was reached quickly there was an obvious lack of imagination in the work already done. It had become flat and uninteresting. If the work was alive and showed evidence of imagination, then it seemed that the concentration aroused by Šinterest was sustained through imagination. The saturation point was dependent upon the child's concentration, and this was a result not only of the strength of his interest but the extent of his imagination. Thus, for a time, I judged my results by these three things: interest, concentration, imagination.
But I saw other things happening, too. Even when children's work showed vivid imagination for a time, and an intense concentration, in which interest was really alive, saturation point was often
reached much more quickly by one child than another. I wondered why this happened. It seemed, as far as I could judge, to be the result of a developing sense of order. I might explain by a concrete example. We found that a child who kept his brush clean and changed the water at the right time, the child who would keep his paper free from blots, who was careful that other children did not come too near, who was able to arrange and collect the materials for the art lesson - in fact the child who went about the job in a businesslike manner - did not reach his saturation point until a much greater time had elapsed. I think it was because of this sense of order that the concentration was prolonged to a greater degree than it was in the case of those who had not developed this self-discipline. The result was that we could be fairly assured that if we kept the child's interest, concentration and imagination at work, there would develop this self-discipline which would carry him through a greater period of time before he reached saturation point.
But the interesting thing is this - that as our faith in the value of the arts grew, as the realisation also grew that through the arts we were developing essential educational qualities, we found that with practically every child in the school, in all the arts, there was showing a certain level of interest. What I mean is, every child in every class seemed to have the same amount of interest in each art. Strangely enough, too, the imagination of each child seemed to have a general level of intensity, but it was the concentration that fluctuated from one child to another. I am not saying there was a similarity of result, but there was a general level of effort. Quite frankly, I do not think there is anything very surprising in all this when one realises that (as far as I can judge from my own rather limited experience) pretty well every healthy, normal young child seems to spend a similar amount of effort in the making of mud pies and sand castles, in drawing with chalks or scribbling in dust on the roadway, if left to himself. Even here, in these early stages, some results are better than others, but there is very little .amount of difference in the effort that is made in these activities, and that is what I feel we were getting from the arts in our school. There was a general level of interest, a general level of imagination, and a fluctuating degree of concentration. Why was this? Well, undoubtedly self-discipline had a tremendous amount to do with it, but we could see that, as the children's interest and imagination began to flow easily, this discipline was being developed. There were, for instance, the moments of absolute quiet, in a modelling lesson, in which the children were free to walk about without upsetting anyone because in that room there was little furniture. These periods of complete silence occurred at longer intervals at certain peak periods of the lessons. We had youngsters painting in various
places in a three-storeyed building, without worrying if they would get into mischief. Provided we kept them supplied with sufficient material, and were about at the psychological moments when they required encouragement, we were sure that the discipline developed from the interest would be sufficient to keep the children employed for an appreciable time.
One particular problem faced us. Some boys, whose interest, concentration and imagination were well developed, could not be trusted to work for any length of time. They seemed to reach a saturation point of interest very quickly and then the mischief began. But, if we kept one of those boys by us in the classroom, he would not reach saturation point for quite a long time. Those of us who deal with children know this particular type of child. I suppose there are many reasons for his behaviour, but I think possibly the greatest of all is based on the fear of freedom. The child who has been dogged and threatened and hit, and metaphorically kicked from pillar to post, has developed a very great fear. He hides it in all sorts of ways; he becomes surly or over-boisterous. But give that sort of child freedom and he does not know what to do with it. He is afraid of freedom and he is afraid of assuming the responsibility of disciplining himself. But my feeling is that, with the freedom that creative activities demand, the child does begin to assume, and to want, in spite of his earlier training, the freedom that is so essential for his development. I see these qualities of interest, imagination, concentration, self-discipline, freedom from fear, as enlivening the contact between the self and the world.
Here I feel it is necessary to show in some way how important movement has been in the development of the arts and in the development of the qualities of which I have been talking. I said that at first I had been striving for massed movements in dramatic work. Many years before I came to the school some friends and I formed a small company which produced plays for children. During the years that we ran this company we started a children's theatre in an old loft, where every night in the week children could come to engage in some activity associated with the theatre. There was the make-up class, the puppets, scenery, costume, properties, effects, and dance. We found that the dance evening was the most popular evening, although in the beginning this was not so evident, mainly, I think, because we took country dancing. But we began to feel that this type of dancing was not giving us what we wanted for dramatic movement. And so, instead, we told tales in rhythmic movement and mime. How we plodded in those days, and yet how pleased we were that we seemed to be getting a result which did not necessitate the laborious hard teaching which the country dance required.
This movement, limited though I now know it to have been, was at least freer in conception, and creative in character, and it was a medium through which some children achieved quite surprising results. This kind of dance became very popular, so that in the dark days of 1940, when we had forgotten education in the fear of war, I decided to introduce these massed movements and rhythmic mime work to my school. 'From the first I took these mimes in the hall in order to give the children a sense of free space for movement. In this type of work we needed no stage, and would not have used it if we had had one. We started miming our history lessons. I gave certain periods in English history to each class and suggested incidents within those periods which could be mimed. So, at the bottom of tile school, we were miming the Ancient Britons and the coming of the Romans, the building of Hadrian's Wall to keep out the annoying Picts; in other classes, stories of medieval agricultural life, the discovery of America, children in the factories, and so on - models of these incidents were also made by 'the children. But the material which we used, cardboard boxes and so forth, was not easily handled, so that a child could not make a model quickly enough.
Later, with the introduction of clay, we found that here was a medium much more quickly and easily used. In clay many more models could be made, and the children did not lose interest and imagination as in the more difficult and laborious medium. It was interesting to see that the mimes influenced the children's games in the playground, sometimes to the detriment of order, as when "The Ancient Britons and Romans" came into a mighty clash on the playground the whole school seemed ready to take part on one side or the other.
