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I do the wisest of you no wrong. Very much of this most valuable information may be secured, with a wise teacher, incidentally and almost unconsciously, in a way that, far from interrupting the stated work, only seems to give it a new, a real interest and life.
Yet so apt is any useful method or new invention to be regarded, like a new mineral water, as the panacea for all ills, and praised beyond its true use, that our graded system, with all its power for good, has often been so straightened and narrowed that the mind and heart, that the whole nature of the pupil and the teacher has been cramped and stifled within its ever-tightening and bcnumbing grasp.
In utter neglect or forgetfulness of securing what is already gained, and of introducing into each grade some principles of each preceding grade in some new relation, that nothing be lost, a line of demarkation and exclusion between the different grades has been drawn more rigid and more rigidly enforced than the cholera quarantine of Europe.
Subtraction has been neglected in the pursuit of . multiplication, and arithmetic has been buried beneath the unknown quantities of algebra. On the portals to any information not outlined for the particular grade has been posted the red or yellow sign of contagion-contagion of intelligence not needed in that grade.
And, finally, so brief is the life of school at best, and so little its achievements, that our highest aim should be to create a hunger and thirst for all true knowledge, to inspire a love of all useful learning, ever looking with the hope, the faith of childhood, nay, with the assurance of manhood, to the fulfillment of that noblest reward of our efforts, when we shall no longer see, as through a . glass darkly, but then shall see face to face; when no
more shall we know, as now, but in part, but in the highest presence shall know, even as we are known.
THE TEACHER IN THE SCHOOL-ROOM. In this work of ours, whatever be the theories we may evolve or the methods we devise, the result is to be wrought out in the school-room. In the school-room is to be found the test of their worth, the truth or untruth of our philosophies. In the quiet study, indeed, must the facts and suggestions of life be deeply conned and considered, old systems changed and new ones formed ; but in the school-room are best studied those nerve-centers of educational life whence our richest experiences are to be drawn and where our best laid plans are to meet their condemnation or reward.
It is not the recluse with his abstruse thought and pure reason, nor the philosopher with his broad generalizations and logical deductions, nor yet the statistician with his cold columns of recorded data, who is to work out the true problem of school-life, but by the keenly observant, thoughtful teacher in the school-room, in closest relations and deep sympathy with the living child in his eagerness and restlessness, his waywardness and trustfulness, are to be studied the changeful phenomena whose true apprehension shall give him assurance of success.
Noble as our work is accounted, and assuredly should be, yet it consists largely of little things. No great events or glaring deeds are to herald the good teacher's success and urge him on to renewed efforts, nor has he the ready means by which to judge of the results. The farmer may measure his products, the merchant sum up his profits or his losses, and the broker count his gains, but how little can we see at the close of the day or the week of our work! We have compassed so many lines, so many pages, it may be, but what has been done for the pupil's growth, the development of his powers, for his integrity or his real intelligence, what toward giving him a true direction in life ? A large faith, a great hope, a faith in childhood, a hope and trust in earnest, faithful, well-directed effort, an enduring love of the service, must be the essentials of the deserving teacher, the first elements of fitness for the school-room.
With what joy and pride and sometimes awe does the little six-year-old make preparations for his first day in school! It is the goal on which for weary days his swelling heart has been fixed. Morning after morning has he anxiously stood to see his older companions pass in noisy groups and turned tearfully away with the feeling that the sluggish hour would never come; and now he, too, with his new shoes, perhaps, and mended coat, is to enter that mysterious portal. And there at the threshold, like a fairy princess, should stand the sympathetic teacher, with smiling welcome to receive him, to crown his hopes with her sweet confidence and kindly care, and assign him his seat, the throne of his childish ambition, and his desk, the banqueting-table of his curious and wondering heart.
Fortunate, indeed, is the pupil on whom this new life shall never pall, and favored with the choicest gifts the teacher who shall give to this new relationship an ever stronger and more enduring bond, that when the strangeness, the novelty shall pass away, it shall give place to an attractive charm, that for the welcoming fairy, by a sweet transformation, shall now stand the kind friend, the wise counselor, the trusted guide, the respected teacher. The needful restraint of the school must be relieved by its cheerful enforcement, the tiresome monotony enlivened by a pleasing variety, the eager curiosity preserved by presenting ever something fresh and new, something to discover and learn. .
For his activities new channels must be opened, something given him to do, to represent, to make, that in place of those weary hours of enforced silence and dull quietude we may find the pleasing signs of orderly life, of directed energies, and well regulated growth. Though the school-house is not a play-house, nor school-life play, it may be none the less enjoyable. Excellence in government is no longer measured by the test of folded hands and slumbrous stillness. The change from home-life to school-life is great enough at best, and the first requisite of the teacher is the power so to control and guide the pupils along the paths of learning, so to place before them objects of interest and usefulness that the unthinking joy of their entrance upon school-life shall change, with their expanding powers and clearer aims, into the deeper satisfactions and more earnest thoughtfulness of a wiser intelligence and larger nature, that our pupils, instead of dropping away disheartened one by one, like the deserters from an unsuccessful army, may with courage kindled to enthusiasm advance to each new grade or study with the ardor of assured victors. Even were the school but an agreeable resort for the child, where he might be watched and tenderly cared for, safe from the evil influences of the street during the parents' busy hours of toil, it would not be wholly in vain ; but he is here for a still higher purpose, as was just suggested. He is here to be instructed, educated, lifted to a wider intelligence, with firmer purposes and truer aims. He has thus far been trying and learning of his powers of body and mind and familiarizing himself with his surroundings, as chance or desire has led him on, turning from this to that, from plaything to pet, from pet to floating butterfly, beginning some plan only to leave it for something else, as his varying mood or heedless impulse has directed.
Now must he learn to study things more closely and consecutively, to pursue some plan more persistently— take reason in place of whim for a guide. He must learn to submit to the leadings of others in those untried paths where his untaught steps would carry him astray. Now, little by little, must he learn the power of well-directed, continuous effort, resisting the call of pleasure or passion to draw him aside. Now, too, must he begin to learn what others have said and done, and how the record has been made and preserved, and how to record his own thoughts and experiences—that marvelous art by which the deepest thought, the most delicate sentiment, the highest truths and most profound philosophies, may be spread out in visible form and made our own.
Within what a narrow circle would our lives be run were we shut up to the paltry measure of our own seeing and doing! The key to a wisdom, power, and intelli. gence beyond the accomplishment of centuries by their own unaided doings has the child who can read understandingly “This is a man.”
For this work a teacher can hardly be too well prepared. How often are we reminded that no great amount of scholarship is needed to teach the first reader and instruct in number from one to ten ! But it is not the mere calling of words or the summing up of twos and threes with which she has to do.