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Dispensing with the ordinary formalities on such occasions need not cause disorder.
Before children are sent out into cold, stormy weather, their wraps should be brought into the room, thoroughly warmed, and then put on and fastened so that there will be no danger of their coming off or open. If severe thunderstorms come up near the close of school, it is the part of wisdom to send the children home early enough that they may be safely housed before the storm breaks. If a storm has come too near before discovery, it is wise to detain the children until after it has passed or until their parents come for them.
(e) Precautions Against Fire. During winter, fire is an ever-present possible danger. Every large school should have a plan for leaving the building so thoroughly worked out and practiced that a thousand or more pupils can be conducted to the street within two or three minutes — and this on unexpected signals. If a regular plan of dismissal and exit from the building is followed day after day, a fire alarm will cause no confusion or fear among the pupils. In small schools there is less danger, but even here a systematic plan of leaving the building should be followed to prevent any possibility of a panic should a fire occur. Proper plans should be made before the beginning of school; a fire is as liable to occur on the first day of the term as on any other day.
(f) Movement Of Pupils. Establish the first day the calling and dismissal plan and the system of signals you expect to use during the term. This system should be as simple as possible, and it should be operated so quietly that only the pupils to whom it applies will notice it. The use of the hand or a pencil should be all that is necessary. Stand in front of the seats in which most of the pupils of the class to be called, are seated; speak the name of the class quietly and thus secure the attention of the pupils; turn your pencil to a vertical position as a signal for the pupils to rise and stand in the aisle; change the pencil to a horizontal position as a signal for passing to the recitation seats. It is well to use the same set of signals for dismissing classes and for dismissing school. Be patient and pleasant, but insist upon prompt and implicit obedience to the signals, and in a few days your school will move as if by magic. Do not use a bell for signal purposes, except for calling the school together.
(g) Attendance. One of the greatest obstacles to progress is irregular attendance. Certain pupils are habitually absent and others, occasionally. The reports of the United States Commissioner of Education show that the average attendance of pupils enrolled in the public schools of the country is less than 55 per cent. In other words, nearly one-half the labor and money expended on public education is wasted because of this lack of attendance. Every district must share its responsibility for this condition. The teacher can do much towards improving the attendance of irregular pupils.
(1) Find the percentage of attendance for the preceding term. Find the total cost of the school and determine the loss sustained. Suppose the average attendance was 80 per cent, and the cost of the school $500; one-fifth of this amount, or $100, was lost. Present these facts to the directors and secure their interest and co-operation.
(2) Take special interest in pupils whose attendance is irregular; visit them at their homes and ascertain the real cause of their irregularity. Show the parents what the children are losing and try to arouse greater interest in the school on their part. In most cases you will find that absences are due to indifference, not to illness nor to work at home—the two most prevalent excuses.
(3) Establish a rule at the beginning of the term that every day's absence will deduct five per cent from the pupil's record in the subjects that he missed. This deduction should be made, however, with the understanding that the pupil on his return to school may have the privilege of making up the work and receiving credit for it.
(4) Develop a school spirit which makes tardiness and unnecessary absence unpopular.
5. Seating. It is usually well to allow the pupils to take seats as they choose the first morning, but let it be understood that you consider this arrangement only temporary and that you reserve the right to change any pupil's seat as
CHART SHOWING SEATS OCCUPIED BY EACH PUPIL
This chart is made by pasting together two pieces of cardboard and cutting a slit in the upper one for each desk in the room. Write the pupil's name on a slip of paper and put it in the slit corresponding to his seat. A glance at the chart shows where each pupil belongs and whether or not he is absent.
you may see fit. Explain to the pupils that whatever changes you make are for the convenience of classes, or for the comfort of the pupil or pupils concerned. No one will then look upon a request to change his seat as a punishment or disapproval of his conduct. In the permanent seating of your pupils, keep the following points in mind:
(a) Fitting The Seat To The Pupil. For hygienic reasons, the seat should be of the right size to fit the pupil. The feet should rest upon the floor when the pupil sits in an upright position, and the back should be of such shape as to prevent any unnatural curvature of the spine when the pupil leans against it. The desk should be of such height as to bring the book within twelve or fourteen inches of the eye. These requirements are of vital necessity to the health of the pupils, and should be given first consideration, even if some inconvenience arises because you cannot seat all the pupils in the same class together. Better suffer some inconvenience than place a child in a seat that may lead to some deformity from which he will never recover.
(b) Classes. The movements of pupils are facilitated if pupils of the same class sit in the same row or adjoining rows of seats; and wherever it is practicable this arrangement should be followed.
(c) Defective Pupils. Nearly every school has some pupils with defective eyesight or hearing. Such children are usually diffident and will not say anything about their defect. They are often thought stupid, when the cause of their poor recitations is inability to see or hear. Let such pupils sit as near the blackboard and your desk as you can, so as to give them every possible advantage. (See Chapter VII, Sanitation and Hygiene.)
(d) Mischief Makers. Some children are so full of fun and activity that it is very difficult for them to refrain from playing pranks upon others, and when two such children sit near each other they are liable to cause more or less disturbance, and also to annoy pupils near them. After being warned, such pupils should be seated as far apart as possible, until they are willing to control themselves. (See Chapter VIII, Work of the School.)
6. A Code of Signals. Children are prone to ask questions, many of which are unnecessary, though they do not seem so to them. Asking and answering these questions verbally causes confusion and should be avoided. Analysis of children's requests in school shows that nearly all can be grouped into three classes: requests to leave the room; requests to communicate with one another; requests for assistance from the teacher. The following code of signals will reduce requests to the minimum and save much disturbance:
(i) The hand raised with the index finger open is a request to leave the room; (2) raised with the first and second fingers open is a request to communicate; (3) raised with the hand open and turned palm outward is a request for assistance. The requests can be granted by a nod, or denied by a shake of the head; all wants are attended to and the work of the room progresses without interruption.
Cautions. (1) Do not allow pupils to ask questions while a recitation is in progress. The class reciting is