Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

bold to assert, he may do the master a positive injustice. I dare say there is not one schoolmaster here who has not at some time or other had the mortification to hear questions put to his children which would puzzle many an adult person, or put in such a form as to be quite unintelligible, when some simple change in the wording of it would have ensured a ready answer. The person who will ask a class of boys, after having heard them read a chapter in the history of England, what was the ultimate result of all these proceedings, would not be very likely to draw out their knowledge of English history. Stow relates, in his work on moral training, that a gentleman having been invited to examine the children attending the Glasgow Normal School, the first question he put was, “ Is it not a fact, children, that mutation is stamped upon all sublunary objects ?” They were, of course, unable to answer so difficult a question; and the gentleman went away, no doubt, the editor remarks, with the conviction that they were a dull and stupid set of children. I remember a clergyman once asking a little boy in my school, who had just learned a portion of the Catechisin, to say the Creed, but the boy made no reply; I was then taken to task about it, and feeling certain he knew it, called him to me, and desired him to say the Belief. The boy did so, and was asked by the clergyman why he did not say it to him; the boy replied, “ Please, sir, I didn't know what you meant by the Creed.” At all examinations the master should either have the management of it, or, at the least, should not be prevented from assisting the examiner by changing the form of a difficult question into one more adapted to the capacities of the children.

We generally find the subscribers and friends of our schools interested in examinations, and it is of the utmost importance to keep that interest alive, for it is evident that our schools must be supported by their subscriptions, and the efficiency of the school must, in a great degree, depend upon the amount. A public examination gives subscribers an opportunity of seeing and judging for themselves respecting the character of the institution they are called upon to support, and by what they see and hear upon such occasions they may be satisfied that their subscriptions are given for an object of paramount importance to the safety of our church and nation. They are reminded in a living way, that in their own immediate neighbourhood, the poorest child may acquire an education which will teach him to be contented with his condition, however mean; show him the vanity of all earthly distinctions; be an antidote for the evil suggestions of a corrupt heart within, and of a world that lieth in wickedness without;- which will prepare him for the faithful discharge of his duties in this life, and lead him to look forward, through the merits of his Redeemer, to a crown of glory in the next. By attending our examination, the public would hear that, while rival schools around us aim at nothing more than intellectual attainments, our church, on the other hand, not neglecting these, provides, in the first place, that her children shall be taught as soon as they are able to learn, all things which they ought to know to their souls' health, including many points which others neglect, one of which I may mention, of no trifling importance, viz., reverence for authority and respect for superiors; in this, as in many other instances, showing

But per

reasons.

herself to be in an especial manner the poor man's church, though at the same time adapted for all sorts and conditions of men. haps an objector will say, Why cannot the friends and supporters of the school visit it when the ordinary business is going on? They may do so if they please; our schools are open to receive them at all times; but in general the Visitors' Book” will tell how few avail themselves of the opportunity. It is very true, that what may be done at any time is very likely not to be done at all. But even if our schools were visited frequently by the friends and subscribers, I would much rather that a stated time should be fixed for their attendance, and this for many

The working of the monitorial system upon which our schools are conducted, is attended with an unavoidable noise, which is very unpleasant to most persons, and to one inexperienced might convey an incorrect idea of the state of a school. If only one class is allowed to proceed with its work, this must be attended with loss to the rest. Upon such occasions the mind of the master might be disturbed by symptoms of irregularity or disorder in any other part of the school, or he might have been previously unprepared to receive visitors; for there are occurrences sometimes in schools which will ruffle the calmest tem. per, and will unfit the best amongst us (for the time) for the proper discharge of our duties. But at an examination both master and boys will take care to be in the best possible mood, having their attention directed only to one thing at a time, and with nothing to withdraw them from it ; thus affording a favourable opportunity of giving the children a fair trial, provided that some allowance be made for bashfulness and timidity. If subscribers and friends of schools were at all acquainted with the difficulties of school-keeping, and came to lend us a helping hand, we should then be glad to see them at any time; but this is seldom the case. They mostly come merely to look on.