After such and similar experiences I found it always wiser, when introducing incidents in which there were antagonistic forces, to include the conflict as part of the school activity. Before, I had left the conflict out of the incident and only talked about it, or the children had read about it. But when I dealt with the conflict in school I found that they seemed satisfied and often played out the more peaceful incidents in the playground. So that when we mimed the incidents in Hiawatha, the idea of which is closely allied to the normal boys' games of cowboys and Indians, the fights, if such they can be called, which took place were orderly and in pure mime, and thus aroused no personal antagonism between individuals or sets of individuals.
These early mimes lacked a unity of purpose unless I controlled them myself. I found that I had to indicate certain movements and gestures, otherwise they lacked spontaneity, and the children seemed unable to express themselves in spontaneous bodily movements. Certain individuals would of course give something more real than others, and it was noticeable that these were the children whose imagination was more fully developed. There was, too, a certain embarrassment against which I was always struggling, and this was an embarrassment of the body. I knew that I wanted a series of bodily exercises which were associated with the emotional make-up of the child. The exercises and the bodily movements developed in ordinary P.T. did not supply the freedom from embarrassment which I needed, and so, when two of my staff-returned from a course in "Modern Dance", I thought that in all probability here was something which might be of use. The term "Dance" rather frightened me, for I had had little result from the introduction of country dancing into the school. Most of these early exercises in dance technique were certainly laborious for the children to learn and very definitely "teacher-taught". But they were infinitely better than any form of movement I had introduced into me school until then. With a greater knowledge of this kind of movement we acquired greater freedom in its use - whereas when we had tried to teach the child to polka, in three separate stages, the result was that only a few children could polka. Later on, after the children had
had some experience of making their own rhythms and developing certain patterns of movement, we found that they could polka very quickly without being" teacher-taught". So in our first stages we trusted to the natural movements of walking, running, skipping, jumping, hopping, etc. Then we stressed relaxation and full bodily extension in such exercises as moving like rag dolls, wooden soldiers, stretching up to the sun, reaching out to the horizon or sinking into the ground. We then developed a series of natural movements which had a dramatic significance - for instance, we crept down the hall, peered round an imaginary tree, saw something which frightened us and ran back home, and so forth. But, with all this, I could rarely get children to move spontaneously to a given rhythm or piece of music-they became embarrassed and moved only in a self-conscious way. Later, this embarrassment died as our own knowledge and belief in this particular kind of movement grew. We had now become associated more clearly with the work of Rudolph Laban, and had become more aware of the importance of effort in movement. I would not here presume to explain or theorise about this new analysis of movement. I can only indicate the growth of its development in my school and state some of the mistakes we made because of our lack of knowledge of the idea. It is dangerous to give terms to processes which one does not fully understand, but, to clarify this approach a little, let me say that we introduced the child to movements of gliding, thrusting, and so on. For a while we had a dead and apathetic result. The best that happened was that the children made a particular effort, but always in a particular direction which was obviously through imitation of the teacher. For a time I was doubtful of the value of this effort training to the young child. But, as time went on, we combined the efforts into a certain pattern and then asked them to make patterns of their own, based on these. efforts, and we found that a certain freedom of movement began to develop. We then realised that we had taught the efforts too definitely and that which we had obtained was merely an imitation of our own efforts. It took some time before we could free the child from his inhibitions, but, when that did occur, the children made their own pattern in the space about them as dictated by the individual ideas they wished to express.
Another mistake we made was that we superimposed a rhythm by a too definite direction from the piano. When we had cleared up the results of these fundamental mistakes, we found that the children were beginning to express themselves in movement without any fear or embarrassment, and that they would go on moving and making their own steps. So they began to interpret rhythmic beats and even to move freely to given music.
An outstanding instance comes to my mind as an example of creative movement developed. A few weeks before Christmas, in the year 1942, I was busily engaged in distributing certain pieces of materials to the children for them to use in their Christmas celebration in which the whole school was taking part. Among the so-called costumes which I possessed was a voluminous cloak. I handed this to a boy of ten years who was going to be a king. A quarter of an hour after I had given him the cloak, I wanted to hand him his crown which I had found. I could not find him; he had crept out of the room and was dancing by himself in the hall, making delightful postures with the cloak which he had placed on his shoulders.
And soon it became obvious that the creative urge expressed in all the arts comes from the same source. Although the way it is expressed in each particular art is somewhat different, all the arts have a common beginning.
That common beginning is movement - movement, something primitive and fundamental, so it seems to me: not movement for expressing emotion or ideas, which becomes Dance: not movement which makes us feel we want to say something, which is Drama: not movement for developing bodily strength or skills, which is Physical Training: but movement for movement's sake, the starting-point of all the arts.
Children moved and sang; children made big movements; they expressed movements in their art. With a big piece of clay, movement in modelling became a very definite factor, and in drama itself movement became the basis of the whole art.
MIME. It was interesting in those early days to observe the influence of this free movement on the general activities of the school. It became first of all most obvious in the mime and dramatic work.
