Toronto Normal School – Turn Of The Century

WE MAY, THEREFORE, as the Alumni of this institution [Toronto Normal School] … rejoice to-night that its influence has been felt in every corner of Ontario, and possibly of the Dominion, and as loyalty to the country was always an essential part of our instruction, I now propose that we begin the proceedings of this evening by drinking to the health of Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria. I give “The Queen God bless Her.”

As the speaker, the Hon. George W Ross, Minister of Education raised his glass, a hundred schoolmen of the Province rose in their places in the banquet room of the Rossin House, Toronto, to honour their sover­eign. The orchestra struck up the National Anthem, and the fiftieth birth­day party of the Toronto Normal School was well under way. It was the night of November 2, 1897, and the Jubilee Banquet was the concluding event of an anniversary programme that had extended over three clays. Distinguished graduates were out in force. The Minister of Education who graced the chair was a student of ’69; John Millar, Deputy Minister of Education, had attended in ’62; vice-chairmen of the banquet—Principal Archibald MacMurchy of Jarvis Collegiate and Professor J. G. Hume of the University of Toronto—were representing respectively the students attending before and after 1875.

The Jubilee celebration clearly demonstrated the affection of former students for their Normal School. Opening with a service in the Metro­politan Church, at which the Rev. Dr. E. H. Dewart—a student of the first session—was preacher, the programme also included two afternoons of reminiscent addresses, and a musical evening. Careful record was kept of all events, and an account of the celebration published in book form provides a mine of fact regarding the School’s early years.

Thomas Kirkland was principal at this time. An Irishman by birth, he had graduated from the Dublin Normal School before coming to Canada in 1854. After teaching in public and grammar schools, and securing his M. A. from the University of Toronto, he became science master of the Normal School in 1871. Upon the resignation of Dr. Davies in December, 1884, Mr. Kirkland became principal; at the same time, Dr. James Carlyle, head master of the Boys’ Model School, became his assist­ant. “As now constituted,” reads the Minister’s Report of 1885, “these two teachers do the work formerly done by three without any deteriora­tion as to efficiency or management.”

What was memorable about Mr. Kirkland? Records remind us of his industry, of his text-books, of his knowledge of botany and chemistry, but the unanimous reply of former students is: “His kindness!” Former members of his staff say simply, “He was our friend.”

The school itself was not at a high point in its history. The shift of emphasis from academic work to professional study had thinned the in­tellectual fare. New subjects in the elementary curriculum—subjects such as nature study, manual training, household science, and hygiene—found little or no place in the Normal School programme. The practice of lecturing to a hundred or more students ranged on tiered seats in a large gallery classroom militated against inspirational teaching.

Dr. J. H. Putman, late Chief Inspector of Schools, Ottawa, who attended in 1887, describes the course in his memoirs as flat and uninter­esting. E. E. Gibbs, former principal of Chesley Avenue School, London, and a student in the autumn of 1890, has more favourable memories: “I found that I was a much better teacher after my term at Toronto Normal, and shall never forget the help and inspiration I received while there. I liked the friendly talks about how to manage a school, and the casual remark, ‘Do what we tell you, here, and when you get a school of your own, do as you please.’ I have always followed that advice! One day when Dr. Carlyle was taking up School Management with us he asked Ward, the humorist of the class, a question. Ward hesitated a long time, and the Doctor remarked, ‘If you do not answer, Mr. Ward, the class will think you do not know.’ Ward replied, ‘Dr. Carlyle, if I do answer, they will know that I do not know.’ ”

The Model School was in its heyday in the ‘nineties. Dr. J. A. McLellan, in a departmental report, states that the practice school “is, I believe, the best we have had in the history of the Normal School.” Dr. Putman has this to say: “Angus McIntosh, the headmaster, and Miss Scott, the headmistress, were shining examples of what elementary school teachers could and should be. Their poise, their naturalness of manner, the ease with which they controlled, their skill in questioning, the way they used the pupils’ answers, the little use they made of text-books made young teachers feel that, after all, there was much to be learned about the art of teaching.”*

In 1885, the training of kindergarten teachers became a feature of the Normal School programme. The first kindergarten in Toronto had been established in 1882 under the enthusiastic leadership of Dr. J. L. Hughes, Chief Inspector of the City’s public schools. Miss Bessie Hallman was the first Kindergarten Directress in the Normal School, 1885-86; Miss C. M. C. Hart was the second, 1886-92; and Miss Mary E. Macintyre was the third, 1892-1932.

Requirements for entrance to Normal School remained substantially unchanged for thirty years after 1877, and included an academic second class certificate, a session at a County Model School, and one year’s suc­cessful teaching experience. From 1875 to 1890, it was possible to qualify for a first class certificate by attending two sessions at Normal School. After 1890, the Provincial School of Pedagogy, which was organized to give professional training to teachers of secondary schools, took over the granting of first class certificates; this institution admitted students with Senior Leaving certificates or university degrees. The School of Pedagogy met in the theatre of the Toronto Normal School, and used its Model School, until the training of teachers for secondary schools passed to the Ontario Normal College, Hamilton, in 1897.

The history of the Toronto Normal School continued to be written in brick and mortar. In 1882, changes were made in the east end of the front building (partly vacant since the Depository had been discontinued) for the accommodation of the Ontario School of Art and Design, which had occupied rooms on King Street West since its beginning in 1876. In 1888, a second storey was added to the centre building which housed the Model Schools. At the same time the old play sheds were removed—a great improvement from “an ornamental and sanitary point of view.” In 1892, the contract was let for the construction of the iron fence around the grounds.

