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Another marked feature of his course of instruction at Westfield, was the prominence given to the study of the English language and literature. This did not consist solely nor mainly in giving special attention to the principles of rhetoric and grammatical analysis, but the great productions of the language were themselves subjected to a careful and searching investigation. Classes were also formed in Latin, not for the purpose of making proficients in that language, but chiefly as a means of studying the derivation of our own tongue.

On commencing his labors at Westfield he felt the need of counsel from others engaged in the same field of labor, and wrote to several normal teachers suggesting the expediency of calling a meeting of Normal School Teachers for the purpose of mutual consultation and aid. The proposition was favorably received, and he accordingly sent letters of invitation to the principals of the different normal schools in the country to meet in convention at New York, in connection with the National Teachers' Association. A meeting was held on the 30th of August, 1856, and from this originated the present “ American Normal School Association," which promises.much usefulness.

In May, 1856, Mr. Wells resigned his position at Westfield with a view to accepting an appointment as Superintendent of Public Schools in Chicago, Illinois—and on the 1st of June he entered upon the discharge of his new duties. This was a highly important position and one well fitted for the full exercise of Mr. Wells' mind and energies.

One of the objects that first claimed his attention in Chicago, was the organization of the High school in a new and commodious edifice. To this Mr. Wells gave his earnest attention, and he spared no effort that might tend to make this new school a model of its kind. It was opened to pupils of both sexes on the 8th of October, 1856, and embraced in its plan three distinct departments—Classical, English High, and Normal. With a thoroughly digested plan of operation and management, this school has, from the outset, maintained a high position, and few cities can boast of better educational advantages, in the higher departments than those afforded by the Chicago High School.

As soon as the High School was in successful operation, he directed his thoughts to the lower grades of schools-and particularly to the Primary. Well understanding that the higher grades could not be truly and permanently elevated, unless the under grades were what they should be, his active and practical mind was awake to devise means for the improvement of the lower classes, in which the children receive their earliest and most lasting school impressions ; and as one of the most important measures for the accomplishment of

this object, he recommended that the assistants in the primary departments should receive a rate of compensation equal to that paid to the female assistants in the grammar schools.

His annual Reports to the Chicago Board of Education are interspersed with practical and well digested views on a variety of educational topics. The following passages in relation to primary schools, are extracted from his Report for the year 1858–9:

Our Primary Schools are the basis of our whole system. If evils are suffered to exist here, they will manifest themselves in all the higher stages of the pupil's progress, and cling to him through life.

"Scratch the green rind of a sapling, or wantonly twist it in the soil;

The scarred and crooked oak will tell of thee for centuries to come.' It is in the Primary Schools that more than half of all our public instruction is imparted, and a large portion of the children gathered here do not remain in school loug enough to pass into the higher departments at all.

To excel as a primary teacher requires peculiar natural gifts, a thorough acquaintance with the first principles of knowledge, special fondness for young children, and an abiding consciousness that there is really no higher department of useful labor. than that of giving direction to the first efforts of minds that are opening to an endless existence.

There is no other grade of schools in which the personal character of the teacher is so directly felt, as in the Primary. In the Grammar School, lessons are learned from text-books, and very much of the pupil's progress is made without the direct assistance of the teacher. But in the Primary Schools, the teacher is herself the text-book, the living oracle ; and nearly all the impressions received by the pupil are a direct reflection from her own mind and heart.

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Reading, the most important branch of school instruction, is generally the most imperfectly taught, especially in Primary Schools. Why is it, that in listening to a child who is reading the most colloquial piece that can be chosen, we find so marked a difference, in most cases, between the tones and modulations he employs and those of common conversation? The answer is a sad reflection upon the inanner in which reading is generally taught in elementary schools.

