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The Teacher by Jacob Abbott

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"Deliver them at the accountants' desk."

They were accordingly carried there, and received by the accountants.

In the same manner, the others were collected and received by the
accountants, but kept separate.

"I wish now the second accountant would copy these in a little book I
have prepared for the purpose, arranging them alphabetically, referring
all doubtful cases again to me."

The second accountant then arranged the papers, and prepared them to go
into the book, and the writer who belongs to the department copied them

I describe this case, because it was one which occurred at the time I
was writing the above description, and not because there is any thing
otherwise peculiar in it. Such cases are continually taking place, and
by the division of labor above illustrated, I am very much assisted in a
great many of the duties which would otherwise consume a great portion
of my time.

Any of the scholars may at any time make suggestions in writing to any
of these officers or to the whole school; and if an officer should be
partial, or unfaithful, or negligent in her duty, any scholar may
propose her impeachment. After hearing what she chooses to write in her
defense, a vote is taken on sustaining the impeachment. If it is
sustained, she is deprived of the office, and another appointed to fill
her place.


I have already described how all serious cases of doing wrong or neglect
of duty are managed in the school. I manage them myself, by coming as
directly and as openly as I can to the heart and conscience of the
offender. There are, however, a number of little transgressions, too
small to be individually worthy of serious attention, but which are yet
troublesome to the community when frequently repeated. These relate
chiefly to _order in the school-rooms_. These misdemeanors are tried,
half in jest and half in earnest, by a sort of _court_, whose forms of
process might make a legal gentleman smile. They, however, fully answer
our purpose. I can best give you an idea of the court by describing an
actual trial. I ought, however, first to say that any young lady who
chooses to be free from the jurisdiction of the court can signify that
wish to me, and she is safe from it. This, however, is never done. They
all see the useful influence of it, and wish to sustain it.

Near the close of school, I find, perhaps, on my desk a paper, of which
the following may be considered a copy. It is called the indictment.

We accuse Miss A.B. of having waste papers in the aisle opposite her desk,
at 11 o'clock, on Friday, Oct. 12.
E.F.} Witnesses.

I give notice after school that a case is to be tried. Those interested,
twenty or thirty perhaps, gather around my desk, while the sheriff goes
to summon the accused and the witnesses. A certain space is marked off
as the precincts of the court, within which no one must enter in the
slightest degree, on pain of imprisonment, that is, confinement to her
seat until court adjourns.

"Miss A.B., you are accused of having an untidy floor about your desk.
Have you any objection to the indictment?"

While she is looking over the indictment to discover a misspelled word,
or an error in the date, or some other latent flaw, I appoint any two of
the by-standers jury. The jury come forward to listen to the cause.

The accused returns the indictment, saying she has no objection, and the
witnesses are called upon to present their testimony.

Perhaps the prisoner alleges in defense that the papers were out _in the
aisle_, not _under her desk_, or that she did not put them there, or
that they were too few or too small to deserve attention.

My charge to the jury would be somewhat as follows:

"You are to consider and decide whether she was guilty of disorder,
taking into view the testimony of the witnesses and also her defense. It
is considered here that each young lady is responsible not only for the
appearance of the carpet _under her desk_, but also for _the aisle
opposite to it_, so that her first ground of defense must be abandoned.
So, also, with the second, that she did not put them there. She ought
not to _have_ them there. Each scholar must keep her own place in a
proper condition; so that if disorder is found there, no matter who made
it, she is responsible if she only had time to remove it. As to the
third, you must judge whether enough has been proved by the witnesses to
make out real disorder." The jury write _guilty_ or _not guilty_ upon
the paper, and it is returned to me. If sentence is pronounced, it is
usually confinement to the seat during a recess, or part of a recess, or
something that requires a slight effort or sacrifice for the public
good. The sentence is always something _real_, though always _slight_,
and the court has a great deal of influence in a double way--making
amusement and preserving order.

