* * * * *
THE INSTRUCTION AND GOVERNMENT
A NEW AND REVISED EDITION.
BY JACOB ABBOTT.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.
This book is intended to detail, in a familiar and practical manner, a system of arrangements for the organization and management of a school, based on the employment, so far as is practicable, of Moral Influences, as a means of effecting the objects in view. Its design is, not to bring forward new theories or new plans, but to develop and explain, and to carry out to their practical applications such principles as, among all skillful and experienced teachers, are generally admitted and acted upon. Of course it is not designed for the skillful and experienced themselves, but it is intended to embody what they already know, and to present it in a practical form for the use of those who are beginning the work, and who wish to avail themselves of the experience which others have acquired.
Although moral influences are the chief foundations on which the power of the teacher over the minds and hearts of his pupils is, according to this treatise, to rest, still it must not be imagined that the system here recommended is one of persuasion. It is a system of authority—supreme and unlimited authority—a point essential in all plans for the supervision of the young; but it is authority secured and maintained as far as possible by moral measures. There will be no dispute about the propriety of making the most of this class of means. Whatever difference of opinion there may be on the question whether physical force is necessary at all, every one will agree that, if ever employed, it must be only as a last resort, and that no teacher ought to make war upon the body, unless it is proved that he can not conquer through the medium of the mind.
In regard to the anecdotes and narratives which are very freely introduced to illustrate principles in this work, the writer ought to state that, though they are all substantially true—that is, all except those which are expressly introduced as mere suppositions, he has not hesitated to alter very freely, for obvious reasons, the unimportant circumstances connected with them. He has endeavored thus to destroy the personality of the narratives without injuring or altering their moral effect.
From the very nature of our employment, and of the circumstances under which the preparation for it must be made, it is plain that, of the many thousands who are in the United States annually entering the work, a very large majority must depend for all their knowledge of the art, except what they acquire from their own observation and experience, on what they can obtain from books. It is desirable that the class of works from which such knowledge can be obtained should be increased. Some excellent and highly useful specimens have already appeared, and very many more would be eagerly read by teachers, if properly prepared. It is essential, however, that they should be written by experienced teachers, who have for some years been actively engaged and specially interested in the work; that they should be written in a very practical and familiar style, and that they should exhibit principles which are unquestionably true, and generally admitted by good teachers, and not the new theories peculiar to the writer himself. In a word, utility and practical effect should be the only aim.
CHAPTER I. INTEREST IN TEACHING. Source of enjoyment in teaching.—The boy and the steam-engine.—His contrivance.—His pleasure, and the source of it.—Firing at the mark.—Plan of clearing the galleries in the British House of Commons.—Pleasure of experimenting, and exercising intellectual and moral power.—The indifferent and inactive teacher.—His subsequent experiments; means of awakening interest.—Offenses of pupils. —Different ways of regarding them.
Teaching really attended with peculiar trials and difficulties.—1. Moral responsibility for the conduct of pupils.—2. Multiplicity of the objects of attention.
CHAPTER II. GENERAL ARRANGEMENTS. Objects to be aimed at in the general arrangements.—Systematizing the teacher's work.—Necessity of having only one thing to attend to at a time.
1. Whispering and leaving seats.—An experiment.—Method of regulating this.—Introduction of the new plan.—Difficulties.—Dialogue with pupils.—Study-card.—Construction and use. 2. Mending pens.—Unnecessary trouble from this source.—Degree of importance to be attached to good pens.—Plan for providing them. 3. Answering questions.—Evils.—Each pupil's fair proportion of time.—Questions about lessons.—When the teacher should refuse to answer them.—Rendering assistance.—When to be refused. 4. Hearing recitations.—Regular arrangement of them.—Punctuality.—Plan and schedule.—General exercises.—Subjects to be attended to at them.
General arrangements of government.—Power to be delegated to pupils.—Gardiner Lyceum.—Its government.—The trial.—Real republican government impracticable in schools.—Delegated power.—Experiment with the writing-books.—Quarrel about the nail.—Offices for pupils.—Cautions.—Danger of insubordination.—New plans to be introduced gradually.
CHAPTER III. INSTRUCTION. The three important branches.—The objects which are really most important.—Advanced scholars.—Examination of school and scholars at the outset.—Acting on numbers.—Extent to which it may be carried.—Recitation and Instruction.
1. Recitation.—Its object.—Importance of a thorough examination of the class.—Various modes.—Perfect regularity and order necessary. —Example.—Story of the pencils.—Time wasted by too minute an attention to individuals.—Example.—Answers given simultaneously to save time.—Excuses.—Dangers in simultaneous recitation.—Means of avoiding them.—Advantages of this mode.—Examples.—Written answers. 2. Instruction.—Means of exciting interest.—Variety.—Examples.—Showing the connection between the studies of school and the business of life.—Example from the controversy between general and state governments.—Mode of illustrating it.—Proper way of meeting difficulties.—Leading pupils to surmount them.—True way to encourage the young to meet difficulties.—The boy and the wheel-barrow.—Difficult examples in arithmetic.
Proper way of rendering assistance.—(1.) Simply analyzing intricate subjects.—Dialogue on longitude.—(2.) Making previous truths perfectly familiar.—Experiment with the multiplication table.—Latin Grammar lesson.—Geometry.
3. General cautions.—Doing work for the scholar.—Dullness.—Interest in all the pupils.—Making all alike.—Faults of pupils.—The teacher's own mental habits.—False pretensions.
CHAPTER IV. MORAL DISCIPLINE. First impressions.—Story.—Danger of devoting too much attention to individual instances.—The profane boy.—Case described.—Confession of the boys.—Success.—The untidy desk.—Measures in consequence. —Interesting the scholars in the good order of the school.—Securing a majority.—Example.—Reports about the desks.—The new College building.—Modes of interesting the boys.—The irregular class.—Two ways of remedying the evil.—Boys' love of system and regularity. —Object of securing a majority, and particular means of doing it.—Making school pleasant.—Discipline should generally be private.—In all cases that are brought before the school, public opinion in the teacher's favor should be secured.—Story of the rescue.—Feelings of displeasure against what is wrong.—The teacher under moral obligation, and governed, himself, by law.—Description of the Moral Exercise.—Prejudice.—The scholars' written remarks, and the teacher's comments.—The spider.—List of subjects.—Anonymous writing.—Specimens.—Marks of a bad scholar.—Consequences of being behindhand.—New scholars.—A satirical spirit.—Variety.
Treatment of individual offenders.—Ascertaining who they are.—Studying their characters.—Securing their personal attachment.—Asking assistance.—The whistle.—Open, frank dealing.—Example.—Dialogue with James.—Communications in writing.
CHAPTER V. RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE. The American mechanic at Paris.—A Congregational teacher among Quakers.—Parents have the ultimate right to decide how their children shall be educated.
Agreement in religious opinion in this country.—Principle which is to guide the teacher on this subject.—Limits and restrictions to religious influence in school.—Religious truths which are generally admitted in this country.—The existence of God.—Human responsibility.—Immortality of the soul.—A revelation.—Nature of piety.—Salvation by Christ.—Teacher to do nothing on this subject but what he may do by the common consent of his employers.—Reasons for explaining distinctly these limits.
Particular measures proposed.—Opening exercises.—Prayer.—Singing. —Direct instruction.—Mode of giving it.—Example; arrangement of the Epistles in the New Testament.—Dialogue.—Another example; scene in the woods.—Cautions.—Affected simplicity of language.—Evils of it.—Minute details.—Example; motives to study.—Dialogue.—Mingling religious influence with the direct discipline of the school.—Fallacious indications of piety.—Sincerity of the teacher.
CHAPTER VI. MOUNT VERNON SCHOOL. Reason for inserting the description.—Advantage of visiting schools, and of reading descriptions of them.—Addressed to a new scholar.—Her personal duty.—Study-card.—Rule.—But one rule.—Cases when this rule maybe waived.—1. At the direction of teachers.—2. On extraordinary emergencies.—Reasons for the rule.—Anecdote.—Punishments.—Incidents described.—Confession.
2. Order of daily exercises.—Opening of the school.—Schedules.—Hours of study and recess.—General exercises.—Business.—Examples.—Sections.
3. Instruction and supervision of pupils.—Classes.—Organization.—Sections.—Duties of superintendents.
4. Officers.—Design in appointing them.—Their names and duties.—Example of the operation of the system.
5. The court.—Its plan and design.—A trial described.
6. Religious instruction.—Principles inculcated.—Measures.—Religious exercises in school.—Meeting on Saturday afternoon.—Concluding remarks.
