This week, I found myself flipping through the pages of a volume of the Ontario Teachers’ Manuals. The Ontario Teachers’ Manuals were first published in 1915 by the Ministry of Education. The copy I own, entitled School Management, originally cost 42 cents when it was released for sale. I think my mother found it at a flea market in eastern Ontario many years ago and gave it to me because she thought it might be a quirky addition to my library. I have read the entire volume several times. It is a matter-of-fact description of good practice in schools. Yesterday and today – the most important things in schools remain unchanged.
When I flipped through its pages this week, I was struck by the fact that its publication date coincided (more or less) with the founding of our school in 1918 and I was amused to think that Kate Matthews herself must have been familiar with its contents. I imagined chatting with Miss Matthews about how its lessons could be applied in our school today. Could the goals and priorities contained within the pages of School Management in 1915 still be relevant?
You be the judge. Here is what it says about the formation of habits:
“Two important functions of the school are the correction of bad habits and the formation of good ones. The Science of Education deals with the nature and rules of habit formation, and it remains for the teacher to make the practical application. The first step is to show the pupils the need of punctuality. In addition to the loss of time to the pupil who is late, the whole school is disturbed when [he/she] enters. A reference to loss of time when working for pay by the hour will show how punctuality is regarded in business. In running trains, punctuality may prevent wrecks and save the lives of many passengers. The second step consists in making up one’s mind to form the habit. The third step is to seize the opportunity for the practice of the habit, and to allow no exceptions until the habit is established.”
Well there you have it. There are all sorts of worthy habits to form in life and surely the place in which most students spend the majority of their time – school – is an ideal setting in which to practice them. Forming good habits, breaking bad ones, operating with integrity and recognizing that rules, codes of conduct, ethical standards, and professional guidelines exist for the Common Good are all essential to preserving the teaching and learning environment.
I always love reading what the Minister of Education of 1915 had to say on important issues that are at the heart of any school’s culture. Some of the language may be a bit dated, but the essence, clarity and common sense of the thing is undeniable – an appropriate “heritage moment reminder” in keeping with our Centennial.
I feel sure that Dr. Kate Matthews would wholeheartedly agree!