Toronto Normal School – Between Two Wars

ALTHOUGH THE IMPOSING BUILDING on Gould Street was usually known as the Normal School, the School itself had very early been relegated to premises in the rear. The towered south block was occupied by the Education Offices, by the Depository, by an art gallery, by a museum, by the Art School, by the Ontario Historical Society, and – after the Department of Education had moved to the Parliament Buildings in 1912 by the Workmen’s Compensation Board. In 1919, the Normal School, sadly crowded in the north block where it had been since 1863, secured two rooms in the south building for its own use. The camel’s foot was in the tent. Two years later, when the Compensation Board and the College of Art both moved to new quarters, the teachers-in-training fell heir to the space vacated. By 1921, the School’s front door was its own.

The students were coming into their own in another way. Dr. Rad­cliffe’s experience as principal, first of London Collegiate, and later of London Normal School, had acquainted him with the hopes and enthus­iasms of young people. During his principalship the view that Normal students were special persons required to act in a special way underwent a change. The social life of the School increased in importance. Student parties were held—even dances. Visits to other Normal School centres were arranged with special programmes of literary and athletic events.

“Be not the first by whom the new are tried.” The Normal School heeded this caution in the matter of athletic costumes. Girls’ uniforms changed from pleated skirts to bloomers, from middies to sweaters, from sweaters with sleeves to sweaters without sleeves, to the accompaniment of much complaint from Mrs. Grundy, who fought every inch of her re­treat. But just as the promenade gave way to the dance, so the School moved closer to the accepted patterns of the day in secondary school and university.

Miss Nina Ewing was formally appointed consultant and adviser to the girls in attendance in 1919, when a similar appointment was made in each of the Normal Schools. Miss Ewing had been with the school since 1902; she was now called Dean of Women. The duties of this office were discharged, in later years, by Miss Mabel E. Hay (1931-44) ; Mrs. F. G. Russell (1944-46) ; and Mrs. E. H. McKone.

The end of the First Great War brought the “Soldier Year” to the school in 1919-20. Some eighty men with service in the forces enrolled, most of them in the regular course, although a group specialized in manual training. Great though the change was from their experience overseas, the service-men completed a thoroughly successful year, and now hold responsible positions in the schools of the Province. At the annual re­unions which they held for many years, members of this group were proud to have, as their guest of honour, Dr. H. J. Cody, who was Minister of Education when they were admitted to Normal School, and who took a keen interest in their progress.

Candidates for First-Class certificates were once more included in the Normal Schools’ enrolment after 1919, as the Faculties of Education in Toronto and Kingston were abolished in 1920 to be superseded by the Ontario College of Education. Fifty-seven First-Class students came to Toronto in 1920-21, with 178 candidates for the Second-Class certificate. To provide opportunities for practice with high school classes, a Fifth Form was added to the Model School.

Through these years, Dr. Radcliffe gave cheerful and inspiring leadership to the School. His love of English literature had its influence on all his students. “Have you seen an apple orchard in the spring?” How often the opening line of that poem stirred new wonder in the beauty of verse and blossoms! “Pink buds pouting at the light, crumpled petals baby white! Just to touch them a delight, in the spring.” All over the Province, graduates catching the whiff of lilac, went down with him “to Kew in lilac time.” Lucky were the students who travelled the old red Readers with Dr. Radcliffe. His relation to his classes is best expressed by a short editorial in the students’ paper, The Pedagogian, of April, 1924. “We are delighted to have Dr. Radcliffe with us again. Although we have dozens of the very finest teachers, we miss Dr. Radcliffe if he is out of our sight for five minutes.”

The experiment of a two-year course in the Normal School began with the class of 1927-28. Increasing enrolments, coming to a peak with 671 at Toronto in 1924-25, led to a decision to increase the length of train­ing. The second year was added, not to follow immediately upon the first, but to come after an interval of practical experience. “This is only an au revoir,- wrote Dr. Radcliffe in his message to the students of 1928, “we expect to see you not later than four years from next September.”