CHAPTER VII. SCHEMING. Time lost upon fruitless schemes.—Proper province of ingenuity and enterprise.—Cautions.—Case supposed.—The spelling class; an experiment with it; its success and its consequences.—System of literary institutions in this country.—Directions to a young teacher on the subject of forming new plans.—New institutions; new schoolbooks.—Ingenuity and enterprise very useful, within proper limits.—Ways of making known new plans.—Periodicals.—Family newspapers.—Teachers' meetings.
Rights of committees, trustees, or patrons, in the control of the school.—Principle which ought to govern.—Case supposed.—Extent to which the teacher is bound by the wishes of his employers.
CHAPTER VIII. REPORTS OF CASES. Plan of the chapter.—Hats and bonnets.—Injury to clothes.—Mistakes which are not censurable.—Tardiness; plan for punishing it.—Helen's lesson.—Firmness in measures united with mildness of manner.—Insincere confession: scene in a class.—Court.—Trial of a case.—Teacher's personal character.—The way to elevate the character of the employment.—Six hours only to be devoted to school.—The chestnut burr.—Scene in the wood.—Dialogue in school.—An experiment.—Series of lessons in writing.—The correspondence.—Two kinds of management.—Plan of weekly reports.—The shopping exercise. —Example.—Artifices in recitations.—Keeping resolution notes of teacher's lecture.—Topics.—Plan and illustration of the exercise. —Introduction of music.—Tabu.—Mental analysis.—Scene in a class.
CHAPTER IX. THE TEACHER'S FIRST DAY. Embarrassments of young teachers in first entering upon their duties.—Preliminary information to be acquired in respect to the school.—Visits to the parents.—Making acquaintance with the scholars.—Opening the school.—Mode of setting the scholars at work on the first day.—No sudden changes to be made.—Misconduct.—Mode of disposing of the cases of it.—Conclusion.
INTEREST IN TEACHING.
A most singular contrariety of opinion prevails in the community in regard to the pleasantness of the business of teaching. Some teachers go to their daily task merely upon compulsion; they regard it as intolerable drudgery. Others love the work: they hover around the school-room as long as they can, and never cease to think, and seldom to talk, of their delightful labors.
Unfortunately, there are too many of the former class, and the first object which, in this work, I shall attempt to accomplish, is to show my readers, especially those who have been accustomed to look upon the business of teaching as a weary and heartless toil, how it happens that it is, in any case, so pleasant. The human mind is always essentially the same. That which is tedious and joyless to one, will be so to another, if pursued in the same way, and under the same circumstances. And teaching, if it is pleasant, animating, and exciting to one, may be so to all.
I am met, however, at the outset, in my effort to show why it is that teaching is ever a pleasant work, by the want of a name for a certain faculty or capacity of the human mind, through which most of the enjoyment of teaching finds its avenue. Every mind is so constituted as to take a positive pleasure in the exercise of ingenuity in adapting means to an end, and in watching the operation of them—in accomplishing by the intervention of instruments what we could not accomplish without—in devising (when we see an object to be effected which is too great for our direct and immediate power) and setting at work some instrumentality which may be sufficient to accomplish it.
It is said that when the steam-engine was first put into operation, such was the imperfection of the machinery, that a boy was necessarily stationed at it to open and shut alternately the cock by which the steam was now admitted and now shut out from the cylinder. One such boy, after patiently doing his work for many days, contrived to connect this stop-cock with some of the moving parts of the engine by a wire, in such a manner that the engine itself did the work which had been intrusted to him; and after seeing that the whole business would go regularly forward, he left the wire in charge, and went away to play.
Such is the story. Now if it is true, how much pleasure the boy must have experienced in devising and witnessing the successful operation of his scheme. I do not mean the pleasure of relieving himself from a dull and wearisome duty; I do not mean the pleasure of anticipated play; but I mean the strong interest he must have taken in contriving and executing his plan. When, wearied out with his dull, monotonous work, he first noticed those movements of the machinery which he thought adapted to his purpose, and the plan flashed into his mind, how must his eye have brightened, and how quick must the weary listlessness of his employment have vanished. While he was maturing his plan and carrying it into execution—while adjusting his wires, fitting them to the exact length and to the exact position—and especially when, at last, he began to watch the first successful operation of his contrivance, he must have enjoyed a pleasure which very few even of the joyous sports of childhood could have supplied.
It is not, however, exactly the pleasure of exercising ingenuity in contrivance that I refer to here; for the teacher has not, after all, a great deal of absolute contriving to do, or, rather, his principal business is not contriving. The greatest and most permanent source of pleasure to the boy, in such a case as I have described, is his feeling that he is accomplishing a great effect by a slight effort of his own; the feeling of power; acting through the intervention of instrumentality, so as to multiply his power. So great would be this satisfaction, that he would almost wish to have some other similar work assigned him, that he might have another opportunity to contrive some plan for its easy accomplishment.
Looking at an object to be accomplished, or an evil to be remedied, then studying its nature and extent, and devising and executing some means for effecting the purpose desired, is, in all cases, a source of pleasure; especially when, by the process, we bring to view or into operation new powers, or powers heretofore hidden, whether they are our own powers, or those of objects upon which we act. Experimenting has a sort of magical fascination for all. Some do not like the trouble of making preparations, but all are eager to see the results. Contrive a new machine, and every body will be interested to witness or to hear of its operation. Develop any heretofore unknown properties of matter, or secure some new useful effect from laws which men have not hitherto employed for their purposes, and the interest of all around you will be excited to observe your results; and, especially, you will yourself take a deep and permanent pleasure in guiding and controlling the power you have thus obtained.
This is peculiarly the case with experiments upon mind, or experiments for producing effects through the medium of voluntary acts of others, making it necessary that the contriver should take into consideration the laws of mind in forming his plans. To illustrate this by rather a childish case: I once knew a boy who was employed by his father to remove all the loose small stones, which, from the peculiar nature of the ground, had accumulated in the road before the house. The boy was set at work by his father to take them up, and throw them over into the pasture across the way. He soon got tired of picking up the stones one by one, and so he sat down upon the bank to try to devise some better means of accomplishing his work. He at length conceived and adopted the following plan: He set up in the pasture a narrow board for a target, or, as boys would call it, a mark, and then, collecting all the boys of the neighborhood, he proposed to them an amusement which boys are always ready for—firing at a mark. The stones in the road furnished the ammunition, and, of course, in a very short time the road was cleared; the boys working for the accomplishment of their leader's task, when they supposed they were only finding amusement for themselves.
Here, now, is experimenting upon the mind—the production of useful effect with rapidity and ease by the intervention of proper instrumentality—the conversion, by means of a little knowledge of human nature, of that which would have otherwise been dull and fatiguing labor into a most animating sport, giving pleasure to twenty instead of tedious labor to one. Now the contrivance and execution of such plans is a source of positive pleasure. It is always pleasant to bring even the properties and powers of matter into requisition to promote our designs; but there is a far higher pleasure in controlling, and guiding, and moulding to our purpose the movements of mind.
It is this which gives interest to the plans and operation of human governments. Governments can, in fact, do little by actual force. Nearly all the power that is held, even by the most despotic executive, must be based on an adroit management of the principles of human nature, so as to lead men voluntarily to co-operate with the leader in his plans. Even an army could not be got into battle, in many cases, without a most ingenious arrangement, by means of which half a dozen men can drive, literally drive, as many thousands into the very face of danger and death. The difficulty of leading men to battle must have been, for a long time, a very perplexing one to generals. It was at last removed by the very simple expedient of creating a greater danger behind than there is before. Without ingenuity of contrivance like this, turning one principle of human nature against another, and making it for the momentary interest of men to act in a given way, no government could stand.
I know of nothing which illustrates more perfectly the way by which a knowledge of human nature is to be turned to account in managing human minds than a plan which was adopted for clearing the galleries of the British House of Commons many years ago, before the present Houses of Parliament were built. There was then, as now, a gallery appropriated to spectators, and it was customary to require these visitors to retire when a vote was to be taken or private business was to be transacted. When the officer in attendance was ordered to clear the gallery, it was sometimes found to be a very troublesome and slow operation; for those who first went out remained obstinately as close to the doors as possible, so as to secure the opportunity to come in again first when the doors should be re-opened. The consequence was, there was so great an accumulation around the doors outside, that it was almost impossible for the crowd to get out. The whole difficulty arose from the eager desire of every one to remain as near as possible to the door, through which they were to come back again. Notwithstanding the utmost efforts of the officers, fifteen minutes were sometimes consumed in effecting the object, when the order was given that the spectators should retire.
