Toronto Normal School – Years Of Transition

R. JOHN HERBERT SANGSTER, Mathematical and Science Master in the Normal School since 1858, succeeded T. J. Robertson as principal. Dr. Sangster was thoroughly acquainted with the institution, having been a student of the first session, and a teacher in the Model School. A prodigous worker, he had taught, had prepared text-books on Algebra, Arithmetic, Chemistry, and Natural History, had gained the degree of Master of Arts, and had qualified as a medical doctor, before becoming Head Master of the Normal School at the age of thirty-five. His portrait reproduced in this booklet was said to be very like him when it was painted in 1897, but not like the man who served as principal from 1866-1871, when those students who were fond of mathematics felt safe, but those who were not, were in dread of being struck by his lightning. lie was young, intense, and persevering, working hard himself, and making his students work. But he was held in high esteem, and his classes retained pleasant recollections of his lectures.

The students entering Normal School during the ‘fifties and ‘sixties were none too well prepared. and the staff spent more time teaching students what they were to teach than how they were to teach it. “It is conceded by all who have devoted any attention to the subject,” wrote Dr. Sangster, “that to teach well one must be possessed of adequate knowledge; in a word, must be well-informed; and as more than nine-tenths of those who apply for admission to Normal School do not possess anything like the amount of information and general knowledge which the advancing spirit of the age very properly demands of those who would become Educators of youth, the Normal School Masters are com­pelled to Supplement, by Lectures on the different Branches of Study embraced in an ordinary English education, the early training or want of training, of those who enter its walls.”

Two sessions were still held each year—from January to June, and from August to December. Girls over sixteen years of age, and men over eighteen years, were enrolled upon presenting certificates of moral char­acter, arid upon passing the entrance examinations held on the third and fourth days after the opening of the session. Upon an average, one student in ten was sent back for further preparation. Term tests were conducted every six weeks, and those falling behind in their work were required to withdraw. About four-fifths of those admitted reached the final exam­inations, and of this group about five-sixths obtained certificates. Students were classified in two divisions—senior and junior. In the senior group were graduates of a previous session at the School, and a few newcomers of superior attainments. Observation and practice teaching were done in the Model School, each student being graded from one, implying great excellence, to six, representing complete failure.

The Normal School buildings at this time comprised three sections. To the south, facing Gould Street, was the main front block, topped by its cupola, and backed by its theatre or assembly hall. To the north was a centre block,one storey in height, housing the elementary Model Schools for girls and boys. North of that again, was the Model Grammar School, a rectangular structure with the longer axis running north and south, and having two small wings projecting to the east and west. From each of these wings extended a long wooden shed built to provide play space for Model School pupils.

With the closing of the Model Grammar School in 1863, the upper storey of its building was occupied by Normal students, while the lower storey may have accommodated an overflow of pupils from the elemen­tary Model Schools. In 1871 the Model Schools in the centre were en­larged, becoming a building 180 feet by 77 feet. When this extra space became available in November, the Model School pupils were transferred to it from the north block, which was then devoted to the sole use of the Normal School. The more imposing south block, facing Gould Street, continued to house the Education Department, the Depository, and the Museum.

After Confederation, a change occurred in the control of public buildings. In 1869 responsibility for maintenance of the Normal School property passed to the Ontario Department of Public Works. When its architect examined the buildings he reported that the roofs were leaking, the plank walks were in a rotting condition, arid the buildings were generally out of repair; the buildings had been too far distant from the seat of government to receive the attention constantly required. Steps were taken to put the property in shape, and adequate funds for maintenance were arranged. In all, the capital expenditure for the Education Department and the Normal and Model Schools from 1867 to 1904 amounted to $226,704.

Although Dr. Sangster was discharging his duties to the general satisfaction of the students, staff, and Education Department, he decided in 1871 to resign his post as principal, and to devote his life to the prac­tice of medicine. “My work,” he wrote, “appears to have lost much of the charm for me which it heretofore possessed . .. my duties .. grow irksome and wearing.” Sangster’s resignation “was a loss to the teachers and the whole Province,” wrote one inspector of schools. “His lectures on Education and methods of teaching, when he was Head Master, were more than worth the time and expense of the session.”

Dr. H. W. Davies, clergyman and grammarian, was appointed princi­pal when Dr. Sangster relinquished the position. A graduate of Trinity College and former headmaster of the Cornwall Grammar School, Dr. Davies, at the age of thirty-two, had come to the Normal School as English Master in 1866. An authoritarian, the new Head Master with his red hair and quick temper to match, was a memorable figure to students of the day. In questions of discipline he appears to have been influenced in part by a desire to allow students greater freedom, and in part by a sturdy determination to enforce the rules laid down by the Board twenty-five years earlier. But his keen interest in his students as individuals and his essential kindness caused graduates of the School in after years to recall “his genial smile and pleasant countenance” with warm regard.

