September 2-6, 1856 - The Teachers' Institute

Tuesday 2nd. . . . Order of exercises for the day. 1st Grammar, 2nd Composition, 3rd Government. Lecture in the evening on American Taste, and it was excellent. Proffesser [Welch] directs us to write an essay to be read at our last meeting. And what shall poor me do. I never wrote a composition in my life. But I suppose I must try, nolens volens [whether willing or unwilling]. . . . The motto of the Union School here is, We aim to excel.

Wednesday 3rd. Order of exercises. Grammar, singing taught by E. Daily, & general discussions on the mode of teaching. Father was there & took part in speaking. . . . Mrs A. has nine canaries.


Thursday 4th. The exercises were grammar, reading, & singing. . . . Discussion in the evening.


Friday 5th. Exercises of the day were reading, grammar, music, & arithmetic by Mr. Gracy of Ohio. Proffesser Mayhew arrived in the afternoon, & delivered a lecture in the evening, to a large audience, on Education, generally & specially.


Saturday 6th. Rained in the night. . . . We had our attention directed in the forenoon to Grammar, mode of managing schools &c. & in the afternoon to Music, reading & arithmetic. Proffers Welch & Mayhew, have gone home, & two more gentlemen have come. One is Gregory & the other’s name I did not learn. I am reading Alone. There has been 49 teachers attending the institute so far. . . . Went to hear a lecture delivered by Mr. Gregory. He took a list, which he thought was to be found somewhere in Psalms. It was this as nearly as I can recollect. Children are an inheritance of Heaven. It was very good.




This  agenda of a week-long Teachers' Institute gives a glimpse into educational practices of the day. Rosette's father Jacob Ramsdell was a supervisor of schools in their area and well-respected as a mathematician. He had formed the plan for the layout of streets in Kalamazoo when they lived there in earlier years. Read more about Jacob and about Rosette's distinguished brother Solomon here: The City of Grand Rapids and Kent County, Mich., Up to Date, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, Illustrated (1900) .


Professor Gregory mentioned here is John Milton Gregory, at that time the founder of a classics school in the Detroit area and later president of the University of Illinois, and an advocate for the education of women. His book The Seven Laws of Teaching is a classic on the subject, still popular especially in the classical education movement. 


At this time Rosette was 26 years old and had been teaching school for years, and later entries refer to students in a school reading their compositions. Isn't it curious that she has not, at this time, ever written a composition herself? I would note, though, that her journal, the fourteenth of her life, is about 22,000 words, some passages quite lyrical. Her language in this section is more hurried, with more errors, typical of jotting things down at the end of busy days in town, boarding in a strange home, with much lecture material in mind.

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