Next in importance to the subscribers of a school, in reference to an examination, are the parents of the children, to whom an examination gives an opportunity of judging what sort of education their children are receiving. Many of the parents of the lower classes are very bad judges of a good education, and, in many instances, form their ideas of a child's progress by his writing, which, however useful in its proper place, is but of secondary importance. It frequently happens, that ignorant or impatient parents do the character of a school much injury by estimating its merits by one favourite branch of instruction. Again, should their child become troublesome or rude, they are ready enough to complain, that by going to school he learns everything that is bad; but should a marked improvement take place in his moral conduct, they never for one moment think of attributing it to the effects of a sound religious training, which alone is worthy of the name of education. The majority of parents, I believe, form their estimate of education by the amount of secular knowledge acquired, without one thought of the religious instruction of their children. Now an examination would show

to such persons how much importance we attach to “ the one thing needful,” and, that of all knowledge, we set the most value upon that which makes “ wise unto salvation;" while we do not undervalue such instruction as may be useful in a worldly point of view,

but, on the contrary, teach our children its real value, and show them how to make it really useful. Parents would see, by making themselves acquainted with the benefits their children derive through the benevolence of the wealthier classes and the kindness of their parochial clergy, that they are the real friends to the poorer classes, and might be led to feel some degree of gratitude and respect for their benefactors, in which too many of them are lamentably deficient. If the parents of the children attending our schools knew how much both of money and labour were spent in the education of their offspring, surely they would think it a favour to have a child there, and would more readily co-operate with us in our laborious work. How different a spirit generally manifests itself, we are all too well aware. Allowing that the better sort of persons who avail themselves of the advantages our schools offer, are becoming more sensible of the advantages of education, yet there are many who appear quite insensible to the fact that they are under any obligation to the managers and supporters of our sch and do not forget, should an opportunity offer, of showing their independence. Now I cannot but think, that'examinations at which parents are present, will be highly useful in giving them correct views of education. What a blessing it would be if the clergy could induce the parents to carry into their domestic arrangements the spirit of that religion taught in the church and school, that so the heads of every family, from the highest to the lowest, might let their light so shine, that their children might feel religion to be a practical thing, by which the whole course of our life and conduct should be regulated. Do what we may for the training of our children, every day my opinion is confirmed, that the parents are the persons to form their characters; they possess many advantages which the schoolmaster does not.

Again, what an admirable opportunity does an examination present to the clergyman of addressing a few words of advice to the parents. There they are, all assembled together for one common object, and that a most interesting one,—to witness the improvement of those whose natural tie of relationship must render them most dear. What a pleasing sight it is to view, upon such occasions, the cheerful, happy countenances of both parent and child. Who can witness such a sight without the deepest interest, or watch unmoved the anxiety of the pastor for the safety of his lambs ? And when, let me ask, could a more favourable opportunity be pitched upon for encouraging, exhorting, and entreating parents to join with him in his labour of love? A word fitly spoken,” says the wise man, “is like apples of gold in pic. tures of silver ;” and never surely could a word be more fitly spoken than at such a time. I am certain that a public examination may be productive of great benefit in establishing a mutual confidence between the clergyman and a portion of his flock, and in a large parish where it would be almost impossible to visit them individually, affords an occasional opportunity of meeting them collectively. One thing, however, we must admit with respect to the parents,--they who are least interested about their children, will be most likely to stay away.

While public examinations, if well conducted, are productive of much benefit to the school through the parents and subscribers, their influence