That this evil is necessary, no intelligent teacher believes. If we look for the seat of the difficulty, we shall probably find one of the principal causes in the fact that most children are first trught to call the names of a large portion of the words they read, without understanding their meaning. The remedy of the evil is suggested by the cause. Let no unmeaning words be presented to the young learner, and let no word ever be read without being understood. It is not enough that the word has a meaning, and that the child is presumed to understand what it is; the teacher should be sure that the child actually does understand every word that is read. The first words introduced should always be the names of common and familiar objects. The objects themselves should be referred to, and if possible presented to the test of the senses. The teacher should talk with the pupils about the objects, and employ the words in simple and familiar sentences, so that the reading may be associated with common conversation, and be made as nearly like it as possible. These directions are very few and very simple, and they have been given, substantially, many times before, and yet, if they had been faithfully followed in all the elementary schools of the country, we should probably find less than half the unpatural reading which we now witness.

In respect to the manner of giving children their first lessons in reading, a considerable diversity of practice still exists. Some teachers adhere to the system of teaching the alphabet first, then short syllables, and then words and sentences. Others commence with the sounds of the letters, and then proceed to their combination in words. Others commence with words, and afterwards

introduce the sounds and names of the letters of which they are composed. Others teach a few letters first, by their names, and then proceed to combine these letters in simple words ; thus teaching the alphabet and words simultaneously. There is however, at the present time, a very decided tendency to what is called the word method. Worús have meaning ; letters bave none

Words are as easily learned as letters, and they naturally precede letters. It is to be hoped that the time is near, when the philosophy of education will be better understood, and when all teachers will learn that it is safe to follow nature in our efforts to cultivate the minds of children. Who would think of teaching a child the different parts of which a tree is composed, before he has learned to distinguish the tree itself? A child does not learn to call the name of a house by studying the windows, doors, chimneys, roof, etc., but he first learns to l'ecognize the house as a whole, and the parts that compose it are learned afterwards. So in reading, the natural order is to learn the whole word first, and and afterwards to learn the names and sounds of the letters composing it.

One great excellence of this method is the aid it affords in teaching children to read naturally and with correct expression. If no other object were accomplished, this alone would be sufficient to recommend it to the favorable regard of school officers and teachers.

The exact point at which the names of the letters are to be introduced, is not a matter of much importance, so that we preserve the main features of the system unimpaired. The natural order of the different steps is manifestly the following: First, the object itself is presented to the senses; next, the name of the object is pronounced and learned. As the spoken word consists of sounds, the next step in order is to analyze the sounds and utter them separately. After this, the names of the letters are learned.

If any teacher prefers to teach the names of the letters as fast as they occur in the words learned, no harm can result from such a course But the sounds of the letters, which are the real elements all spoken words, should by all means be learned as early as the names.

Of the efforts of Mr. Wells in his present situation, we can only add the following testimony from LUTHER Haven, Esq., President of the Board of Education of Chicago—a gentleman who has been untiring in his efforts to improve the schools of his adopted city : “Mr. Wells brought to the service of the Board of Education, and to the interests of the schools all those admirable traits of character which had tended so greatly to enhance his success and usefulness in every position he had previously occupied, and these traits he has devoted with untiring industry and perseverance, with all the powers of his well-trained mind, to the building up of our public schools, and placing them in such a condition, as to command the confidence and support of our whole community. His labors have been eminently successful. For the high position now held by our schools in the estimation of our whole community, for the harmony and good feeling now existing among all parties in relation to them, we are indebted, in no small degree, to the prudence, care, kindness, and firmness of Mr. Wells. To sum up in a few words, his doings have been abundant and satisfactory—bis success eminent and enviable.”

But the influence of such a man can not be confined within town or city limits. He was one of the first members of the Illinois State Board of Education, elected for a period of six years, and he has rendered valuable and judicious aid in the establishment of the Illinois


State Normal School, and in promoting the best interests of popular education in the state.