Dr. Radcliffe did not live to welcome the second-year group on their return. His sudden death on September 2, 1929, was a shock to staff mem­bers and former students, in whose hearts his memory is ever green. “His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’ ”

David Whyte, B. A., B. Paed., Principal of the Hamilton Normal School, was transferred to Toronto to succeed Dr. Radcliffe. Mr. Whyte was no stranger to the School, having served it as science master for seventeen years before his appointment to Hamilton in 1926. A thorough teacher, an able speaker. and a competent administrator, Mr. Whyte gave of his best in the direction of the School for the next nine years. It was not an easy period, for economic depression, a surplus of teachers, and the return of the second-year group, combined to present pressing problems.

The first of the second-year students came to the School in September, 1930, when a group of sixteen enrolled. In 1933-34, after a year’s postponement, return was made obligatory. Immediately the total enrolment in Toronto leaped to 666. With six different groups— first and second years in each of the First Class, Second Class, and Kindergarten-Primary courses–the School’s organization became the most complex in its history_ For one year it lasted; then, in the summer of 1934, a change of requirements was announced. The second-year course was abandoned, and in its place were substituted standing in five university subjects or their equivalent and a summer course in educational methods.

Other changes followed. A medical examination, conducted by doctors appointed by the Department of Education in co-operation with the Department of Health, became obligatory in 1935 for each student admitted to a course in teacher-training. A system of passing the better students on the basis of term records was introduced in the same year. The addition of several weeks of continuous observation and practice. both urban and rural, to the schedule of single practice lessons was a for­ward step in 1936-37.

The social life of the school was strongly upheld under Mr. Whyte. The staff teas in the library became an institution, and inter-Normal meets were held at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, as well as at other Normal Schools. No school team ever had a more enthusiastic supporter than Mr. Whyte. At the banquet which followed each game, his speech was a masterpiece—with stories eagerly anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed.

In September, 1938, Mr. Whyte retired, having served the School as master and principal for a total of twenty-six years. “Among our fondest recollections,” reads one of the Year-books, “will be those memories we possess of our Principal, Mr. Whyte. He was a daily inspiration to us. We saw him in many situations, some of them trying indeed, but he was ever the same—kindly gracious, and patient.” His portrait, painted by Charles MacGregor, was presented by his former students to the School in the autumn of 1940. On that occasion, the Honourable Duncan McArthur, Minister of Education, made the chief address, paying tribute to Mr. Whyte’s valuable contribution to the training of teachers in Ontario.

Mr. Whyte was succeeded as principal by Thornton Mustard, M. A., B. Paed., who had been identified with the School for twenty-eight years. First as a teacher in the Model School, then as its headmaster, and then as English Master in the Normal School. he had won a wide-spread reputa­tion as a teacher of rare skill. During the school years 1936-38, he had been associated with Stanley A. Watson, B. A., Public School Principal, Toronto, in drafting a new programme of studies for public and separate schools. For this work Mr. Mustard had been relieved of teaching duties at the Normal School for two years. “Owing largely to his enthusiasm, eloquence, and human sympathy,” wrote Dr. H. E. Amoss, Director of Pro­fessional Training, “there was effected with a minimum of delay and confusion what might well be termed a bloodless revolution in the public and separate school system of teaching in the Province. Bonds of formal­istic education were shattered, and both teachers and pupils ushered into a new world of freedom and responsibility.”

Mr. Mustard, as principal, had many plans for the school, and during 1938-39, he began to carry some of these into effect. Students were given charge of the opening exercises, interest or hobby groups were organized in connection with the Literary Society, a cafeteria was established for the use of Normal students and pupils of the Model School, and practice teaching arrangements were expanded to make use of many classrooms selected from a large number of city schools. In the midst of this activity, his work was tragically cut short. On his return journey from a brief holiday in England, he lost his life when the Athenia was torpedoed on September 3, 1939, at the beginning of the Second Great War. At the Memorial Service held in October, his message to his last class of students was read: “May it be yours,” he wrote, “to see the light of understanding dawn in children’s eyes, to kindle in children’s hearts and minds the fires

of ambition, enthusiasm, and zeal, May you share helpfully in the life of the community—remembering that not what you get but what you give makes you rich indeed.”

On April 17, 1941, the theatre of the Normal School building was filled with friends of Thornton Mustard, to witness the unveiling of his portrait, and to hear the tribute of his close associate, Stanley Watson. The portrait, painted by Charles MacGregor, was presented by the teachers of Ontario in memory of one who had served education well. “He won success by his unceasing energy, his ability, his cheerfulness and his courage, but it was success which meant not personal gain, but a richer life for the children of the Province.”