I remember in a mime of the Nativity in which the whole school participated the difficulty the children had in making a slow entrance. The angels walked down the hall to the music of Roger Quilter's "Children's Overture", blowing imagined trumpets. How these youngsters waddled, as they tried to keep their steps in time with the slow beat of the music and play their trumpets at the same time! Even this rather comical lack of balance, strangely enough, did not altogether kill their intense sincerity in the miming, but every now and then, when they overbalanced, they themselves felt an obvious embarrassment which of course detracted from the emotional experience. Two years later, when they had more experience of movement through dance and effort training, we revived the same Nativity mime, and their awkwardness in moving to a slow time was gone. They were no longer embarrassed by awkward bodily movements. In the first instance, much of the spontaneity had unavoidably been killed by constant practice in trying to achieve a certain balance. In the second instance, they had found because of their movement training a confidence in their bodies, and thus spontaneity was not killed by constant repetition. In the first mime, the kings in their walk to Bethlehem were thinking only of how best to control their bodies to the slow beat demanded of their steps by the music played. In the second Nativity, through the confidence gained and the control of the body, they were able to walk to Bethlehem as they felt the kings would walk to Bethlehem. After they had been through this dance or movement experience they used their bodies in mimes to the full extension. There was no longer need to tell a child to make a gesture. The body easily responded to the emotional stimulus aroused by the part the children were portraying. The body was responding easily and fearlessly to the thoughts within. There was a oneness between the emotional self and the physical body. And how well I remember that day when I sent for members of the staff to see this bodily response to the inner emotion. I felt that, anyway for a short time in the school day, we had freed the emotions by giving them this bodily control. We saw that certain inhibitions had
been cleared away, at least within the confines of the drama lesson. But this experience had its effect at other times. For a time we thought that maybe owe were imagining our children were moving more easily, more confidently, throughout the school day. We noticed that they talked to us much more freely than they had done before. Was it because they knew us and had got used to us and therefore didn't fear us? Was it because we were allowing them various experiences based on their inherent interests? Or was it because we were beginning to make school a joyous place? Maybe all of these reasons affected this response, but, in answer to our first question, we noticed that they were talking to outside people who visited the school quite as freely as they talked to us. In answer to our second question, these activities had been an essential part of the curriculum before we had introduced them to a particular kind of dance or movement training. In answer to the third, we realised it was only the child himself who could make a joyous place of the school - we could but be glad and thankful for his enjoyment.
So I feel that, though all these facts may have had an effect in clearing away the usual inhibitions that are so often aroused in a child towards his school career, the real and fundamental reason was that, through the fuller experience we had given him in movement, he had gained a confidence in his own body which enabled him to express himself. But there was the danger that in his emotional release anger and the more violent passions would be more easily aroused. In fact, for a time we were afraid that this would happen. Many people argued with us and warned us about this-and it was with some fear that we watched for this to happen; but it did not. On the contrary, it was noticeable that the school was developing a certain social unity. Why this happened I don't know, but I would like to think that it was because the children's energies were absorbed in the joyous doing of activities based on inherent interest.
It was in their mimes that we first discovered the tremendous ability that these young people had of identifying themselves with an imaginary world. I could give example after example of this ability. Perhaps among the most outstanding were the following. In a mime of incidents in the life of Christ, the figure of Christ was always imagined and, as this imaginary figure walked about the hall among the children, so they cleared a space as he moved among them. After the Sermon on the Mount, Christ was persuaded by Peter (Peter was played by a boy of ten who is best described as a "real boy") to rest, and there was something beautiful in the way in which this young lad took the arm of the imagined figure, quietly propelling it down the hall and talking to it with an air of real sincerity. In the Crucifixion scene they imagined the procession to
Calvary, and so strongly did they identify themselves with the Crucifixion that we, as onlookers, were forced to see the Cross which was only there by their imagination. In fact, so strongly did they portray the scene that we were inclined to doubt the wisdom of allowing them this experience. During the story of Hiawatha, Hiawatha had to paddle himself up the hall in an imaginary canoe. His movements were simple; he walked, grasping an imaginary paddle with which he propelled himself. So closely had this youngster identified himself with his imagined surroundings that when he reached the top of the hall he was always breathless.
In the story of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, I gave the Archbishop a gold tinsel crown with which to crown Arthur. Of his own desire, he preferred to crown Arthur with an imaginary crown. It was, he said, a much better crown than the one I had given him. In finding suitable music to form a background for these mimes, we found that only records of good music were satisfactory. And so we moved to the music of such composers as Stravinsky, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Debussy, Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, Beethoven, Sibelius, Walton, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens, Ravel. How often I hoped that the "Grasshoppers' Dance", of which we had a record, would fit a merry moment in a mime. I hoped that in using it I could save the expense of buying a new one or prevent overworking one of the other more precious records, but the record of the" Grasshoppers' Dance" was never used.
It was interesting to hear the youngsters say "We heard our Hiawatha music over the wireless last night" when they had been listening to something by Tchaikovsky, or "We heard our shepherds' music" when they had been listening in to Jarnefelt's "Præludium".
COSTUMES. What we used for these mimes could hardly be called costumes - they were mostly straight pieces of material in various colours, a few cloaks and a number of tunics. We let the children dress themselves and, after having selected their costumes, they were allowed to keep them under their desks and take them home. Even though materials were getting scarcer and scarcer as the war proceeded, I do not think we ever lost anything; in fact, from time to time we noticed that our stock was increasing as old tablecloths and curtains and odds and ends were being brought from home and added to the wardrobe. I was very determined that the children should be allowed to dress themselves so that the whole idea of costuming could be kept within the interest of "dressing up". We noticed that these costumes became part and parcel of the character the child was playing and we did not get that which one sees unfortunately so often in juvenile productions, the costume of King Arthur walking
about the stage with Johnny Jones inside it, but Johnny Jones playing King Arthur in a knight's costume.
We found that the children began to dance at home to the music of the wireless - that they did mimes of their own in their backyards. It was with relief that I realised this, because I had moments of real fear that I might kill the inherent interest in this art through bringing it so strongly into prominence in the curriculum of the school. The last thing I wanted to do was to kill the desire to create in any medium which Nature had given the children to use for their own development. I had seen the desire killed so often that, rather than this should happen, I was prepared to cut out miming altogether.
I would go so far as to say that, unless a child will take and use for his own development those activities which he experiences at school, we have not approached the activity in the right way. The approach to all subjects must be such that the child of his own volition will use that medium of expression in his leisure hours. If the experience can be used only under the guidance of an adult, then either the adult has killed the interest in the medium, or the medium has been taken beyond the conception of the child, so that he is lost and unable to express himself without the help of the adult. I would like to think that all subjects included in the curriculum could be subjected to this test, but I can say emphatically that we can expect this to happen with the arts if the children have been introduced to them by the right approach.