The cases tried are very various, but none of the serious business of
the school is intrusted to it. Its sessions are always held out of
school hours, and, in fact, it is hardly considered by the scholars as a
constituent part of the arrangements of the school; so much so, that I
hesitated much about inserting an account of it in this description.


In giving you this account, brief as it is, I ought not to omit to speak
of one feature of our plan, which we have always intended should be one
of the most prominent and distinctive characteristics of the school. The
gentlemen who originally interested themselves in its establishment had
mainly in view the exertion, by the principal, of a decided moral and
religious influence over the hearts of the pupils. Knowing, as they did,
how much more dutiful and affectionate at home you would be, how much
more successful in your studies at school, how much happier in your
intercourse with each other, and in your prospects for the future both
here and hereafter, if your hearts could be brought under the influence
of Christian principle, they were strongly desirous that the school
should be so conducted that its religious influence, though gentle and
alluring in its character, should be frank, and open, and decided. I
need not say that I myself entered very cordially into these views. It
has been my constant effort, and one of the greatest sources of my
enjoyment, to try to win my pupils to piety, and to create such an
atmosphere in school that conscience, and moral principle, and affection
for the unseen Jehovah should reign here. You can easily see how much
pleasanter it is for me to have the school controlled by such influence,
than if it were necessary for me to hire you to diligence in duty by
prizes or rewards, or to deter you from neglect or from transgression by
reproaches, and threatenings, and punishments.

The influence which the school has thus exerted has always been
cordially welcomed by my pupils, and approved, so far as I have known,
by their parents, though four or five denominations, and fifteen or
twenty different congregations, have been from time to time represented
in the school. There are few parents who would not like to have their
children _Christians_--sincerely and practically so; for everything
which a parent can desire in a child is promoted just in proportion as
she opens her heart to the influence of the spirit of piety. But that
you may understand what course is taken, I shall describe, first, what I
wish to effect in the hearts of my pupils, and then what means I take to
accomplish the object.

1. A large number of young persons of your age, and in circumstances
similar to those in which you are placed, perform with some fidelity
their various outward duties, _but maintain no habitual and daily
communion with God_. It is very wrong for them to live thus without God,
but they do not see, or, rather, do not feel the guilt of it. They only
think of their accountability to _human beings_ like themselves; for
example, their parents, teachers, brothers and sisters, and friends.
Consequently, they think most of their _external_ conduct, which is all
that human beings can see. Their i>hearts_ are neglected, and become
very impure, full of evil thoughts, and desires, and passions, which are
not repented of, and consequently not forgiven. Now what I wish to
accomplish in regard to all my pupils is, that they should begin to
_feel their accountability to God_, and to act according to it; that
they should explore their _hearts_, and ask God's forgiveness for all
their past sins, through Jesus Christ, who died for them that they might
be forgiven; and that they should from this time try to live _near to
God_, feel his presence, and enjoy that solid peace and happiness which
flows from a sense of his protection. When such a change takes place, it
relieves the mind from that constant and irritating uneasiness which the
great mass of mankind feel as a constant burden; the ceaseless
forebodings of a troubled conscience reproaching them for their past
accumulated guilt, and warning them of a judgment to come. The change
which I endeavor to promote relieves the heart both of the present
suffering and of the future danger.

After endeavoring to induce you to begin to act from Christian
principle, I wish to explain to you your various duties to yourselves,
your parents, and to God.

2. The measures to which I resort to accomplish these objects are three:

First, _Religious Exercises in School_.--We open and close the school
with a very short prayer and one or two verses of a hymn. Sometimes I
occupy ten or fifteen minutes at one of the general exercises, or at the
close of the school, in giving instruction upon practical religious
duty. The subjects are sometimes suggested by a passage of Scripture
read for the purpose, but more commonly in another way.

