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Teacher's Institute

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

I am confident that the quality of education in Rock Island County jumped dramatically in the fall of 1891. Just a look at the list of professionals imported for the county teacher's institute that July will tell you that.

Elementary and secondary teachers at that time needed only two years of normal school in order to teach, an inadequacy the Rock Island Institute set out to remedy.

Education professor DeGarmo opened the morning session. The professor spoke on "observation." He noted that teachers followed three models: the spider, the ant, and the bee. The best teachers were the bees who let student inquire on their own rather than giving them the answers, a suggestion which must have improved teaching 20% right there.

Next came the "arithmetic Professor Bishop" who argued against the custom of teaching short division before long division. Another ten percent improvement. The class then discussed "machines." There are really only two, said the professor, the lever and the inclined plane. He next informed the schoolteachers that perpetual motion would not be successfully accomplished until friction was destroyed.

The afternoon session began with Mrs. Runcie, a teacher of elocution from Indiana, discussing "Expression in Reading." She reminded the teachers that "all reading should be done as an art." Add another fifteen percent improvement.

State Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Henry Raab, then discussed primary teaching. "A primary teacher must always be cheerful," he noted. "His love is the sunshine which makes the little ones unfold." How does one control a class full of restless children? A teacher’s warm heart was the answer. Forty percent here alone.

Had all 170 teachers at the Institute attended all these expert sessions, Rock Island might well have become a model school district, but alas, the newspaper reported that many teachers deserted their regular sessions to spend all their time in Miss Emma Stratford's drawing class, which was filled to overflowing the whole day.

I'm not sure how much art one can learn in a day, but certainly enough to improve the quality and quantity of marginal doodles at the other sessions.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.