The greatest change in the buildings took place, however, in 1896, when a third storey was added to the south block. This addition, involving the loss of the old cupola and the substitution of the present tower, pro­vided spacious halls connected by archways on the third floor, for use as art and picture galleries. Another alteration occurred in 1902, when the north building, then housing the Normal School proper, was enlarged by wings on both east and west sides, each two storeys in height. The length of this building now ran cast and west, instead of north and south.

Thomas Kirkland died at the close of 1898, just as he was preparing an address of welcome for the incoming class of the new year. He was succeeded by William Scott, B. A., a graduate of the School in 1868, and its vice-principal since 1894. Born in Scotland, the new principal had come to Canada as a boy, had begun teaching at the age of sixteen, and had later served on the staff of the Boys’ Model School, first as teacher and then as headmaster. Graduating from the University of Toronto, he taught in the Ottawa Normal School for twelve years before his transfer to Toronto on the retirement of Dr. Carlyle.

William Scott was a man of dignified and kindly manner. He was a careful organizer and possessed a strong and orderly mind. By act and precept he implanted in his students the principle, “A well-taught school is a well-disciplined school.” The discipline which he advocated was to be secured through the teacher’s personality and through the stimulus of good teaching. “When minds are busy there is no time for noisy mischief.” In his opinion, character was based upon integrity, and integrity gave power to meet all situations without fear. “To keep an engagement punctually is not a small matter,” he said, “for it gives me confidence that I can do what I will do.”

Mr. Scott’s methods of teaching were particularly effective. He based the study of botany and geography on well-planned field excursions, which his students recall with special pleasure. He was an authority on the identification of Canadian plants, and an enthusiastic collector of specimens of Canadian flora. His approach to elementary arithmetic was a revelation to young teachers who had floundered and failed in the use of older methods. “Make an end to juggling with rules and symbols; base your methods in teaching number on the child’s natural delight in con­crete things,” was one of his favourite admonitions.

Though strict in discipline, Mr. Scott took a sympathetic interest in the welfare of his students. From one teacher comes a memory of help graciously given with a difficult lesson assignment; from another, treas­ured words of kind but sturdy counsel from Mr. Scott upon the occasion of her father’s death. Remembered, too, is the hospitality of the Principal and his wife, when they entertained the students to tea each year at their pleasant home.

Manual Training and Household Science were attracting the attention of educationists at the turn of the century. In Principal Scott’s report in 1901, we read: “Rooms are required for Manual Training and Domestic Science. No attempt is now made to make the students acquainted with the rudiments of Manual Training. The ladies receive training in House­hold Science; but the room they use, which is at a distance from the school is quite inadequate to accommodate so large a number with com­fort.” A year later, Inspector Leake reported that manual training “is now in progress at each of the three Normal Schools—Toronto, Ottawa, and London.” (The London Normal School had been opened in 1900.)

Miss Nina Ewing and Mrs. Emma MacBeth were early instructors in Household Science and Needlework. James H. Wilkinson was the first instructor in Manual Training.

In 1903, the long-standing practice of holding two sessions of the Normal School each year came to an end, and one session extending from September to June became the rule. The Minister’s Report for 1904 points out that the lengthened session was designed to provide opportunity not only for more practice teaching, but for review of academic work as well.

In 1908, Dr. F. W. Merchant was appointed Inspector of Normal Schools, and, under his leadership the next eight years brought a complete re-organization of teacher-training for the elementary schools of Ontario. In the first place, most of the Model Schools, which had prepared teachers for third-class certificates, were abolished. Three new Normal Schools were opened in 1908—at Hamilton, Peterborough, and Stratford—and a fourth, at North Bay, in 1909. The staff of the Toronto Normal School pro­vided two principals for the Stratford School, in the persons of W. H. Elliott and Dr. S. Silcox; A. C. Casselman, also of Toronto, became principal in North Bay.

The Normal Schools were now training some students without previous experience in teaching, and a more extended course in observation and practice teaching became necessary. For some years classes were divided into two sections, one for those students with experience, and the other for those who had not previously been teachers. The Model School no longer provided all the practice required in Toronto, and arrangements were made for the use of selected rooms in the city system. Rural class­rooms were also added to the practice schedule. At first the rural schools were used only for a short time in the spring, but later they were affiliated with the Normal School for the whole session.

Methods of instruction in the Normal School also changed. The lectur­ing of large classes came to an end; the School was divided into forms, and additional masters were appointed. “The theory now is,” wrote Dr. Merchant in the Minister’s Report of 1915, “that every Normal School master’s lesson should be a model of method in presentation as well as a type of the proper selection of subject matter.” Less encouragement was given to laying down definite and detailed lines of procedure, and more emphasis was placed upon the discussion of principles and their applica­tion to concrete educational problems.

The publication of a series of manuals, in the various subject fields, for the guidance of teachers and teachers-in-training, was begun around 1910. These manuals were ably written, and had an immediate effect that was favourable in the Normal Schools. Over the years, however, despite revision, they tended to limit professional reading, and to narrow the outlook of the students, if not of the staff itself.

In 1914 a new department for training Kindergarten-Primary teach­ers was established in the Toronto Normal School. Its purpose was to bring into closer relationship, the Kindergarten and the other grades of the public school, Miss Mary E. Macintyre was senior instructor in Kin­dergarten Principles in this course, and associated with her as assistant instructors were Misses Ellen Cody, Lilian B. Harding, Elizabeth E. Cringan, M. Maude Watterworth, and Mabel E. Hodgins. Following Miss Macintyre’s retirement in 1932, Miss Hodgins became fourth Kinder­garten Directress of the Model School and instructor of the Kindergarten-Primary course.

The years of the First Great War brought their changes in the halls of the Normal School. The honour rolls of both Normal and Model Schools lengthened as the months passed by. Towards the close of the war, Principal Scott’s health failed, and in September, 1918, Dr. S. J. Radcliffe, Principal of London Normal School, came to Toronto as Acting Principal.