In closing this brief memoir of Mr. Wells as an educator, we would call the attention of young students and teachers to a few only of those prominent features which are at once most characteristic of him and which should lead others to a career as widely useful and successful, should similar opportunities of labor be presented. While he has risen to a high position among the leading educators of our times, it is not believed that his success has been so much the result of unusual natural abilities, as of untiring and well-directed application. Many to whom the author of life has been more bountiful in the bestowment of natural gifts, have been entirely surpassed by him, simply because his talents were improved by constant and varied use, while theirs were carefully "laid up in a napkin." Mr. Wells may be justly classed with what are called self-made

Marcel, in his treatise on language, says, “The eminence attained by great men is always the result of their own industry,”-and this it is believed, is strictly true. Most of our truly great and eminent men, in any department, have gained their high position by close application and untiring industry. They have kept their talent bright and productive by constant and wise use. B. B. Edwards, D.D., in the essay prefixed to his "Biography of Self-Taught Men," says :—“Men of this class have the faculty of clearly communicating their knowledge to others. In this respect they make excellent teachers. They have worked their own way up the steeps of knowledge, and they can point out the path in which they came."

It was a cardinal principle of Mr. Wells' during his whole course as an educator, that the teacher's highest mission is not to impart instruction merely, but rather to rouse and call forth the pupil's own energies. He well knew what obstacles lie in the scholar's path and also how to surmount them. Many a desponding pupil has been quickened and cheered on to successful effort by the kind words of Mr. Wells, calling them through the devious and difficult paths he had himself walked, up to positions of usefulness and honor. He knew the value of words of encouragement, and he also knew how, when, where, and to whom to give them.

During his preparatory course of study, he was at one time on the point of abandoning his books and turning his attention to other pursuits, on account of the serious interruptions and embarrassments to which he was subjected while attempting to continue his course without pecuniary assistance. In this emergency he sought the advice of a shrewd and intelligent manufacturer, a graduate of Yale College,


whose means had always been equal to his wants. To his great surprise, his friend assured him that he was in the best possible circumstances to insure success. “When I was in college,” said his friend, I had money enough, and the same was true of about half of my class-mates. Many of us burned the candle at both ends all the way through college. And now, if you ask who of all the class have attained to any degree of eminence, you will find them, almost without exception, among those who had to struggle through their own course with little or no assistance.” All who have opportunity for observation will admit the general truth of this statement. Its effect on young Wells was to clothe Latin and Greek with new attractions, and obstacles were afterward welcomed as the surest and best helps to

He was always hopeful. He felt that whatever was worth accomplishing could be achieved by patient effort, and he was deterred by no obstacles from attempting to do what he felt ought to be done. And it may be asserted that hundreds of his pupils have imbibed his spirit, and, in consequence, become working and efficient men ;-men of minds, men of self-reliant spirit, men of indomitable perseverance, men of marked success.

The following extract from a lecture on Self-Reliance, delivered by Mr. Wells before the American Institute of Instruction, embodies one of the principles by which his own life was governed, and which he never failed to inculcate in the minds of his pupils.

The highest and most important object of intellectual education, is mental discipline, or the power of using the mind to the best advantage. The price of this discipline is effort. No scholar ever yet made intellectual progress without intellectual labor. It is this alone that can strengthen and invigorate the noble faculties with which we are endowed. However much we may regret that we do not live a century later, because we can not have the benefit of the educational improvements that are to be made during the next hundred years, of one thing we may rest assured, that intellectual eminence will be attained during the twentieth century just as it is in the nineteenth-by the labor of the brain. We are not to look for any new discovery or invention that shall supersede the necessity for mental toil; we are not to desire it. If we had but to supplicate some kind genius, and he would at once endow us with all the knowledge in the universe, the gift would prove a curse to us, and not a blessing. We must have the discipline of acquiring knowledge in the manner established by the Author of our being, and without this discipline our intellectual stores would be worse than useless.

The general law of intellectual growth is manifestly this :—whatever may be the mental power which we at any time possess, it requires a repetition of mental efforts, equal in degree to those which we have put forth before, to prevent actual deterioration. Every considerable step of advance from this point must be by a new and still higher intellectual perforinance. There are many impediments in the path of the student, which it is desirable to remove ; but he who attempts to remove all difficulties, or as many of them as possible, wars against the highest law of intellectual development.

Had Mr. Wells been content to follow the example of most beginners in teaching, and simply “kept school” six hours daily, “ boarded 'round” and received his ten dollars per month, he would never have gained any eminence, or achieved any

desirable success.

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