The whole difficulty was removed by a very simple plan. One door only was opened when the crowd was to retire, and they were then admitted, when the gallery was opened again, through the other. The consequence was, that as soon as the order was given to clear the galleries, every one fled as fast as possible through the open door around to the one which was closed, so as to be ready to enter first, when that, in its turn, should be opened. This was usually in a few minutes, as the purpose for which the spectators were ordered to retire was in most cases simply to allow time for taking a vote. Here it will be seen that, by the operation of a very simple plan, the very eagerness of the crowd to get back as soon as possible, which had been the sole cause of the difficulty, was turned to account most effectually to the removal of it. Before, the first that went out were so eager to return, that they crowded around the door of egress in such a manner as to prevent others going out; but by this simple plan of ejecting them by one door and admitting them by another, that very eagerness made them clear the passage at once, and caused every one to hurry away into the lobby the moment the command was given.
The planner of this scheme must have taken great pleasure in witnessing its successful operation; though the officer who should go steadily on, endeavoring to remove the reluctant throng by dint of mere driving, might well have found his task unpleasant. But the exercise of ingenuity in studying the nature of the difficulty with which a man has to contend, and bringing in some antagonist principle of human nature to remove it, or, if not an antagonist principle, a similar principle, operating, by a peculiar arrangement of circumstances, in an antagonist manner, is always pleasant. From this source a large share of the enjoyment which men find in the active pursuits of life has its origin.
The teacher has the whole field which this subject opens fully before him. He has human nature to deal with most directly. His whole work is one of experimenting upon mind; and the mind which is before him to be the subject of his operation is exactly in the state to be most easily and pleasantly operated upon. The reason now why some teachers find their work delightful, and some find it wearisomeness and tedium itself, is that some do and some do not take this view of the nature of it. One instructor is like the engine-boy, turning, without cessation or change, his everlasting stop-cock, in the same ceaseless, mechanical, and monotonous routine. Another is like the little workman in his brighter moments, arranging his invention, and watching with delight the successful and easy accomplishment of his wishes by means of it. One is like the officer, driving by vociferations, and threats, and demonstrations of violence, the spectators from the galleries. The other like the shrewd contriver, who converts the very desire to return, which was the sole cause of the difficulty, to a most successful and efficient means of its removal.
These principles show how teaching may, in some cases, be a delightful employment, while in others its tasteless dullness is interrupted by nothing but its perplexities and cares. The school-room is in reality a little empire of mind. If the one who presides in it sees it in its true light; studies the nature and tendency of the minds which he has to control; adapts his plans and his measures to the laws of human nature, and endeavors to accomplish his purposes for them, not by mere labor and force, but by ingenuity and enterprise, he will take pleasure in administering his little government. He will watch, with care and interest, the operation of the moral and intellectual causes which he sets in operation, and find, as he accomplishes his various objects with increasing facility and power, that he will derive a greater and greater pleasure from his work.
Now when a teacher thus looks upon his school as a field in which he is to exercise skill, and ingenuity, and enterprise; when he studies the laws of human nature, and the character of those minds upon which he has to act; when he explores deliberately the nature of the field which he has to cultivate, and of the objects which he wishes to accomplish, and applies means judiciously and skillfully adapted to the object, he must necessarily take a strong interest in his work. But when, on the other hand, he goes to his employment only to perform a certain regular round of daily toil, undertaking nothing and anticipating nothing but this dull and unchangeable routine, and when he looks upon his pupils merely as passive objects of his labors, whom he is to treat with simple indifference while they obey his commands, and to whom he is only to apply reproaches and punishment when they do wrong, such a teacher never can take pleasure in the school. Weariness and dullness must reign in both master and scholars when things, as he imagines, are going right, and mutual anger and crimination when they go wrong.
Scholars never can be successfully instructed by the power of any dull mechanical routine, nor can they be properly governed by the blind, naked strength of the master; such means must fail of the accomplishment of the purposes designed, and consequently the teacher who tries such a course must have constantly upon his mind the discouraging, disheartening burden of unsuccessful and almost useless labor. He is continually uneasy, dissatisfied, and filled with anxious cares, and sources of vexation and perplexity continually arise. He attempts to remove evils by waging against them a useless and most vexatious warfare of threatening and punishment; and he is trying continually to drive, when he might know that neither the intellect nor the heart are capable of being driven.
I will simply state one case, to illustrate what I mean by the difference between blind force and active ingenuity and enterprise in the management of school. I once knew the teacher of a school who made it his custom to have writing attended to in the afternoon. The school was in the country, and it was the old times when quills, instead of steel pens, were universally used. The boys were accustomed to take their places at the appointed hour, and each one would set up his pen in the front of his desk for the teacher to come and mend them. The teacher would accordingly pass around the school-room, mending the pens, from desk to desk, thus enabling the boys, in succession, to begin their task. Of course, each boy, before the teacher came to his desk, was necessarily idle, and, almost necessarily, in mischief. Day after day the teacher went through this regular routine. He sauntered slowly and listlessly through the aisles, and among the benches of the room, wherever he saw the signal of a pen. He paid, of course, very little attention to the writing, now and then reproving, with an impatient tone, some extraordinary instance of carelessness, or leaving his work to suppress some rising disorder. Ordinarily, however, he seemed to be lost in vacancy of thought, dreaming, perhaps, of other scenes, or inwardly repining at the eternal monotony and tedium of a teacher's life. His boys took no interest in their work, and of course made no progress. They were sometimes unnecessarily idle, and sometimes mischievous, but never usefully or pleasantly employed, for the whole hour was passed before the pens could all be brought down. Wasted time, blotted books, and fretted tempers were all the results which the system produced.
The same teacher afterward acted on a very different principle. He looked over the field, and said to himself, "What are the objects which I wish to accomplish in this writing exercise, and how can I best accomplish them? I wish to obtain the greatest possible amount of industrious and careful practice in writing. The first thing evidently is to save the wasted time." He accordingly made preparation for mending the pens at a previous hour, so that all should be ready, at the appointed time, to commence the work together. This could be done quite as conveniently when the boys were engaged in studying, by requesting them to put out their pens at an appointed and previous time. He sat at his table, and the pens of a whole bench were brought to him, and, after being carefully mended, were returned, to be in readiness for the writing hour. Thus the first difficulty, the loss of time, was obviated.
"I must make them industrious while they write," was his next thought. After thinking of a variety of methods, he determined to try the following: he required all to begin together at the top of the page, and write the same line, in a hand of the same size. They were all required to begin together, he himself beginning at the same time, and writing about as fast as he thought they ought to write in order to secure the highest improvement. When he had finished his line, he ascertained how many had preceded him and how many were behind. He requested the first to write slower, and the others faster; and by this means, after a few trials, he secured uniform, regular, systematic, and industrious employment throughout the school. Probably there were, at first, difficulties in the operation of the plan, which he had to devise ways and means to surmount; but what I mean to present particularly to the reader is, that he was interested in his experiments. While sitting in his desk, giving his command to begin line after line, and noticing the unbroken silence, and attention, and interest which prevailed (for each boy was interested to see how nearly with the master he could finish his work), while presiding over such a scene he must have been interested. He must have been pleased with the exercise of his almost military command, and to witness how effectually order and industry, and excited and pleased attention, had taken the place of listless idleness and mutual dissatisfaction.
After a few days, he appointed one of the older and more judicious scholars to give the word for beginning and ending the lines, and he sat surveying the scene, or walking from desk to desk, noticing faults, and considering what plans he could form for securing more and more fully the end he had in view. He found that the great object of interest and attention among the boys was to come out right, and that less pains were taken with the formation of the letters than there ought to be to secure the most rapid improvement.
But how shall he secure greater pains? By stern commands and threats? By going from desk to desk, scolding one, rapping the knuckles of another, and holding up to ridicule a third, making examples of such individuals as may chance to attract his special attention? No; he has learned that he is operating upon a little empire of mind, and that he is not to endeavor to drive them as a man drives a herd, by mere peremptory command or half angry blows. He must study the nature of the effect that he is to produce, and of the materials upon which he is to work, and adopt, after mature deliberation, a plan to accomplish his purpose founded upon the principles which ought always to regulate the action of mind upon mind, and adapted to produce the intellectual effect which he wishes to accomplish.