SPEECH. There came a stage when we saw that in their mimes, in moments of intense feeling, the children were talking to themselves. Lips were moving and the whole facial expression conveyed this desire for speech. And so we encouraged spontaneous speech at these moments. At first, such speech was merely ejaculation - gasps of surprise, short commands, howls of pain, etc. Then at crises in the play, where movement could not fully express what the child wanted to say, we found it easy to encourage speech - more or less in a series of short monologues rather than a definite conversation. Soon these monologues began to flow together, questions were asked of each other, and so a disjointed conversation began to arise. At this point I often suggested to the class when a mime was known that they should go back to the classroom and write down what they were thinking as they mimed. I assured them that mistakes in their written results would not matter and all I wanted them to do was to be able to read back to me what they had written. These writings we then put together to form a play. Before we committed the words to memory, the phrases were corrected and put into fair English, although we tried to alter this rough script as little as possible. In this way the play was born. It had just been mimed, at certain crises spontaneous
speech had arisen, and, in retrospect, the rough play was formed. When we had reached this rough stage of development I found that the children were acting their own plays at home and in the playground. This I encouraged by setting certain rooms at their disposal before and after school for rehearsal, and by telling them that they could invite any teachers or other children to see their play when completed. The making of these plays with spontaneous speech was, I feel, a very valuable step in the development of the children through this medium of expression. It was noticeable that only the eleven-year-olds, with a few of ten years included, could ever bring a play to such a stage of completion that it was ready for an audience. The young people of seven, eight and nine years spent a tremendous amount of time rehearsing, but what they rehearsed was difficult to discover. It seemed often to be an individual interpretation of a set of entirely different plots, but I remember a group of eleven-year-olds, about sixteen in number, giving a series of plays which lasted for many weeks on what they called" The Foster Family". These plays were so full of the atmosphere of their homes that I tried to write down one of the incidents so that I could have a record. It was impossible to do this, as all the speech was spontaneous, altering each time they performed the play, and I was unable to complete it in my laborious longhand but could recall only a few of the sentences which they uttered. It was at this point that I suggested to the children when we were miming stories from literature that there was a great deal of conversation in the stories which could be used by them in the formation of their plays. And so when we did the story of Peter Pan, every copy of Peter Pan in the school and in the local library was always being used. When we did incidents in the life of Christ, so keen were these youngsters to read and find out speeches suitable for them to use in the play that the local librarian wrote down to the school and asked me what was the matter with my children because not a Bible was left in the library nor any book of children's Bible stories! Incidentally, so popular had the Bible become with these children that I took from my store cupboard a set of Bibles, of the kind so often seen in schools, with hard black shiny covers and very small print. These Bibles found their way to homes as treasured possessions. After this kind of experience I had to be extremely careful to encourage the right sequence of events in their mimes and was often pulled up when the story which we were miming did not quite coincide with that of the book from which it was taken.
I know now that these children, who were searching for words from the stories with which to express their feelings, were ready to act the written play. They had mimed the story, later at certain
crises they used words spontaneously, and in this way they had gone on from movement to speech to add life to that particular character which they were portraying. Then they searched for words which they thought would express more adequately than their own words what they were feeling, and now they were able to take a written play, make it their own, and give it life and movement as an outcome of their own experience in playing. When we had reached this stage of development in the drama lesson, I felt that the art was now becoming an interpretative art. Before, it had been purely creative, but, onceŠ the child was able of his own ability to give life to a written play, the art was changing its conception and becoming an interpretative art. When this happens it may be that the child could be subjected to the test of playing to an audience. I am very doubtful whether even here this is true, but I am quite sure that when the child is miming and using this medium as a purely creative art an audience has a detrimental effect on the sincerity and value of this medium of expression - only very privileged people were allowed to see the drama in school, and only a few at a time. There were times when it was necessary to allow as many as thirty or forty people at a time to see some of their work. When this happened we always felt that the particular experience of that afternoon was of little value to the educational development of the child; in fact, we could see that it would quickly breed an exhibitionism which would be fatal to his development.
During this period I tried very hard to introduce choral speech, but I could not get that complete absorption in the medium which I felt was important if it was to be used for a pure educational development. We read and recited in various ways many poems and prose extracts. But the results were either dead or savoured too strongly of the teacher's own interpretation. When the speech was allied to movement there was an absorption which was entirely spontaneous, so that eventually what little choral speech we did was as an introduction to a mime, and in this way only was choral speech of any real educational value to us. Beyond this, I could not discover any indication that it would be of any particular value with this age group. Speech training as such had little value, I discovered, with these children, but when they spoke, as a result of their emotional interpretation through movement and mime, their speech was clear and well enunciated and could easily be corrected, Corrections as such were easily accepted and quickly remembered, and I feel that we achieved a certain level of clear and well-enunciated speech throughout the school without making any laborious effort to superimpose another language, which so often happens in speech training. We played about with mimicking the speech of the countryman, the Cockney, the B.B.C. announcer, the Welshman, and so on. I was amazed at
the ability that these young people developed in powers of mimicry. They gave us delightful bits of Stanley Holloway, whom they heard on the wireless, and imitations of certain B.B.C. announcers; and sometimes we tried to speak in the broadest local dialect we could. For I believe that it is by training the child's ear to listen to the variety of speech sounds and to reproduce them that the child can of his own volition develop his speech to certain standards. I believe that much more can be done with this ability to mimic through which a child learns a complete language in his early years - if his ability or inherent interest are kept alive and not so often dammed by the words" Don't be silly", and" Talk properly!"