You will observe often, at the close of the school or at an appointed
general exercise, that a scholar will bring to my desk a dark-colored
morocco wrapper containing several small strips of paper, upon which
questions relating to moral or religious duty, or subjects for remarks
from me, or anecdotes, or short statements of facts, giving rise to
inquiries of various kinds, are written. This wrapper is deposited in a
place accessible to all the scholars, and any one who pleases deposits
in it any question or suggestion on religious subjects which may occur
to her. You can at any time do this yourself, thus presenting any doubt,
or difficulty, or inquiry which may at any time occur to you.

Secondly, _Religious Exercise on Saturday afternoon_.--In order to bring
up more distinctly and systematically the subject of religious duty, I
established, a long time ago, a religious meeting on Saturday afternoon.
It is intended for those who feel interested in receiving such
instruction, and who can conveniently attend at that time. If you have
no other engagements, and if your parents approve of it, I should be
happy to have you attend. There will be very little to interest you
except the subject itself, for I make all the instructions which I give
there as plain, direct, and practical as is in my power. A considerable
number of the scholars usually attend, and frequently bring with them
many of their female friends. You can at any time invite any one whom
you please to come to the meeting. It commences at half past three, and
continues about half an hour.

Thirdly, _Personal Religious Instruction._--In consequence of the large
number of my pupils, and the constant occupation of my time in school, I
have scarcely any opportunity of religious conversation with them, even
with those who particularly desire it. The practice has therefore
arisen, and gradually extended itself almost universally in school, of
writing to me on the subject. These communications are usually brief
notes, expressing the writer's interest in the duties of piety, or
bringing forward her own peculiar practical difficulties, or making
specific inquiries, or asking particular instruction in regard to some
branch of religious duty. I answer in a similar way, very briefly and
concisely, however, for the number of notes of this kind which I receive
is very large, and the time which I can devote to such a correspondence
necessarily limited. I should like to receive such communications from
all my pupils; for advice or instruction communicated in reply, being
directly personal, is far more likely to produce effect. Besides, my
remarks, being in writing, can be read a second time, and be more
attentively considered and reconsidered than when words are merely
spoken. These communications must always be begun by the pupil. I never
(unless there may be occasional exceptions in some few very peculiar
cases) commence. I am prevented from doing this both by my unwillingness
to obtrude such a subject personally upon those who might not welcome
it, and by want of time. I have scarcely time to write to all those who
are willing first to write to me. Many cases have occurred where
individuals have strongly desired some private communication with me,
but have hesitated long, and shrunk reluctantly from the first step. I
hope it will not be so with you. Should you ever wish to receive from
me any direct religious instruction, I hope you will write immediately
and freely. I shall very probably not even notice that it is the first
time I have received such a communication from you. So numerous and so
frequent are these communications, that I seldom observe, when I receive
one from any individual for the first time, that it comes from one who
has not written me before.

Such are the means to which I resort in endeavoring to lead my pupils to
God and to duty, and you will observe that the whole design of them is
to win and to allure, not to compel. The regular devotional exercises of
school are all which you will _necessarily_ witness. These are very
short, occupying much less time than many of the pupils think desirable.
The rest is all private and voluntary. I never make any effort to urge
any one to attend the Saturday meeting, nor do I, except in a few rare
and peculiar cases, ever address any one personally, unless she desires
to be so addressed. You will be left, therefore, in this school,
unmolested, to choose your own way. If you should choose to neglect
religious duty, and to wander away from God, I shall still do all in my
power to make you happy in school, and to secure for you in future life
such a measure of enjoyment as can fall to the share of one over whose
prospects in another world there hangs so gloomy a cloud. I shall never
reproach you, and perhaps may not even know what your choice is. Should
you, on the other hand, prefer the peace and happiness of piety, and be
willing to begin to walk in its paths, you will find many, both among
the teachers and pupils of the Mount Vernon School, to sympathize with
you, and to encourage and help you on your way.