In the case supposed, the teacher concluded to appeal to emulation. While I describe the measure he adopted, let it be remembered that I am now only approving of the resort to ingenuity and invention, and the employment of moral and intellectual means for the accomplishment of his purposes, and not of the measures themselves. I am not sure the plan I am going to describe is a wise one; but I am sure that the teacher, while trying it, must have been interested in his intellectual experiment. His business, while pursued in such a way, could not have been a mere dull and uninteresting routine.
He purchased, for three cents apiece, two long lead pencils—an article of great value in the opinion of the boys of country schools—and he offered them, as prizes, to the boy who would write most carefully; not to the one who should write best, but to the one whose book should exhibit most appearance of effort and care for a week. After announcing his plan, he watched with strong interest its operation. He walked round the room while the writing was in progress, to observe the effect of his measure. He did not reprove those who were writing carelessly; he simply noticed who and how many they were. He did not commend those who were evidently making effort; he noticed who and how many they were, that he might understand how far, and upon what sort of minds, his experiment was successful, and where it failed. He was taking a lesson in human nature—human nature as it exhibits itself in boys—and was preparing to operate more and more powerfully by future plans.
The lesson which he learned by the experiment was this, that one or two prizes will not influence the majority of a large school. A few of the boys seemed to think that the pencils were possibly within their reach, and they made vigorous efforts to secure them; but the rest wrote on as before. Thinking it certain that they should be surpassed by the others, they gave up the contest at once in despair.
The obvious remedy was to multiply his prizes, so as to bring one of them within the reach of all. He reflected, too, that the real prize, in such a case, is not the value of the pencil, but the honor of the victory; and as the honor of the victory might as well be coupled with an object of less, as well as with one of greater value, the next week he divided his two pencils into quarters, and offered to his pupils eight prizes instead of two. He offered one to every five scholars, as they sat on their benches, and every boy then saw that a reward would certainly come within five of him. His chance, accordingly, instead of being one in twenty, became one in five.
Now is it possible for a teacher, after having philosophized upon the nature of the minds upon which he is operating, and surveyed the field, and ingeniously formed a plan, which plan he hopes will, through his own intrinsic power, produce certain effects—is it possible for him, when he comes, for the first day, to witness its operations, to come without feeling a strong interest in the result? It is not possible. After having formed such a plan, and made such arrangements, he will look forward almost with impatience to the next writing-hour. He wishes to see whether he has estimated the mental capacities and tendencies of his little community aright; and when the time comes, and he surveys the scene, and observes the operation of his measure, and sees many more are reached by it than were influenced before, he feels a strong gratification, and it is a gratification which is founded upon the noblest principles of our nature. He is tracing, on a most interesting field, the operation of cause and effect. From being the mere drudge, who drives, without intelligence or thought, a score or two of boys to their daily tasks, he rises to the rank of an intellectual philosopher, exploring the laws and successfully controlling the tendencies of mind.
It will be observed, too, that all the time this teacher was performing these experiments, and watching with intense interest the results, his pupils were going on undisturbed in their pursuits. The exercises in writing were not interrupted or deranged. This is a point of fundamental importance; for, if what I should say on the subject of exercising ingenuity and contrivance in teaching should be the means, in any case, of leading a teacher to break in upon the regular duties of his school, and destroy the steady uniformity with which the great objects of such an institution should be pursued, my remarks had better never have been written. There may be variety in methods and plan, but, through all this variety, the school, and every individual pupil of it, must go steadily forward in the acquisition of that knowledge which is of greatest importance in the business of future life. In other words, the variations and changes admitted by the teacher ought to be mainly confined to the modes of accomplishing those permanent objects to which all the exercises and arrangements of the school ought steadily to aim. More on this subject, however, in another chapter.
I will mention one other circumstance, which will help to explain the difference in interest and pleasure with which teachers engage in their work. I mean the different views they take of the offenses of their pupils. One class of teachers seem never to make it a part of their calculation that their pupils will do wrong, and when, any misconduct occurs they are discontented and irritated, and look and act as if some unexpected occurrence had broken in upon their plans. Others understand and consider all this beforehand. They seem to think a little, before they go into their school, what sort of beings boys and girls are, and any ordinary case of youthful delinquency or dullness does not surprise them. I do not mean that they treat such cases with indifference or neglect, but that they expect them, and are prepared for them. Such a teacher knows that boys and girls are the materials he has to work upon, and he takes care to make himself acquainted with these materials, just as they are. The other class, however, do not seem to know at all what sort of beings they have to deal with, or, if they know, do not consider. They expect from them what is not to be obtained, and then are disappointed and vexed at the failure. It is as if a carpenter should attempt to support an entablature by pillars of wood too small and weak for the weight, and then go on, from week to week, suffering anxiety and irritation as he sees them swelling and splitting under the burden, and finding fault with the wood instead of taking it to himself; or as if a plowman were to attempt to work a hard and stony piece of ground with a poor team and a small plow, and then, when overcome by the difficulties of the task, should vent his vexation and anger in laying the blame on the ground instead of on the inadequate and insufficient instrumentality which he had provided for subduing it.
It is, of course, one essential part of a man's duty, in engaging in any undertaking, whether it will lead him to act upon matter or upon mind, to become first well acquainted with the circumstances of the case, the materials he is to act upon, and the means which he may reasonably expect to have at his command. If he underrates his difficulties, or overrates the power of his means of overcoming them, it is his mistake—a mistake for which he is fully responsible. Whatever may be the nature of the effect which he aims at accomplishing, he ought fully to understand it, and to appreciate justly the difficulties which lie in the way.
Teachers, however, very often overlook this. A man comes home from his school at night perplexed and irritated by the petty misconduct which he has witnessed, and been trying to check. He does not, however, look forward and endeavor to prevent the occasions of such misconduct, adapting his measures to the nature of the material upon which he has to operate, but he stands, like the carpenter at his columns, making himself miserable in looking at it after it occurs, and wondering what to do.
"Sir," we might say to him, "what is the matter?"
"Why, I have such boys I can do nothing with them. Were it not for their misconduct, I might have a very good school."
"Were it not for their misconduct? Why, is there any peculiar depravity in them which you could not have foreseen?"
"No; I suppose they are pretty much like all other boys," he replies, despairingly; "they are all hair-brained and unmanageable. The plans I have formed for my school would be excellent if my boys would only behave properly."
"Excellent plans," might we not reply, "and yet not adapted to the materials upon which they are to operate! No. It is your business to know what sort of beings boys are, and to make your calculations accordingly."
Two teachers may therefore manage their schools in totally different ways, so that one of them may necessarily find the business a dull, mechanical routine, except as it is occasionally varied by perplexity and irritation, and the other a prosperous and happy employment. The one goes on mechanically the same, and depends for his power on violence, or on threats and demonstrations of violence. The other brings all his ingenuity and enterprise into the field to accomplish a steady purpose by means ever varying, and depends for his power on his knowledge of human nature, and on the adroit adaptation of plans to her fixed and uniform tendencies.
I am very sorry, however, to be obliged to say that probably the latter class of teachers are decidedly in the minority. To practice the art in such a way as to make it an agreeable employment is difficult, and it requires much knowledge of human nature, much attention and skill. And, after all, there are some circumstances necessarily attending the work which constitute a heavy drawback on the pleasures which it might otherwise afford. The almost universal impression that the business of teaching is attended with peculiar trials and difficulties proves this.
There must be some cause for an impression so general. It is not right to call it a prejudice, for, although a single individual may conceive a prejudice, whole communities very seldom do, unless in some case which is presented at once to the whole, so that, looking at it through a common medium, all judge wrong together. But the general opinion in regard to teaching is composed of a vast number of separate and independent judgments, and there must be some good ground for the universal result.
It is best, therefore, if there are any real and peculiar sources of trial and difficulty in this pursuit, that they should be distinctly known and acknowledged at the outset. Count the cost before going to war. It is even better policy to overrate than to underrate it. Let us see, then, what the real difficulties of teaching are.
It is not, however, as is generally supposed, the confinement. A teacher is confined, it is true, but not more than men of other professions and employments; not more than a merchant, and probably not as much. A physician is confined in a different way, but more closely than a teacher: he can never leave home: he knows generally no vacation, and nothing but accidental rest.