I hoped for many years that puppetry would help the child to develop. I was doomed to disillusionment, for either I gave them the wrong approach or the medium was a too sophisticated one for this age range. I thought for a time that it might help tile shy child to speak with a greater confidence, but here again I was wrong, for even with those children who did seem to gain a little more confidence in speaking behind a curtain I saw no evidence of it giving them any more confidence in speaking when the curtain was not there. This method of putting, at the most, half a dozen children to use their puppets in a puppet stage was a laborious and completely uneconomical method of approach. If such space and a sufficient number of puppet stages could be found so that the whole of a class of fifty could at least have a chance of expressing themselves through the medium in the all too short period of time which could be given for its development, then possibly something could happen; but even then, the fact that there is a stage with a front curtain also shows the necessity for an audience. Who, then, is to act as an audience while the play is being made? Certainly not me children; they must be gaining experience in the medium. No, this method was uneconomical. We made enough puppets for each member of the class to have at least three at the same time. We tried making our puppets talk over the tops of desks, round blackboards, and from tile depths of wastepaper baskets. I tried this and similar methods with every class in the school. So dissatisfied was I that I gave the puppets to the children to take home, hoping maybe that they would tell me what to do with them. They did - we saw them no more. And so puppetry was abolished from the time-table and used only as a means to an end in our mimes when we wanted to introduce children so that the real children could be grown-ups.
When I entered the school I found that the art was promising - its conception was free and colourful. The children were working with big brushes and big pieces of paper and some delightful work was being achieved. In the beginning I introduced perhaps more pattern work than had been done before and spent less time on paper-cutting. I felt that in the creation of pattern there would perhaps develop some freedom with the brush, a colour selection which would enrich their pictorial art. We started with the known motif, the letter, the figure. Then we made repetitive "haphazard patterns" (for want of a better term), moving from the known motif (such as the letter) to the unknown motif (such as the "haphazard pattern"). Then in this haphazard pattern we tried to see a known shape almost like seeing pictures in the fire, and when we could see a shape we recognised we added to it, so that it became more obvious. In this a certain selection of colour was directed; thus a bird shape would have a yellow bill added to it, green if it seemed to be resting on a tree, or blue if it were flying in the air, and so forth. It was surprising how quickly shapes were made to form something understandable. Then we made patterns on subjects, such as a "dog pattern" or a "ship pattern" or a "flower pattern". The unit of the pattern to be repeated was first of all formed on a separate piece of paper, when the pattern was being constructed, a section of the unit only at a time was repeated in quick free successive movements, and this was carried on until all the unit was repeated and the pattern finished. When a unit was so complicated that it was too laborious to repeat, then it was suggested to the child that he might fill the paper with that particular unit and if necessary add further things to it, so that the work developed into a panel and not a repetitive pattern. We found this" panel making" of tremendous value and it helped quite a lot in the development of the pictorial art. For instance, we were able to give the children large pieces of paper and say "Fill this with hands, or with faces", or they would ask "Can we fill it with animals or with coats or with flowers?"
Pictorial art was one of the things we left to the child, appreciating what was done and sometimes suggesting subjects when ideas did not flow too easily; sometimes they painted the scenes which they had imagined in a mime, and we occasionally suggested that the picture should contain more objects, but only
suggested this when we were asked by the children, and even then not showing but guiding observations.
We soon saw in their pictorial work the value of the training in pattern. Costumes were decorated, backgrounds were filled with colour and pattern. Sometimes, so full of pattern were their pictures that it became difficult to recognise the subject. A sense of balance developed, that balance which before we had found impossible to teach. We sometimes asked the child to make a few free lines on a piece of paper, and then told him to make them into a picture. This was great fun. Often men with big noses or grotesque hats, peculiar' trees, and strange houses appeared. It was a delight to see the child confidently painting his picture with little or no outline. No one thought of using, or asking for, an india-rubber. Blots became bits of pattern, or turned into part of the picture. Pictures were influenced by mimes. Children often painted the scenes of their imagination in which the mime took place. They painted tile characters as they imagined they would be dressed. It was when we found that they were painting small figures on small pieces of paper with as great an ease as they painted their large figures that we realised paint could. be used quickly and easily for the illustration of their compositions. Some children painted most of the lunch hour, and we found it was necessary to look in the art room before we went home, to be sure that we locked no children in the school. Some brought to school paintings that they had done at home in ink and paint on newspaper, wrapping paper, and paper from the wastepaper basket. This assured us that we had not killed the love of painting pictures.
We gave them a free choice of colour, rarely supplying more than the primary colours, but putting these on a saucer without partitions so that colours invariably slightly ran into one another and a natural mixing of colours happened. I felt it was right that a child should discover for himself that blue and yellow mixed together made a kind of green. I have known children spend a long time in mixing certain colours together to see which kind of a colour could be made; I found I had no use for the colour chart and abolished it from my school.
We used as many kinds of paints as we could get - poster colours, distempers, and inks. We introduced the child to big brushes, small brushes, charcoal, chalks, pastels, and broad nibs. All of these were often used in the same picture.
Until the time that we introduced movement into the curriculum, although the results were pleasant, only a percentage of the classes benefited from the experience of painting, and there were always some children in each class who tired quickly and who became
obviously dissatisfied with their work. They were gaining little from their experience. This did not worry me unduly at the time, because I suppose I had no real faith that all children could express themselves in this medium. But I feel sure it was with the introduction of movement into the school that the proportion of children who gained little from their art grew appreciably smaller. I remember one day a visitor who was spending a day in my school coming to me in my room during the afternoon and asking me if I knew what was going on in a certain class. As we rarely kept rigidly to a timetable I could not say truthfully what was going on in any class until I opened the door, and I was only able to ask "Why? What is the matter?" "Come with me", he said. So we went solemnly to the class in question, which was busily engaged in painting. I took a walk round the class and everything seemed to me to be ordinary, but the visitor pointed out that there was a fairly uniform level of attainment throughout the whole class. I suppose this came as a surprise to me, because, frankly, I had been interested only in watching for the children's complete absorption in the medium, and the results of the experience were often of quite secondary interest to me. It was then that I went round the other classes in the school and began to realise that when the child was completely absorbed in the experience the result was always satisfying. It was only when the child was not absorbed that the result was lacking in imagination and purpose.
