Many factors aid in the production of a good institute. One of the greatest of these factors is the instructor. He can make the best organized institute worthless. He can make a poorly planned institute very good. His attitude is a matter of supreme importance.
The instructor may be a man of great scholarship well known as a college president or professor. If he comes to the teachers with an attitude of superior wisdom, he places between himself and them an impassable gulf. They soon feel that his heavy cargo of knowledge is entirely beyond their reach.... His subjects look well in print and are intended to imply great wisdom. No one can guess from the title what the lecture will be about. These lectures fail to touch in a remote way either the course of study or the simple pedagogy of the common schools. The destructive power of such an instructor is great. Time and money given to him are worse than lost. It is stolen. An occasional instructor assumes that the institute exists for the sole purpose of amusement. He feels that his period of forty-five minutes is a failure unless in it he produces forty-five laughs. He has no respect for age, and uses freely alleged funny things that smell of the bilge water of the ark.... This type of instructor is never so happy as when the fame of his jokes goes outside the institute room and the men of the town crowd in to hear him This sort of work sometimes produces a noisy interest that is mistaken for enthusiasm. That its value is below zero needs no argument. It is a hopeful sign that in many counties the teachers rebuke the amusement instructor by silent contempt and a refusal to laugh.
A rather large number of instructors spend much time in destroying straw men. This is especially true of some of the men who come to us from beyond the borders of our state. They become greatly distressed as they vividly describe a horrible state of educational affairs. They grow eloquent as they tell how these pedagogical wrongs are to be righted. We listen, and restrain ourselves, for the matter under discussion is ancient history.
The ground was fought over and the issue settled twenty years ago. Of course, bowling things over is a fascinating exercise. The straw-man killer is harmless and his work, is almost, if not entirely, useless.
Occasionally, a man appears in an institute with an attitude of indifference to everything except his pay. He has no aim and cares nothing for results. He works wholly for money and tries to get that with as little effort as possible ... He is a disorganizer. By the end of the second day he brings chaos into the institute and produces indifference in every teacher. He spells failure in letters so large that he ought to be prohibited by law.
There are instructors that really hardly have time to attend the institute. The representative of this class impresses upon the people at his hotel that he must have very prompt service as his time is valuable. He appears at the meeting place just at the time for his lecture to begin. At its close he rushes from the stage and hastens to the hotel.... He never gets into the spirit of the meeting and has no conception of what his co-workers are trying to do. He is generally a high priced man, getting for his services a sum out of all proportion to his worth.
It occasionally happens that clergymen or professional lecturers break into the institute field. These men attempt to play upon the emotions of their hearers by a cheap sentimentalism. They tearfully proclaim the beauties of the sacrificial life of the teacher. They touch the heart with beautiful stories of the innocence of childhood. ... They treat their hearers with condescension and disgust them with trivialities.—Professor Robert J. Aley, Indiana University, speech at the Indiana State Teachers Association Convention, 1908