The lawyer is confined as much. It is true there are not throughout the year exact hours which he must keep, but, considering the imperious demands of his business, his personal liberty is probably restrained as much by it as that of the teacher. So with all the other professions. Although the nature of the confinement may vary, it amounts to about the same in all. On the other hand, the teacher enjoys, in reference to this subject of confinement, an advantage which scarcely any other class of men does or can enjoy. I mean vacations. A man in any other business may force himself away from it for a time, but the cares and anxieties of his business will follow him wherever he goes. It seems to be reserved for the teacher to enjoy alone the periodical luxury of a real and entire release from business and care. On the whole, as to confinement, it seems to me that the teacher has little ground of complaint.
There are, however, some real and serious difficulties which always have, and, it is to be feared, always will, cluster around this employment; and which must, for a long time, at least, lead most men to desire some other employment for the business of life. There may perhaps be some who, by their peculiar skill, can overcome or avoid them, and perhaps the science of teaching may, at some future day, be so far improved that all may avoid them. As I describe them, however, now, most of the teachers into whose hands this treatise may fall will probably find that their own experience corresponds, in this respect, with mine.
1. The first great difficulty which the teacher feels is a sort of moral responsibility for the conduct of others. If his pupils do wrong, he feels almost personal responsibility for it. As he walks out some afternoon, wearied with his labors, and endeavoring to forget, for a little time, all his cares, he comes upon a group of boys in rude and noisy quarrels, or engaged in mischief of some sort, and his heart sinks within him. It is hard enough for any one to witness their bad conduct with a spirit unruffled and undisturbed, but for their teacher it is perhaps impossible. He feels responsible; in fact, he is responsible. If his scholars are disorderly, or negligent, or idle, or quarrelsome, he feels condemned himself almost as if he were himself the actual transgressor.
This difficulty is, in a great degree, peculiar to a teacher. A physician is called upon to prescribe for a patient; he examines the case, and writes his prescription. When this is done his duty is ended; and whether the patient obeys the prescription and lives, or neglects it and dies, the physician feels exonerated from all responsibility. He may, and in some cases does, feel anxious concern, and may regret the infatuation by which, in some unhappy case, a valuable life may be hazarded or destroyed. But he feels no moral responsibility for another's guilt.
It is so with all the other employments in life. They do, indeed, often bring men into collision with other men. But, though sometimes vexed and irritated by the conduct of a neighbor, a client, or a patient, they feel not half the bitterness of the solicitude and anxiety which come to the teacher through the criminality of his pupil. In ordinary cases he not only feels responsible for efforts, but for their results; and when, notwithstanding all his efforts, his pupils will do wrong, his spirit sinks with an intensity of anxious despondency which none but a teacher can understand.
This feeling of something very like moral accountability for the guilt of other persons is a continual burden. The teacher in the presence of the pupil never is free from it. It links him to them by a bond which perhaps he ought not to sunder, and which he can not sunder if he would. And sometimes, when those committed to his charge are idle, or faithless, or unprincipled, it wears away his spirits and his health together. I think there is nothing analogous to this moral connection between teacher and pupil unless it be in the case of a parent and child. And here, on account of the comparative smallness of the number under the parent's care, the evil is so much diminished that it is easily borne.
2. The second great difficulty of the teacher's employments is the immense multiplicity of the objects of his attention and care during the time he is employed in his business. His scholars are individuals, and notwithstanding all that the most systematic can do in the way of classification, they must be attended to in a great measure as individuals. A merchant keeps his commodities together, and looks upon a cargo composed of ten thousand articles, and worth a hundred thousand dollars, as one; he speaks of it as one; and there is, in many cases, no more perplexity in planning its destination than if it were a single box of raisins. A lawyer may have a great many important cases, but he has only one at a time; that is, he attends to but one at a time. The one may be intricate, involving many facts, and requiring to be examined in many aspects and relations. But he looks at but few of these facts and regards but few of these relations at a time. The points which demand his attention come one after another in regular succession. His mind may thus be kept calm. He avoids confusion and perplexity. But no skill or classification will turn the poor teacher's hundred scholars into one, or enable him, except to a very limited extent, and for a very limited purpose, to regard them as one. He has a distinct and, in many respects, a different work to do for every one of the crowd before him. Difficulties must be explained in detail, questions must be answered one by one, and each scholar's own conduct must be considered by itself. His work is thus made up of a thousand minute particulars, which are all crowding upon his attention at once, and which he can not group together, or combine, or simplify. He must, by some means or other, attend to them in all their distracting individuality. And, in a large and complicated school, the endless multiplicity and variety of objects of attention and care impose a task under which few intellects can long stand.
I have said that this endless multiplicity and variety can not be reduced and simplified by classification. I mean, of course, that this can be done only to a very limited extent compared with what may be effected in the other pursuits of mankind. Were it not for the art of classification and system, no school could have more than ten scholars, as I intend hereafter to show. The great reliance of the teacher is upon this art, to reduce to some tolerable order what would otherwise be the inextricable confusion of his business. He must be systematic. He must classify and arrange; but, after he has done all that he can, he must still expect that his daily business will continue to consist of a vast multitude of minute particulars, from one to another of which the mind must turn with a rapidity which few of the other employments of life ever demand.
These are the essential sources of difficulty with which the teacher has to contend; but, as I shall endeavor to show in succeeding chapters, though they can not be entirely removed, they can be so far mitigated by the appropriate means as to render the employment a happy one. I have thought it best, however, as this work will doubtless be read by many who, when they read it, are yet to begin their labors, to describe frankly and fully to them the difficulties which beset the path they are about to enter. "The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way." It is often wisdom to understand it beforehand.
The distraction and perplexity of the teacher's life are, as was explained in the last chapter, almost proverbial. There are other pressing and exhausting pursuits, which wear away the spirit by the ceaseless care which they impose, or perplex and bewilder the intellect by the multiplicity and intricacy of their details; but the business of teaching, by a pre-eminence not very enviable, stands, almost by common consent, at the head of the catalogue.
I have already alluded to this subject in the preceding chapter, and probably the majority of actual teachers will admit the truth of the view there presented. Some will, however, doubtless say that they do not find the business of teaching so perplexing and exhausting an employment. They take things calmly. They do one thing at a time, and that without useless solicitude and anxiety. So that teaching, with them, though it has, indeed, its solicitudes and cares, as every other responsible employment must necessarily have, is, after all, a calm and quiet pursuit, which they follow from month to month, and from year to year, without any extraordinary agitations, or any unusual burdens of anxiety and care.
There are, indeed, such cases, but they are exceptions, and unquestionably a considerable majority, especially of those who are beginners in the work, find it such as I have described. I think it need not be so, or, rather, I think the evil may be avoided to a very great degree. In this chapter I shall endeavor to show how order may be produced out of that almost inextricable mass of confusion into which so many teachers, on commencing their labors, find themselves plunged.
The objects, then, to be aimed at in the general arrangements of schools are twofold:
1. That the teacher may be left uninterrupted, to attend to one thing at a time.
2. That the individual scholars may have constant employment, and such an amount and such kinds of study as shall be suited to the circumstances and capacities of each.
I shall examine each in their order.
1. The following are the principal things which, in a vast number of schools, are all the time pressing upon the teacher; or, rather, they are the things which must every where press upon the teacher, except so far as, by the skill of his arrangements, he contrives to remove them.
1. Giving leave to whisper or to leave seats. 2. Distributing and changing pens. 3. Answering questions in regard to studies. 4. Hearing recitations. 5. Watching the behavior of the scholars. 6. Administering reproof and punishment for offenses as they occur.
A pretty large number of objects of attention and care, one would say, to be pressing upon the mind of the teacher at one and the same time—and all the time too! Hundreds and hundreds of teachers in every part of our country, there is no doubt, have all these crowding upon them from morning to night, with no cessation, except perhaps some accidental and momentary respite. During the winter months, while the principal common schools in our country are in operation, it is sad to reflect how many teachers come home every evening with bewildered and aching heads, having been vainly trying all the day to do six things at a time, while He who made the human mind has determined that it shall do but one. How many become discouraged and disheartened by what they consider the unavoidable trials of a teacher's life, and give up in despair, just because their faculties will not sustain a six-fold task. There are multitudes who, in early life, attempted teaching, and, after having been worried, almost to distraction, by the simultaneous pressure of these multifarious cares, gave up the employment in disgust, and now unceasingly wonder how any body can like teaching. I know multitudes of persons to whom the above description will exactly apply.