ART AND COMPOSITION
It was from the children's own drawings with pens and pencils on scrap pieces of paper that I first realised that compositions could be made in this way and began to encourage them to make the complete compositions. Coloured inks and pencils were used, and we soon found that these drawings had much more life and vitality than compositions in writing which often caused so much labour. We expanded this idea, by no means an original one, of course, until we had a series of exercises developing through the school roughly in the following way. The seven-year-olds drew a picture for their composition and then named all the objects in the picture which they could spell. This is not such a superimposed method as it might seem, as young children show a great tendency in their early drawings to label the objects within them, and often a drawing of three figures will have underneath the figures "Me", "Mum", and "Dad". These drawings were usually done in coloured chalks and inks, so at the next stage I suggested that the drawings should be done in pencil, and descriptive words should be added to the naming of the objects; thus" brown cow", "bad dog", "John's house", etc. Then we asked the children to write sentences about what was happening in the picture. We encouraged them to tell a tale in pictures, and there would be the picture of Red Riding-hood leaving the cottage, another of her walking through the wood, and another of her arriving at her grandmother's cottage, and so on. After this, we suggested that they should draw a picture and tell us in words something of the people before they appeared in the picture and what happened to them afterwards, until eventually we arrived at the stage at which tile children started writing their story. When saturation point was reached they completed the composition with a picture or series of pictures, and in this way art had become an integral part of composition, not just a means of illustrating it. One exercise we gave the children caused much fun on their part, and developed our own perceptive powers. We encouraged them to draw those words which they could not spell. This fascinated them, and they spent a lot of time drawing the words and the staff a greater amount of time in deciphering them. When they began to get completely absorbed in composing a story, they preferred to ask how to spell a word or to look it up in their simple dictionaries rather than stop the flow of their
thoughts by the more laborious method of drawing.the words. Such experiences as these gave us a special interest in the problems of teaching English as a whole. We found, for instance, that the children spoke naturally, though they had no speech-training lessons as such - they wrote easily as a result of their ready speech and not because of set exercises in English. Throughout the school reading was carefully taught, but the experience of the children in the arts gave them a genuine interest in books.
It was in their facile use of the broad lettering nib in their drawings that I first realised that perhaps we could make a simple approach to lettering. Already we had used Marion Richardson's writing patterns and had developed the handwriting on the lines so well laid out in her books. Instead of beginning with the broad nib, we began with the brush and big sheets of paper, and this linked up well with our introduction to pattern-making. We progressed from the use of the brush to the use of the broad nib, and the children were encouraged to use coloured inks and pencils to fill in the spaces between the letters in the writing patterns. When we gave the children the broad nib for the first time, we allowed them to play about and make pleasing lines and scribbles as they chose. From this, they went on to making patterns in very much the same way as they made patterns with a brush, and after this we introduced them to patterns made with letters. It was then that I decided to introduce them to lettering. They had already made patterns with a broad nib; we had allowed them to draw pictures and to use a broad nib for their composition pictures, so that when we introduced them to lettering as such, they had had a fair experience in the use of the lettering nib. In this way a rhythm and ease immediately came into their lettering and I was surprised to find what a pleasing result was obtained so easily. We used no guiding lines for the formation of the letters. Children asked if they could take their lettering nibs home and they brought back to school quite interesting patterns. I then bought a fair supply of small bottles of coloured ink, which we lent to the children, and those who could do lettering brought back examples of poems and prose extracts, sometimes bits copied out of the newspapers, but in each case all these examples were most elaborately decorated, often to the detriment of the clarity of the lettering. I always allowed them to decorate the lettering that they did in school. It was interesting to note how much the children's work was in the style of the decorative lettering of the Luttrell Psalter. As a result of this kind of work, programmes, Christmas cards, and simple notices were often things of real beauty.
It is difficult in writing to explain the flow and the rhythm which overflowed from their art to their compositions; from their art to
their writing; from their writing to their lettering. At the top of the school the handwriting had a real sense of flow and ease not often seen even with an older age group. A feeling of maturity had developed. The writing associated with their compositions was always done in pencil until the child had reached tile use of a finer lettering nib in his handwriting lessons, and when a certain confidence in the use of the pen had developed. I believe that writing down thoughts in words too often stops the flow of imagination. I am sure we expect the child to express himself in the written word at much too early an age.
[the following plates appeared between pages 28 and 29]
In a child's development through the arts, there seem to be three stages: repetition, expression, communication.
Absorption (large picture opens in new window)
When they were completely absorbed, the results were always satisfying.
Painting went on all over the three-storey building. We found it necessary, before we went home, to make sure that we locked no children in the school.