Some of the best teachers in our country, or, rather, of those who might
be the best, lose a great deal of their time, and endanger, or perhaps
entirely destroy, their hopes of success by a scheming spirit, which is
always reaching forward to something new. One has in his mind some new
school-book by which Arithmetic, Grammar, or Geography are to be taught
with unexampled rapidity, and his own purse to be filled in a much more
easy way than by waiting for the rewards of patient industry. Another
has the plan of a school, bringing into operation new principles of
management or instruction, which he is to establish on some favored
spot, and which is to become, in a few years, a second Hofwyl. Another
has some royal road to learning, and, though he is trammeled and held
down by what he calls the ignorance and stupidity of his trustees or his
school committee, yet, if he could fairly put his principles and methods
to the test, he is certain of advancing the science of education half a
century at least at a single leap.

Ingenuity in devising new ways, and enterprise in following them, are
among the happiest characteristics of a new country rapidly filling with
a thriving population. Without these qualities there could be no
advance; society must be stationary; and from a stationary to a
retrograde condition, the progress is inevitable. The disposition to
make improvements and changes may, however, be too great. If so, it must
be checked. On the other hand, a slavish attachment to old established
practices may prevail. Then the spirit of enterprise and experiment must
be awakened and encouraged. Which of these two is to be the duty of a
writer at any time will of course depend upon the situation of the
community at the time when he writes, and of the class of readers for
which he takes his pen. Now, at the present time, it is undoubtedly
true, that while among the great mass of teachers there may be too
little originality and enterprise, there is still among many a spirit of
innovation and change to which a caution ought to be addressed. But,
before I proceed, let me protect myself from misconception by one or two

1. There are a few individuals in various parts of our country who, by
ingenuity and enterprise, have made real and important improvements in
many departments of our science, and are still making them. The science
is to be carried forward by such men. Let them not, therefore,
understand that any thing which I shall say applies at all to those real
improvements which are from time to time brought before the public. As
examples of this, there might easily be mentioned, were it necessary,
several new modes of study, and new text-books, and literary
institutions on new plans, which have been brought forward within a few
years, and have proved, on actual trial, to be of real and permanent

These are, or rather they were, when first conceived by the original
projectors, new schemes, and the result has proved that they were good
ones. Every teacher, too, must hope that such improvements will continue
to be made. Let nothing, therefore, which shall be said on the subject
of scheming in this chapter be interpreted as intended to condemn real
improvements of this kind, or to check those which may now be in
progress by men of age or experience, or of sound judgment, who are
capable of distinguishing between a real improvement and a whimsical
innovation which can never live any longer than it is sustained by the
enthusiasm of the original inventor.

2. There are a great many teachers in our country who make their
business a mere dull and formal routine, through which they plod on,
month after month, and year after year, without variety or change, and
who are inclined to stigmatize with the appellation of idle scheming all
plans, of whatever kind, to give variety or interest to the exercises of
the school. Now whatever may be said in this chapter against unnecessary
innovation and change does not apply to efforts to secure variety in the
details of daily study, while the great leading objects are steadily
pursued. This subject has already been discussed in the chapter on
Instruction, where it has been shown that every wise teacher, while he
pursues the same great object, and adopts in substance the same leading
measures at all times, will exercise all the ingenuity he possesses, and
bring all his inventive powers into requisition to give variety and
interest to the minute details.

To explain now what is meant by such scheming as is to be condemned, let
us suppose a case which is riot very uncommon. A young man, while
preparing for college, takes a school. When he first enters upon the
duties of his office, he is diffident and timid, and walks cautiously in
the steps which precedent has marked out for him. Distrusting himself,
he seeks guidance in the example which others have set for him, and,
very probably, he imitates precisely, though it may be insensibly and
involuntarily, the manners and the plans of his own last teacher. This
servitude soon, however, if he is a man of natural abilities, passes
away; he learns to try one experiment after another, until he insensibly
finds that a plan may succeed, even if it was not pursued by his former
teacher. So far it is well. He throws greater interest into his school,
and into all its exercises, by the spirit with which he conducts them.
He is successful. After the period of his services has expired, he
returns to the pursuit of his studies, encouraged by his success, and
anticipating farther triumphs in his subsequent attempts.