I once heard a teacher who had been very successful, even in large schools, say that he could hear two classes recite, mend pens, and watch his school all at the same time, and that without any distraction of mind or any unusual fatigue. Of course the recitations in such a case must be from memory. There are very few minds, however, which can thus perform triple or quadruple work, and probably none which can safely be tasked so severely. For my part, I can do but one thing at a time; and I have no question that the true policy for all is to learn not to do every thing at once, but so to classify and arrange their work that they shall have but one thing at once to do. Instead of vainly attempting to attend simultaneously to a dozen things, they should so plan their work that only one will demand attention.
Let us, then, examine the various particulars above mentioned in succession, and see how each can be disposed of, so as not to be a constant source of interruption and derangement.
1. Whispering and leaving seats. In regard to this subject there are very different methods now in practice in different schools. In some, especially in very small schools, the teacher allows the pupils to act according to their own discretion. They whisper and leave their seats whenever they think it necessary. This plan may possibly be admissible in a very small school, that is, in one of ten or twelve pupils. I am convinced, however, that it is a very bad plan even here. No vigilant watch which it is possible for any teacher to exert will prevent a vast amount of mere talk entirely foreign to the business of the school. I tried this plan very thoroughly, with high ideas of the dependence which might be placed upon conscience and a sense of duty, if these principles are properly brought out to action in an effort to sustain the system. I was told by distinguished teachers that it would not be found to answer. But predictions of failure in such cases only prompt to greater exertions, and I persevered. But I was forced at last to give up the point, and adopt another plan. My pupils would make resolutions enough; they understood their duty well enough. They were allowed to leave their seats and whisper to their companions whenever, in their honest judgment, it was necessary for the prosecution of their studies. I knew that it sometimes would be necessary, and I was desirous to adopt this plan to save myself the constant interruption of hearing and replying to requests. But it would not do. Whenever, from time to time, I called them to account, I found that a large majority, according to their own confession, were in the habit of holding daily and deliberate communication with each other on subjects entirely foreign to the business of the school. A more experienced teacher would have predicted this result; but I had very high ideas of the power of cultivated conscience, and, in fact, still have. But then, like most other persons who become possessed of a good idea, I could not be satisfied without carrying it to an extreme.
Still it is necessary, in ordinary schools, to give pupils sometimes the opportunity to whisper and leave seats. Cases occur where this is unavoidable. It can not, therefore, be forbidden altogether. How, then, you will ask, can the teacher regulate this practice, so as to prevent the evils which will otherwise flow from it, without being continually interrupted by the request for permission?
[Footnote 1: There are some large and peculiarly-organized schools in cities and large towns to which this remark may perhaps not apply.]
By a very simple method. Appropriate particular times at which all this business is to be done, and forbid it altogether at every other time. It is well, on other accounts, to give the pupils of a school a little respite, at least every hour; and if this is done, an intermission of study for two minutes each time will be sufficient. During this time general permission should be given for the pupils to speak to each other, or to leave their seats, provided they do nothing at such a time to disturb the studies of others. This plan I have myself very thoroughly tested, and no arrangement which I ever made operated for so long a time so uninterruptedly and so entirely to my satisfaction as this. It of course will require some little time, and no little firmness, to establish the new order of things where a school has been accustomed to another course; but where this is once done, I know no one plan so simple and so easily put into execution which will do so much toward relieving the teacher of the distraction and perplexity of his pursuits.
In making the change, however, it is of fundamental importance that the pupils should themselves be interested in it. Their co-operation, or, rather, the co-operation of the majority, which it is very easy to obtain, is absolutely essential to success. I say this is very easily obtained. Let us suppose that some teacher, who has been accustomed to require his pupils to ask and obtain permission every time they wish to speak to a companion, is induced by these remarks to introduce this plan. He says, accordingly, to his school,
"You know that you are now accustomed to ask me whenever you wish to obtain permission to whisper to a companion or to leave your seats; now I have been thinking of a plan which will be better for both you and me. By our present plan you are sometimes obliged to wait before I can attend to your request. Sometimes I think it is unnecessary, and deny you, when perhaps I was mistaken, and it was really necessary. At other times, I think it very probable that when it is quite desirable for you to leave your seat you do not ask, because you think you may not obtain permission, and you do not wish to ask and be refused. Do you, or not, experience these inconveniences from our present plans?"
The pupils would undoubtedly answer in the affirmative.
"I myself experience great inconvenience too. I am very frequently interrupted when busily engaged, and it also occupies a great portion of my time and attention to consider and answer your requests for permission to speak to one another and to leave your seats. It requires as much mental effort to consider and decide whether I ought to allow a pupil to leave his seat, as it would to determine a much more important question; therefore I do not like our present plan, and I have another to propose."
The pupils are now all attention to know what the new plan is. It will always be of great advantage to the school for the teacher to propose his new plans from time to time to his pupils in such a way as this. It interests them in the improvement of the school, exercises their judgment, establishes a common feeling between teacher and pupil, and in many other ways assists very much in promoting the welfare of the school.
"My plan," continues the teacher, "is this: to allow you all, besides the recess, a short time, two or three minutes perhaps, every hour" (or every half hour, according to the character of the school, the age of the pupils, or other circumstances, to be judged of by the teacher), "during which you may all whisper or leave your seats without asking permission."
Instead of deciding the question of the frequency of this general permission, the teacher may, if he pleases, leave it to the pupils to decide. It is often useful to leave the decision of such a question to them. On this subject, however, I shall speak in another place. It is only necessary here to say that this point may be safely left to them, since the time is so small which is to be thus appropriated. Even if they vote to have the general permission to whisper every half hour, it will make but eight minutes in the forenoon. There being six half hours in the forenoon, and one of them ending at the close of school, and another at the recess, only four of these rests, as a military man would call them, would be necessary; and four, of two minutes each, would make eight minutes. If the teacher thinks that evil would result from the interruption of the studies so often, he may offer the pupils three minutes rest every hour instead of two minutes every half hour, and let them take their choice; or he may decide the case altogether himself.
Such a change, from particular permission on individual requests to general permission at stated times, would unquestionably be popular in every school, if the teacher managed the business properly. And by presenting it as an object of common interest, an arrangement proposed for the common convenience of teacher and pupils, the latter may be much interested in carrying the plan into effect. We must not rely, however, entirely upon their interest in it. All that we can expect from such an effort to interest them, as I have described and recommended, is to get a majority on our side, so that we may have only a small minority to deal with by other measures. Still, we must calculate on having this minority, and form our plans accordingly, or we shall be greatly disappointed. I shall, however, in another place, speak of this principle of interesting the pupils in our plans for the purpose of securing a majority in our favor, and explain the methods by which the minority is then to be governed. I only mean here to say that, by such means, the teacher may easily interest a large proportion of the scholars in carrying his plans into effect, and that he must expect to be prepared with other measures for those who will not be governed by these.
You can not reasonably expect, however, that, immediately after having explained your plan, it will at once go into full and complete operation. Even those who are firmly determined to keep the rule will, from inadvertence, for a day or two, make communication with each other. They must be trained, not by threatening and punishment, but by your good-humored assistance, to their new duties. When I first adopted this plan in my school, something like the following proceedings took place.
"Do you suppose that you will perfectly keep this rule from this time?"
"No, sir," was the answer.
"I suppose you will not. Some, I am afraid, may not really be determined to keep it, and others will forget. Now I wish that every one of you would keep an exact account to-day of all the instances in which you speak to another person, or leave your seat, out of the regular times, and be prepared to report them at the close of the school. Of course, there will be no punishment; but it will very much assist you to watch yourselves, if you expect to make a report at the end of the forenoon. Do you like this plan?"
"Yes, sir," was the answer; and all seemed to enter into it with spirit.
In order to mark more definitely the times for communication, I wrote, in large letters, on a piece of pasteboard, "STUDY HOURS," and making a hole over the centre of it, I hung it upon a nail over my desk. At the close of each half hour a little bell was to be struck, and this card was to be taken down. When it was up, they were, on no occasion whatever (except some such extraordinary occurrence as sickness, or my sending one of them on a message to another, or something clearly out of the common course) to speak to each other; but were to wait, whatever they wanted, until the Study Card, as they called it, was taken down.