MUSIC AND ARITHMETIC
I feel that these two subjects should be discussed at the same time, because in each we failed to find an approach which allowed all the children to find complete absorption. More thought and time were given to the development of music than to any other subject in the curriculum. The teacher who specialised in music throughout the school was an enthusiastic and capable musician, and it was through no fault of hers that this medium failed to bring out these educational qualities which I could see developing in dance, art and drama. The approach we used was based on a series of exercises in rhythm and pitch, graded to the requirements of the varying age groups. The children as a group were able to read these exercises with some alacrity and certainty, but only a certain number of children in each class were capable of reading at sight. It was to the teacher's credit that a fair proportion of each group could read music, but I know that she would agree with me when I say that the remainder found great difficulty in these exercises. I could never be convinced that these exercises deepened the love of music within the child; in fact I often felt that they were liable to kill that love. A lesson taken by this teacher was not a boring one, but I never saw any evidence of these exercises being used by the children from their own volition. To allow an inexperienced teacher to take a music lesson was, in the majority of cases, to ask for chaos. This was not so in art, dance and drama, where they could be children themselves and carry on from the store of their own experience. A great number of songs were learnt in each class, which they sang comparatively well. We tried to combine movement and singing, but this was a complete failure. We allowed the children to bring to school songs which they wanted to sing. A certain heartiness here often developed into sheer raucous noise with which they themselves were quickly bored. The only spark of real creative work developed when we composed our own rhymes and tunes for our dramatic work. Having composed a rhyme which suited a particular moment in a mime, children would come next morning and say "I have got a tune for our poetry", and then would proceed to sing it. Occasionally it was possible for a child to teach this tune to the remainder of the class, but this happened so rarely and was so laborious that we could not think of it in terms of a true approach. Continually we had to fall back on to conventional
methods. I think perhaps why singing and reading music did not allow the children to find complete absorption was that the whole approach was far too intellectual for them. How to make it less so, in order that we could keep alive and build on that inherent interest which each child has in rhythm and pitch, so that something rich and vital could be perceived at each stage, we failed to discover, and we still did our "tafe tates", saying them and clapping them in the usual way. Perhaps the most we can say was that at the top of the school we rarely had a "growler" and very little flat singing. But I never felt that the children wanted to sing with that intensity which such a strong inherent interest should bring. Is this failure due to the fact that we approach music as an interpretative art without giving the child an experience of it as a creative art?
In the teaching of arithmetic, we introduced all methods of practical work. At one time a room was set apart for practical weighing and measuring, and each classroom had its own shop at which children did certain money problems, but withal I could not convince myself that this method was giving the child the reality which was necessary for his development through this subject. The "C" child inevitably found difficulty in adding 2½d. and 3½d. together in his head in these circumstances, but would buy a 2½d. stamp and a 3½d. stamp from the local post office and be quite sure that he was given the right change out of a shilling. I can truthfully say that though we cut down the time given to arithmetic to 50 per cent of the usual time, the children had as full an understanding of the practical meaning of number as they had when we had a much longer course, and their competence in dealing with numerical processes was judged to be well up to an average standard. I feel that what we now call arithmetic is a reasoning process and the child is expected to show results before reasoning can be based upon real experience.
THE ARTS AND THE GROWING CHILD
During the child's development through the arts there seem to be stages at which one aspect or another of the arts assumes particular emphasis.
There is the "repetitive" stage during which the child makes use of material usually in a rhythmical way. He makes rhythmical strokes with a brush and colour: his dramatic play is so closely bound up with movement that it shows itself chiefly as the repetition of a movement pattern: modelling is an activity involving the pounding and pulling of material into shapes which have no recognisable form.
From this kind of expression, which continues throughout the development of the child, the "expressive" stage seems to be evolved. In this stage the child is seemingly quite satisfied with his result, though that result is not understood by other people without explanation. In this stage we see in his painting peculiar coloured trees, strangely formed animals, shapeless people, and these shapes often lack essential parts. As the experience of the child grows, so more of the essentials are added, until the child's work becomes more or less understandable: but while the child is in this stage the lack of understanding of his work by other people does not dissatisfy or discourage him. Later on I think it is because of his conscious awareness of his relationship to other people that the child seems to want his expression in art to be understood. This brings him to the " communicative" stage.
If this rough analysis is correct, certain theories can be formulated:
(a) During the "repetitive" stage in the arts we can teach best by providing plenty of material, such as material for modelling, for making sounds, for colour, and so on.
we offer him exercises or other kinds of help in order to increase his skill, otherwise his desire for expression may be stifled.Now I think we must be clearly aware if we are encouraging a child to be creative, or to use a special technique for a prescribed purpose. For instance, is he making music, or learning a song? Is he running and jumping in response to feeling, or learning a dance to set music? I feel that the young child should, in the early stages, as far as possible create. If this is a right principle, it seems that the crafts which require special technique to carry out a prescribed plan should be left till the child enters the "communicative" stage. Such crafts as bookbinding, woodwork or embroidery seem to fall into this group.
I found some difficulty in convincing the staff at our frequent staff meetings that teaching facts was of secondary rather than first importance. I myself considered that the most important thing was to arouse the interest of children so that they desired to be taught. And it is no good arousing interest unless one is prepared to widen and develop this interest through increased knowledge. In the approach that we evolved in the school we found that we were teaching with greater intensity than ever before, but that there were times when the children were completely absorbed in creative work and our function was to watch. The teacher's greatest difficulty, therefore, was to know what was the right time to teach. It might have been supposed that we merely put material in front of the children and allowed them to express themselves as they wished. Inexperienced young teachers would sometimes try this, with the result that nothing happened. It is true that the most important thing was to stimulate interest in material, and this was not difficult because the interest was already there. But the interest had to be developed and encouraged, and we had to find out what children of a particular age wanted to do and were capable of doing.
We found that children of seven and eight did not readily form themselves into a group, and their work in such an activity as miming, for instance, was individual in character. For example, in miming the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs we found that when the dwarfs were in the forest each going about his particular business the children would be very definitely absorbed in what they were doing and quite ready to receive suggestions from us, but when the dwarfs were with Snow White they were less absorbed and could not receive suggestions from us as easily. In the story of Red Riding-hood, the woodman and the rabbits in the forest were easily absorbed in playing their parts, but the mime of Red Riding-hood and the grandmother was a more slavish imitation of our interpretation of the story. It was evident that these young children were not ready to mime with each other. At the age of nine or ten they were beginning to work together, and at the age of eleven or thereabouts a class of children could mime together and take suggestions from the teacher which would heighten and intensify their interest.
I quote such instances as these to show how important I felt it to
be that teachers in general should allow their teaching to be based on the immediate requirements of the class and not on a superimposed plan. If the aim of education is, generally speaking, the development of personality, then it is essential that we should avoid forcing this personality into a "mass mould". There must of course be certain similar requirements from each child so that he can fit into the social world, but beyond these requirements personality must be allowed to develop freely. I consider the similar requirements demanded from each child to be such things as cleanliness, politeness and orderliness, which can by repeated teaching become habits. Through precept and example, based on sound judgment and common sense, we can expect honesty, truthfulness, and consideration for others. It is possible to make out of such qualities a certain routine and ritual which appeal to the imagination of children at this age.