One of the students attending the forty-ninth session from January to June 1873, was Robert Barr. After teaching in Kent and Essex counties, and working on the editorial staff of The Detroit Free Press, Barr moved to England, where he pursued the profession of novelist. In one of his books, The Measure of the Rule, he pictured life at the Toronto Normal School in the ‘seventies. So thinly did he disguise his descriptions of people and events, that readers familiar with the School readily linked actual names with the fictitious ones used in the novel. The book is pleasantly old-fashioned in style, and is somewhat melodramatic in its ending. To anyone interested in Toronto of yesteryear and the Normal School of the time, it can be unreservedly recommended.

Dr. Davies’ principalship extended over thirteen years, and during that time the school faced many problems. The period was one of transi­tion. Dr. J. M. McCutcheon in his Public Education in Ontario (1941) observes that the pioneer period in the provincial schools was characterized by emphasis upon the acquisition of knowledge by the pupil, chiefly through memory. In the early ‘seventies, the same author notes, there began the second stage in the development of elementary education—a stage when the main emphasis shifted to methods of instruction. This new interest in methodology came at a time when high-school graduates entering Normal School were much better educated than those of earlier years, and stood, therefore, less in need of academic instruction than in the days of Robertson and Sangster. Critics called upon the Normal School to reduce its emphasis upon academic work and to increase its attention to methods of teaching. Among these critics was one of the School’s own graduates of the fourth session, Dr. J. A. McLellan, an Inspector of High Schools. He was sent to visit schools in Massachusetts and New York in 1882 to inquire into methods of teacher education. On his return, he drew up a number of recommendations emphasizing the importance of increased professional training. He became Director of Normal Schools for several years, and his influence increased the efficiency of methods in Toronto and in Ottawa, where a Normal School had been opened in 1875.

A reorganization of the training of teachers had taken place in Ontario in 1877, when a system of local Model Schools had been established throughout the Province. In subsequent years, teachers attended a local Model School, taught for a year or more, and then proceeded to the Nor­mal School in Ottawa or Toronto. The student body of the Normal School thus became a group of experienced teachers.

Running parallel to the progress of the Normal School through the years had been the progress of the Model School. The Boys’ School opened in 1848 under Charles Lowey, who died a few months later. Suc­ceeding Head Masters were: Archibald McCallum (1848-58); David Fotheringham (1858) ; James Carlyle (1858-71); James L. Hughes (1871- 74) ; William Scott (1874-82) ; Charles Clarkson (1882-86). Of these men, Dr. Carlyle (a relative of Thomas Carlyle, the Sage of Chelsea) became Mathematical Master of the Normal School from 1871 to 1893; James L. Hughes, a graduate of the Normal School in 1865, became Chief Inspector of Public Schools in Toronto at the age of twenty-nine, a position which he held for many years; William Scott became fifth principal of Toronto Normal School (1898-1918). The Girls’ School opened in 1852, with Mrs_ Dorcas Clark as Head Mistress. Upon her retirement in 1865, the position was held by Miss M. Adams (1865-66), Mrs. Martha Cullen (1867-84), and Miss NI. T. Scott (1884-1900).

For the help and encouragement given by these leaders and their associates in the Model Schools, the graduates of the teacher-training school expressed over the years their grateful thanks. One headmaster, James L. Hughes, however, had this to say: “I was trained to believe that my supreme duty was to criticize destructively the teaching of the Normal School students while they were teaching their practice lessons in the Model School. I was told to point out to them the errors they made as the best means of making them good teachers. I have no sympathy with such a course now, and I am glad that I-saw the great evils of this method of training before I was appointed Inspector of Schools.”*

This chapter of transition would be incomplete without mention of the passing of Dr. Egerton Ryerson from the educational scene. The Chief Superintendent retired in 1876, the year in which authority in educational matters was transferred to a Minister of the Crown. Dr. Ryerson lived to enjoy his retirement for six years, his death occurring February 19, 1882. Seven years later, when a monument was unveiled in his memory on the grounds of the Normal School, the Minister of Educa­tion of the day spoke thus of Ryerson: “With a patriotism which no man could fail to appreciate, with a tenacity of purpose which no difficulty could daunt, he devoted his life to one purpose, the establishment of a school system which could fully meet the wants of a free, strong, and progressive people.”