"Suppose now," said I, "that a young lady has come into school, and has accidentally left her book in the entry—the book from which she is to study during the first half hour of the school. She sits near the door, and she might, in a moment, slip out and obtain it. If she does not, she must spend the half hour in idleness, and be unprepared in her lesson. What is it her duty to do?"
"To go," "Not to go," answered the scholars, simultaneously.
"It would be her duty not to go; but I suppose it will be very difficult for me to convince you of it.
"The reason is this," I continued; "if the one case I have supposed were the only one which would be likely to occur, it would undoubtedly be better for her to go; but if it is understood that in such cases the rule may be dispensed with, that understanding will tend very much to cause such cases to occur. Scholars will differ in regard to the degree of inconvenience which they must submit to rather than break the rule. They will gradually do it on slighter and slighter occasions, until at last the rule will be disregarded entirely. We must therefore draw a precise line, and individuals must submit to a little inconvenience sometimes to promote the general good."
At the close of the day I requested all in the school to rise. While they were standing, I called them to account in the following manner:
"Now it is very probable that some have, from inadvertence or from design, omitted to keep an account of the number of transgressions of the rule which they have committed during the day; others, perhaps, do not wish to make a report of themselves. Now as this is a common and voluntary effort, I wish to have none render assistance who do not, of their own accord, desire to do so. All those, therefore, who are not able to make a report, from not having been correct in keeping it, and all those who are unwilling to report themselves, may sit."
A very small number hesitatingly took their seats.
"I am afraid that all do not sit who really wish not to report themselves. Now I am honest in saying I wish you to do just as you please. If a great majority of the school really wish to assist me in accomplishing the object, why, of course, I am glad; still, I shall not call upon any for such assistance unless it is freely and voluntarily rendered."
One or two more took their seats while these things were saying. Among such there would generally be some who would refuse to have any thing to do with the measure simply from a desire to thwart and impede the plans of the teacher. If so, it is best to take no notice of them. If the teacher can contrive to obtain a great majority upon his side, so as to let them see that any opposition which they can raise is of no consequence and is not even noticed, they will soon be ashamed of it.
The reports, then, of those who remained standing were called for; first, those who had whispered only once were requested to sit, then those who had whispered more than once and less than five times, and so on, until at last all were down. In such a case the pupils might, if thought expedient, again be requested to rise for the purpose of asking some other questions with reference to ascertaining whether they had spoken most in the former or latter part of the forenoon. The number who had spoken inadvertently, and the number who had done it by design, might be ascertained. These inquiries accustom the pupils to render honest and faithful accounts themselves. They become, by such means, familiarized to the practice, and by means of it the teacher can many times receive most important assistance.
In all this, however, the teacher should speak in a pleasant tone, and maintain a pleasant and cheerful air. The acknowledgments should be considered by the pupils not as confessions of guilt for which they are to be rebuked or punished, but as voluntary and free reports of the result of an experiment in which all were interested.
Some will have been dishonest in their reports: to diminish the number of these, the teacher may say, after the report is concluded,
"We will drop the subject here to-day. To-morrow we will make another effort, when we shall be more successful. I have taken your reports as you have offered them without any inquiry, because I had no doubt that a great majority of this school would be honest at all hazards. They would not, I am confident, make a false report even if, by a true one, they were to bring upon themselves punishment; so that I think I may have confidence that nearly all these reports have been faithful. Still it is very probable that among so large a number some may have made a report which, they are now aware, was not perfectly fair and honest. I do not wish to know who they are; if there are any such cases, I only wish to say to the rest how much pleasanter it is for you that you have been honest and open. The business is now all ended; you have done your duty; and, though you reported a little larger number than you would if you had been disposed to conceal your faults, yet you go away from school with a quiet conscience. On the other hand, how miserable must any boy feel, if he has any nobleness of mind whatever, to go away from school to-day thinking that he has not been honest; that he has been trying to conceal his faults, and thus to obtain a credit which he did not justly deserve. Always be honest, let the consequence be what it may."
The reader will understand that the object of such measures is simply to secure as large a majority as possible to make voluntary efforts to observe the rule. I do not expect that by such measures universal obedience can be exacted. The teacher must follow up the plan after a few days by other measures for those pupils who will not yield to such inducements as these. Upon this subject, however, I shall speak more particularly at a future time.
In my own school it required two or three weeks to exclude whispering and communication by signs. The period necessary to effect the revolution will be longer or shorter, according to the circumstances of the school and the dexterity of the teacher; and, after all, the teacher must not hope entirely to exclude it. Approximation to excellence is all that we can expect; for unprincipled and deceiving characters will perhaps always be found, and no system whatever can prevent their existence. Proper treatment may indeed be the means of their reformation, but before this process has arrived at a successful result, others similar in character will have entered the school, so that the teacher can never expect perfection in the operation of any of his plans.
I found so much relief from the change which this plan introduced, that I soon took measures for rendering it permanent; and though I am not much in favor of efforts to bring all teachers and all schools to the same plans, this principle of whispering at limited and prescribed times alone seems to me well suited to universal adoption.
The following simple apparatus has been used in several schools where this principle has been adopted. A drawing and description of it is inserted here, as by this means some teachers, who may like to try the course here recommended, may be saved the time and trouble of contriving something of the kind themselves.
The figure a a a a on the next page is a board about 18 inches by 12, to which the other parts of the apparatus are to be attached, and which is to be secured to the wall at the height of about 8 feet, and b c d c is a plate of tin or brass, 8 inches by 12, of the form represented in the drawing. At c c, the lower extremities of the parts at the sides, the metal is bent round, so as to clasp a wire which runs from c to c, the ends of which wire are bent at right angles, and run into the board. The plate will consequently turn on this axis as on a hinge. At the top of the plate, d, a small projection of the tin turns inward, and to this one end of the cord, m m, is attached. This cord passes back from d to a small pulley at the upper part of the board, and at the lower end of it a tassel, loaded so as to be an exact counterpoise to the card, is attached. By raising the tassel, the plate will of course fall over forward till it is stopped by the part b striking the board, when it will be in a horizontal position. On the other hand, by pulling down the tassel, the plate will be raised and drawn upward against the board, so as to present its convex surface, with the words STUDY HOURS upon it, distinctly to the school. In the drawing it is represented in an inclined position, being not quite drawn up, that the parts might more easily be seen. At d there is a small projection of the tin upward, which touches the clapper of the bell suspended above every time the plate passes up or down, and thus gives notice of its motions.
Of course the construction may be varied very much, and it may be more or less expensive, according to the wishes of the teacher. In the first apparatus of this kind which I used, the plate was simply a card of pasteboard, from which the machine took its name. This was cut out with a penknife, and, after being covered with marble-paper, a strip of white paper was pasted along the middle with the inscription upon it. The wire c c, and a similar one at the top of the plate, were passed through a perforation in the pasteboard, and then passed into the board. Instead of a pulley, the cord, which was a piece of twine, was passed through a little staple made of wire and driven into the board. The whole was made in one or two recesses in school, with such tools and materials as I could then command. The bell was a common table bell, with a wire passing through the handle. The whole was attached to such a piece of pine board as I could get on the occasion. This coarse contrivance was, for more than a year, the grand regulator of all the movements of the school.
I afterward caused one to be made in a better manner. The plate was of tin, gilded, the border and the letters of the inscription being black. A parlor bell-rope was carried over a brass pulley, and then passed downward in a groove made in the mahogany board to which the card was attached.
A little reflection will, however, show the teacher that the form and construction of the apparatus for marking the times of study and of rest may be greatly varied. The chief point is simply to secure the principle of whispering at definite and limited times, and at those alone. If such an arrangement is adopted, and carried faithfully into effect, it will be found to relieve the teacher of more than half of the confusion and perplexity which would otherwise be his hourly lot. I have detailed thus particularly the method to be pursued in carrying this principle into effect, because I am convinced of its importance, and the incalculable assistance which such an arrangement will afford to the teacher in all his plans. Of course, I would not be understood to recommend its adoption in those cases where teachers, from their own experience, have devised and adopted other plans which accomplish as effectually the same purpose. All that I mean is to insist upon the absolute necessity of some plan, to remove this very common source of interruption and confusion, and I recommend this mode where a better is not known.