I have described some of the functions of the teacher, but above all I think a teacher should lead. By that I mean lead in the search for knowledge rather than dictate information. In this search the teacher must be alive to the stage of development of each child at any moment. The teacher must see with the eyes of a child but direct him towards being an adult. Good teachers are usually born with this power or intuition. But a good teacher can be made by developing an understanding of the work of the intuitive teacher. And intuitive teachers can become more effective by trying to analyse their own methods. I know that in my school the foundation of everything was the work of the born teachers. Less intuitive teachers do effective work in subjects in which they themselves have aptitude or interest. When any teacher has a personal interest in a subject, he usually has enough confidence to allow the children to gain within that subject a set of experiences by which a oneness is developed between the teacher and the children. In this way particular subjects become a medium through which the children can develop, and through these subjects the teacher obtains an understanding of the possibilities of the children's individual development. It may be found advisable to give the intuitive type of teacher responsibility for all the three-R work of the school. This imposes a heavy strain, but as time goes on these teachers will develop in the three-R work methods of approach based on those used in the subjects of inherent interest, the arts. In my school the link between the arts and the other subjects was made consciously, and I think that possibly, to us, this was one of the most enlightening things that we did. We found we could link composition with art, geography with clay-modelling, speech with drama, history with craft. Movement, in which were incorporated the P.T. lesson, the mime lesson, the dance lesson, began to playa more and more important part in the children's develop-
ment. The interest and absorption in movement lessons became so apparent that every teacher was anxious to take one or other of these aspects of movement. Specialisation was developed only to a small extent, and eventually, I believe, would have become less and less, since each teacher showed an increasing interest in her own class unit. The kind of "specialising" which I found valuable was to keep teachers fluctuating between general teaching and taking a subject throughout the whole school. There is much to be gained by enabling a teacher to see the school as a whole, and also to develop an approach to any subject in the curriculum which is based on the knowledge gained through "specialising". This might go a long way to prevent a teacher in one class always using the same material in the same way, which is a serious danger to any teacher.
On the other .hand, the teacher who has a very definite interest in a particular subject may be as " dangerous" to the development of the children as the teacher who teaches a subject but has little personal interest in it. The former is inclined to expect a child to express himself in an adult manner, and to this end provides adult experiences leading to adult technique at too early an age. This will lead to giving a child adult knowledge for which he is not prepared.
Perhaps the most important part of teaching is the power to observe what is happening to the children. It is always impossible to judge the progress of an individual by tangible results. The mistakes we were always making in our methods of approach forced us to realise this fact. A piece of work which may have started well was perhaps completely spoilt before it was finished. The fact that Johnny was naughty or did not pay attention was probably not in itself the cause of the failure, but was more likely the outcome of something unsatisfactory in the approach we had devised. So though the tangible result was a failure it was by no means certain that the experience had been valueless for the child. Perhaps we had not observed when the saturation point of his interest had been reached, and had not been there to help at the right moment. Or we may have provided an experience which demanded too much initiative on the part of this particular child to allow him to complete his experience.
Of one thing we were assured, that a child must be absorbed in his work before we could help him to widen or develop his experience. We had to be sure that the work was of such simplicity that it could be tackled by a child without a sense of frustration. There would have been little progress if we had not led the child to new experiences. Often a child will not venture on new experience by himself because of his fear of frustration.
It was when we began to realise that what we were trying to achieve was the child's absorption in his work, and not the results, that we
began to develop an attitude towards teaching which demanded more power and ability than did the teaching of factual knowledge. We were constantly searching for those things in which the child could become absorbed, and we were looking for the individual interests of each child. We realised that discipline was the outcome of the child's absorption in his experience and not a thing imposed by the teachers. We tried to be aware when we were imposing our ideas too strongly on the children and to realise that when as teachers we had reached saturation point the result was to make us "nag" the class in sheer self-defence. So often were the words "Don't nag", "Don't superimpose" used by us to the staff that these phrases became passwords among ourselves.
I have not mentioned the various "aids" we used in our day-to-day teaching. We had in the school a good stock of pictures, apparatus, and visual aids, but I regarded these as aids only and, as such, not to be thought of as an approach. As far as the school broadcasts were concerned, I found some difficulty in making good use of them. I was never sure whether the unknown lesson which would come over the air was the right lesson to give a particular class at that particular moment. Also I was doubtful whether I ought to expect a young child to sit still and listen for such a length of time. It may be that some children are capable of this, but I wondered if young children should be encouraged to sit passively at an age when they should be learning by doing.
The approach we evolved in the school had nothing revolutionary in its nature. It was based on two elementary facts reiterated by educationists throughout the ages. We tried to give the children opportunities to move and to express themselves. We believed that the qualities which are developed in this way are of tremendous importance to all activities, since expression in the arts gives not only a natural approach to academic subjects but also a more confident basis for tackling the difficulties of social relationships. If this is true, and I have a sincere belief that it is, it seems to me to be wrong to teach academic subjects before children have experience of expression in the arts.
[page 37 (unnumbered)]
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
also deal with children from seven to eleven years old:
The general principles which underlie the education of children of this age are set out in the Consultative Committee's Report "THE PRIMARY SCHOOL", published in 1931 and recently reprinted.
H.M.S.O. 2s. 6d.
"SEVEN TO ELEVEN - YOUR CHILDREN AT SCHOOL" gives a simple account of how children grow and develop at this age and how a school can help this growth. It is generously and attractively illustrated. (Ministry of Education Pamphlet No. 15.)
H.M.S.O. Ready shortly.
HIS MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE
at the addresses on page 4, or through any bookseller