for good is no less upon the children and master. The children themselves look forward in general with pleasure to a coming examination, and by proper management it may be turned to their advantage. I know of nothing which will stimulate children to persevere in their studies more than the kind encouragement of the clergy; and this they will never fail to obtain, if they acquit themselves in a creditable manner. It is a good principle in education to be frequently retracing our steps, and calling ourselves to account for the store of knowledge which has been deposited in the mind; and an examination would always require our children to arouse their latent energies, and call forth every dormant faculty to prepare themselves, and to refresh their memories upon the elementary subjects of instruction in which they are expected to be well versed. And as with the boys, so with the master. Allow him to be a devoted, conscientious man, yet are there no times when his energies will flag, and his zeal require to be re-kindled ? I am ready to acknowledge for one, and I doubt not many others will candidly confess the same, that there are times when they seem to drag on heavily in their work, and for reasons to them unaccountable, find themselves unwillingly performing their duties in a very little more than a merely mechanical or perfunctory manner. There are times when the difficul. ties of our office press so heavily upon us, that the school-room seems to have no attractions, and all the concerns of it wear a dull and melan. choly aspect, which almost causes us to sit down in despair. All this I maintain may happen, and yet I believe that a man may be perfectly correct in principle; he merely wants something to lead him to look at the bright instead of the dark side of the picture; and will not the test to which he is put by an inspection or examination, teach him at such times as these an important lesson, by arousing him to put forth all his energies, and knowing that events belong to God, will he not pray with redoubled fervency for the divine assistance and blessing ? and having done his best, and committed his works to God, he will be kept from that over anxiety which is apt at times to seize the mind, and mar our best endeavours. Humble dependence on God, and a becoming confidence in our children, will tend to keep us calm and collected in all our trials. A schoolmaster, I think, can have no greater incitement to perseverance, than to find that his labours have given satisfaction to those under whom he acts. It must be admitted that there is danger in this, lest our principles of action should become corrupted, and instead of the glory of God and the interests of our children being our object, we should aim at human applause and empty show. While we strive to give our children an education which will be approved, let us make sure, in the first place, that it will be approved by God; and let us never forget that a day is coming, when he who knoweth the heart and trieth the reins, will judge us according to our works. Supposing that we have in our several offices given entire satisfaction, let us beware lest we rest satisfied with the point we have attained, or suffer ourselves to indulge in a spirit of boasting or self-confidence. It will be well for us at such a time to look into our own hearts; and if we deal honestly and impartially with ourselves, we shall soon find much more to humble us than to puff us up. The experience of many right-minded teachers

A VILLAGE SCHOOLMASTER'S METHOD OF TEACHING GRAMMAR. 295

has proved, that as with their spiritual so it is with their scholastic concerns; if they find themselves, like the psalmist, believing that God has made their hill so strong, that they cannot be moved, he soon for a time hides his face, and they are troubled. If at any time we find the result of our examinations not so favourable as we could wish, let us not be discouraged, but use our best endeavours to turn all to good account. Let us start afresh. Let us go forth to work, more self-devoted, more zealous, and more prayerful. For it has been well said, that schoolmasters should be men of prayer, and then they would be men of power.

B.

A VILLAGE SCHOOLMASTER'S METHOD OF TEACHING

GRAMMAR. Rev. Sir, I have read with much interest some letters recently inserted in the Journal on the subject of teaching grammar in schools. With your permission, I shall be glad to lay before your readers the method I have for some time practised. There are, I doubt not, errors in it which perhaps some of your correspondents will kindly point out. My chief object is to elicit the views of others.

I divide the boys in my school into two classes. I use books, for I do not well see how any person can teach grammar without them. My second class use “Wilson's Outlines of English Grammar," and my first “Reid's Rudiments of English Grammar.' These writers, I am aware, vary in some points, yet it is almost impossible to find two grammars coming nearer to uniformity. I expect each boy to learn a certain portion of his grammar by rote at home, which he says in the morning. The second class, who are little boys, are questioned very strictly as to the meaning of the words which occur in the lesson; then as to the meaning of the sentence; and examples are given illustrative of the lesson. Every difficult word found in the lesson is explained, and thoroughly worked into the mind; the definitions of the parts of speech, of number, gender, case, person, tense, mode, and so on, are so completely learned, that the little pupil would as soon forget his own name as them. When the boy is familiar with the definitions, he is taught to put his knowledge into use.

He tells which is a verb, which a noun, and which a pronoun.

But I do not think it right to burden the young scholar's mind too much ; and omit many of the chief difficulties till he is considered fit to be put in the first class. I receive an answer from little boys without requiring a reason, and I have invariably found this plan to be attended with great advantages. If a boy tells me, John is a noun," he also tells me why. If he tells me, “love is a verb,” he tells me that it is called so because it affirms something of some noun or pronoun; and so on with the other par of speech. I cause all my pupils to write a deal on their slates, and sometimes a boy writes fifty verbs, sometimes fifty nouns, &c. The reading lesson is made an exercise of grammar.

never

« ElőzőTovább »