2. The second of the sources of interruption, as I have enumerated them, is the distribution of pens and of stationery. This business ought, if possible, to have a specific time assigned to it. Scholars are, in general, far too particular in regard to their pens. The teacher ought to explain to them that, in the transaction of the ordinary business of life, they can not always have exactly such a pen as they would like. They must learn to write with various kinds of pens, and when furnished with one that the teacher himself would consider suitable to write a letter to a friend with, he must be content. They should understand that the form of the letters is what is important in learning to write, not the smoothness and clearness of the hair lines; and that though writing looks better when executed with a perfect pen, a person may learn to write nearly as well with one which is not absolutely perfect. So certain is this, though often overlooked, that a person would perhaps learn faster with chalk, upon a black board, than with the best goose-quill ever sharpened.
I do not make these remarks to show that it is of no consequence whether scholars have good or bad pens, but only that this subject deserves very much less of the time and attention of the teacher than it usually receives. When the scholars are allowed, as they very often are, to come when they please to change their pens, breaking in upon any business—interrupting any classes—perplexing and embarrassing the teacher, however he may be employed, there is a very serious obstruction to the progress of the scholars, which is by no means repaid by the improvement in this branch.
To guard against these evils, a regular and well-considered system should be adopted for the distribution of pens and stationary, and when adopted it should be strictly and steadily adhered to.
3. Answering questions about studies. A teacher who does not adopt some system in regard to this subject will be always at the mercy of his scholars. One boy will want to know how to parse a word, another where the lesson is, another to have a sum explained, and a fourth will wish to show his work to see if it is right. The teacher does not like to discourage such inquiries. Each one, as it comes up, seems necessary; each one, too, is answered in a moment; but the endless number and the continual repetition of them consume his time and exhaust his patience.
There is another view of the subject which ought to be taken. Perhaps it would not be far from the truth to estimate the average number of scholars in the schools in our country at fifty. At any rate, this will be near enough for our present purpose. There are three hours in each session, according to the usual arrangement, making one hundred and eighty minutes, which, divided among fifty, give about three minutes and a half to each individual. If the reader has, in his own school, a greater or a less number, he can easily correct the above calculation, so as to adapt it to his own case, and ascertain the portion which may justly be appropriated to each pupil. It will probably vary from two to four minutes. Now a period of four minutes slips away very fast while a man is looking over perplexing figures on a slate, and if he exceeds that time at all in individual attention to any one scholar, he is doing injustice to his other pupils. I do not mean that a man is to confine himself rigidly to the principle suggested by this calculation of cautiously appropriating no more time to any one of his pupils than such a calculation would assign to each, but simply that this is a point which should be kept in view, and should have a very strong influence in deciding how far it is right to devote attention exclusively to individuals. It seems to me that it shows very clearly that one ought to teach his pupils, as much as possible, in masses, and as little as possible by private attention to individual cases.
The following directions will help the teacher to carry these principles into effect. When you assign a lesson, glance over it yourself, and consider what difficulties are likely to arise. You know the progress which your pupils have made, and can easily anticipate their difficulties. Tell them all together, in the class, what their difficulties will be, and how they may surmount them. Give them directions how they are to act in the emergencies which will be likely to occur. This simple step will remove a vast number of the questions which would otherwise become occasions for interrupting you. With regard to other difficulties, which can not be foreseen and guarded against, direct the pupils to bring them to the class at the next recitation. Half a dozen of the class might, and very probably would, meet with the same difficulty. If they bring this difficulty to you one by one, you have to explain it over and over again, whereas, when it is brought to the class, one explanation answers for all.
As to all questions about the lesson—where it is, what it is, and how long it is—never answer them. Require each pupil to remember for himself, and if he was absent when the lesson was assigned, let him ask his class-mate in a rest.
You may refuse to give particular individuals the private assistance they ask for in such a way as to discourage and irritate them, but this is by no means necessary. It can be done in such a manner that the pupil will see the propriety of it, and acquiesce pleasantly in it.
A child comes to you, for example, and says,
"Will you tell me, sir, where the next lesson is?"
"Were you not in the class at the time?"
"Yes, sir; but I have forgotten."
"Well, I have forgotten too. I have a great many classes to hear, and, of course, great many lessons to assign, and I never remember them. It is not necessary for me to remember."
"May I speak to one of the class to ask about it?"
"You can not speak, you know, till the Study Card is down; you may then."
"But I want to get my lesson now."
"I don't know what you will do, then. I am sorry you don't remember.
"Besides," continues the teacher, looking pleasantly, however, while he says it, "if I knew, I think I ought not to tell you."
"Because, you know, I have said I wish the scholars to remember where the lessons are, and not come to me. You know it would be very unwise for me, after assigning a lesson once for all in the class, to spend my time here at my desk in assigning it over again to each individual one by one. Now if I should tell you where the lesson is now, I should have to tell others, and thus should adopt a practice which I have condemned."
Take another case. You assign to a class of little girls a subject of composition, requesting them to copy their writing upon a sheet of paper, leaving a margin an inch wide at the top, and one of half an inch at the sides and bottom. The class take their seats, and, after a short time, one of them comes to you, saying she does not know how long an inch is.
"Don't you know any thing about it?"
"No, sir, not much."
"Should you think that is more or less than an inch?" (pointing to a space on a piece of paper much too large).
"Then you know something about it. Now I did not tell you to make the margins exactly an inch and half an inch, but only as near as you could judge?"
"Would that be about right?" asks the girl, showing a distance.
"I must not tell you, because, you know, I never in such cases help individuals; if that is as near as you can get it, you may make it so."
It may be well, after assigning a lesson to a class, to say that all those who do not distinctly understand what they have to do may remain after the class have taken their seats, and ask: the task may then be distinctly assigned again, and the difficulties, so far as they can be foreseen, explained.
By such means these sources of interruption and difficulty may, like the others, be almost entirely removed. Perhaps not altogether, for many cases may occur where the teacher may choose to give a particular class permission to come to him for help. Such permission, however, ought never to be given unless it is absolutely necessary, and should never be allowed to be taken unless it is distinctly given.
4. Hearing recitations. I am aware that many attempt to do something else at the same time that they are hearing a recitation, and there may perhaps be some individuals who can succeed in this. If the exercise to which the teacher is attending consists merely in listening to the reciting word for word some passage committed to memory, it can be done. I hope, however, to show in a future chapter that there are other and far higher objects which every teacher ought to have in view in his recitations, and he who understands these objects, and aims at accomplishing them—who endeavors to instruct his class, to enlarge and elevate their ideas, to awaken a deep and paramount interest in the subject which they are examining, will find that his time must be his own, and his attention uninterrupted while he is presiding at a class. All the other exercises and arrangements of the school are, in fact, preparatory and subsidiary to this. Here, that is, in the classes, the real business of teaching is to be done. Here the teacher comes in contact with his scholars mind with mind, and here, consequently, he must be uninterrupted and undisturbed. I shall speak more particularly on this subject hereafter under the head of instruction; all I wish to secure in this place is that the teacher should make such arrangements that he can devote his exclusive attention to his classes while he is actually engaged with them.
Each recitation, too, should have its specified time, which should be adhered to with rigid accuracy. If any thing like the plan I have suggested for allowing rests of a minute or two every half hour should be adopted, it will mark off the forenoon into parts which ought to be precisely and carefully observed. I was formerly accustomed to think that I could not limit the time for my recitations without great inconvenience, and occasionally allowed one exercise to encroach upon the succeeding, and this upon the next, and thus sometimes the last was excluded altogether. But such a lax and irregular method of procedure is ruinous to the discipline of a school. On perceiving it at last, I put the bell into the hands of a pupil, commissioning her to ring regularly, having myself fixed the times, saying that I would show my pupils that I could be confined myself to system as well as they. At first I experienced a little inconvenience; but this soon disappeared, and at last the hours and half hours of our artificial division entirely superseded, in the school-room, the divisions of the clock face. I found, too, that it exerted an extremely favorable influence upon the scholars in respect to their willingness to submit readily to the necessary restrictions imposed upon them in school, to show them that the teacher was subject to law as well as they.
But, in order that I may be specific and definite, I will draw up a plan for the regular division of time, for a common school, not to be adopted, but to be imitated; that is, I do not recommend exactly this plan, but that some plan, precise and specific, should be determined upon, and exhibited to the school by a diagram like the following:
FORENOON. IX. X. XI. XII. - - - - READING. WRITING. R. G. ARITHMETIC. - - - + + - - -