The Bethel Journals
1893 School Report
November 4, 2007
Nathaniel F. Brown
Supervisor of Schools
(Photo source, The Bethel News, 1904)
(1891 was first, 1892 was second, 1893, was third)
Report below is for School Year 1893.
In accordance with the requirement of the statute, I submit my third annual report as supervisor of schools.
I have endeavored to conduct the schools of Bethel as recommended in previous reports. I have tried to get along with as few small schools as possible, as they arc expensive and unsatisfactory. Expensive because you have to pay a teacher to instruct four or five scholars almost as much as you would to teach thirty or forty; besides the repairs and taking care of the schoolhouse and furnishing fuel are about the same in all cases. Unsatisfactory, because the progress is not so good; there is not the stimulus and interest that comes from competition. Then in the larger school there is a recitation going on most of the time, and the small scholars can listen to the older ones and learn something. This keeps the school from becoming monotonous and tiresome.
I find that those who want their children to do well, after trying the larger school, even at considerable inconvenience to themselves in carrying their children, are satisfied and do not wish to go back to the small school. Some who flatly refused to go to the larger school, even if their children were carried at no expense to themselves, after being persuaded to try this plan for one term, have acknowledged that they were satisfied and thought it the best way, and that they did not wish to go back to the small school. Probably after the people get used to the change, and suitable conveyance for the children is provided, there will be less trouble than there is at present; People are generally conservative and do not like to change, unless they are reasonably sure it is the best way ; and the best method to convince people that this plan is for their interest is to get them to try it for one or two terms. When they find that the children like it better, learn more, and have longer and better schools they will take hold of the matter without urging.
One strong argument in favor of having fewer schools is, that with as little as has been done in this direction in Bethel, we are having from six to nine weeks more school in the year, with the same appropriation, than we had before anything was done in this direction, without serious inconvenience to anyone. The Journal of Education says that where this plan has been tried it has added fifty per cent, to the efficiency of the schools, and added materially to the value of farm property by giving the people the advantage of the village schools without expense to them.
The very cheapest that a school can be run is from six to ten dollars per week, when we take into account the repairs, taking care of the schoolhouse and furnishing fuel, and the scholars can be carried in nearly every case for half of that amount. But leaving out the matter of expense, the benefit to the town from having better schools can hardly be overestimated. It has better schools, better schoolhouses, and the scholars have less exposure. Bethel is considerably in advance, in this respect, of many other towns. We abolished the school districts quite a number of years ago, and so are well on the way toward having fewer and better schools; while those towns that clung to the old district system will have the same trouble that we have had to consolidate the schools.
I recommend a liberal policy in the matter of carrying scholars. The idea that people have rights must not be lost sight of. The people away from the village pay their share of the taxes to support the schools and they have a right to the benefit of them, either by having a school within a reasonable distance or having fair pay for carrying their children.
Our thirty school districts, which we had under the district system, have now been reduced under the town system to about fifteen, and they can be accommodated by fewer schools than we now have by nearly one-half, without serious inconvenience, and at a saving of expense. When the new school building in the village is completed, it will do away with two schools at least, and I have no doubt that after a little time, more will wish to come to the village schools.
I recommend that the schoolhouse at East Bethel have an addition put on for a corridor and take the corridors
they now have into the school room, and raise the building up so they can have a furnace in the basement. I also recommend that the schoolhouse in the Foster neighborhood, the one near Bean's Ferry, the one in the Pine Woods, the one near L. N. Bartlett's, and the one near John Barker's be disposed of.
My estimate of the teachers of Bethel has been discussed in previous reports and is well known, and I will only add that they are better teachers than last year and have done good, faithful work. Through the efforts of Mr. Merriman, Principal of the Academy, a teacher's association for Bethel and neighboring towns was organized. This meets once a month to discuss school affairs and methods.
No serious trouble about discipline has occurred in the schools the past year. There has been much improvement in methods of school government from that which formerly prevailed; as methods of government at home become more reasonable and less harsh and severe, there is less occasion for using severe methods at school. The single seat has done much for good government in school, and then more care is exercised in selecting teachers who have the governing faculty. This is, undoubtedly, a natural gift, and the ones who have this gift are the ones who are wanted in the school room. An ugly, unreasonable teacher should never be put in charge of children. Children have rights, among which is the right to be heard and to have reasonable methods used in the matter of government. Teachers have been instructed not to use severe punishment until all other methods fail, and where large boys are disposed to make trouble to send them home. The proper place for them is at the Reform School, not only for their own good, but for the good of the school where they make trouble.
Something has been clone toward a better grading of the village schools, and when the school building 'in the village is completed, we can have a second grammar grade, which will be a great improvement.
I have endeavored to get the schools outside the village into less classes, for there are so many studies required in school now that unless this is looked after carefully the teacher has but little time with each class. I have discouraged the study of algebra beyond one or two terms. I think the study of English or some other of the common
school studies is of more practical use. The statute calls for the study of book-keeping in the common schools, but I think the time can be more profitably spent on something else, as the arithmetic furnishes book-keeping enough for most kinds of business, and to be quick and correct at figures is the best part of book-keeping.
The schools at Middle Interval and Bird Hill had longer spring and fall terms with no winter terms, as the people in those neighborhoods thought this the best way. The school on the Flat had a spring and fall term, but as the school is small and irregular in attendance, as can be seen from the annexed tabular statement, and as those who were regular in attendance wished to go to West Bethel, it was thought best to have no winter term. The school at Swan's Corner was closed during the fall term, as there were but two scholars in attendance. The school on Grover Hill was closed after keeping a few weeks of the spring term, as there were but three or four scholars and some of the time not any.
The next year comes under the new school law, which obliges towns to elect a school committee of not less than three. If consisting of three, one holds office one year, one two years and one three years; if of five, one will hold office one year, two, two years, and two, three years; if consisting of seven, two will hold office one year, two, two years, and three, three years. I recommend a committee of five, three from the central part of the town, one from East Bethel and one from West Bethel.
N.F. Brown, Supervisor of Schools