He goes on through college, we will suppose, teaching from time to time
in the vacations, as opportunity occurs, taking more and more interest
in the employment, and meeting with greater and greater success. This
success is owing in a very great degree to the _freedom_ of his
practice, that is, to his escape from the thraldom of imitation. So long
as he leaves the great objects of the school untouched, and the great
features of its organization unchanged, his many plans for accomplishing
these objects in new and various ways awaken interest and spirit both in
himself and in his scholars, and all goes on well.

Now in such a case as this, a young teacher, philosophizing upon his
success and the causes of it, will almost invariably make this mistake,
namely, he will attribute to something essentially excellent in his
plans the success which, in fact, results from the novelty of them.

When he proposes something new to a class, they all take an interest in
it because it is _new_. He takes, too, a special interest in it because
it is an experiment which he is trying, and he feels a sort of pride and
pleasure in securing its success. The new method which he adopts may not
be, _in itself,_ in the least degree better than old methods, yet it may
succeed vastly better in his hands than any old method he had tried
before. And why? Why, because it is new. It awakens interest in his
class, because it offers them variety; and it awakens interest in him,
because it is a plan which he has devised, and for whose success,
therefore, he feels that his credit is at stake. Either of these
circumstances is abundantly sufficient to account for its success.
Either of these would secure success, unless the plan was a very bad one

This may easily be illustrated by supposing a particular case. The
teacher has, we will imagine, been accustomed to teach spelling in the
usual way, by assigning a lesson in the spelling-book, which the
scholars, after studying it in their seats, recite by having the words
put to them individually in the class. After some time, he finds that
one class has lost its interest in this study. He can compel them to
study the lesson, it is true, but he perceives, perhaps, that it is a
weary task to them. Of course, they proceed with less alacrity, and
consequently with less rapidity and success. He thinks, very justly,
that it is highly desirable to secure cheerful, not forced, reluctant
efforts from his pupils, and he thinks of trying some new plan.
Accordingly, he says to them,

"Boys, I am going to try a new plan for this class."

The mere annunciation of a new plan awakens universal attention. The
boys all look up, wondering what it is to be.

"Instead of having you study your lessons in your seats, as heretofore,
I am going to let you all go together into one corner of the room, and
choose some one to read the lesson to you, spelling all the words aloud.
You will all listen, and endeavor to remember how the difficult ones are
Do you think you can remember?"

"Yes, sir," say the boys. Children always think they _can_ do every
thing which is proposed to them as a new plan or experiment, though they
are very often inclined to think they _can not_ do what is required of
them as a task.

"You may have," continues the teacher, "the words read to you once or
twice, just as you please. Only, if you have them read but once, you
must take a shorter lesson."

He pauses and looks round upon the class. Some say "Once," some "Twice."

"I am willing that you should decide this question. How many are in
favor of having shorter lessons, and having them read but once? How many
prefer longer lessons, and having them read twice?"

After comparing the numbers, it is decided according to the majority,
and the teacher assigns or allows them to assign a lesson.

"Now," he proceeds, "I am not only going to have you study in a
different way, but recite in a different way too. You may take your
slates with you, and after you have had time to hear the lesson read
slowly and carefully twice, I shall come and dictate to you the words
aloud, and you will all write them from my dictation. Then I shall
examine your slates, and see how many mistakes are made."

Any class of boys, now, would be exceedingly interested in such a
proposal as this, especially if the master's ordinary principles of
government and instruction had been such as to interest the pupils in
the welfare of the school and in their own progress in study. They will
come together in the place assigned, and listen to the one who is
appointed to read the words to them, with every faculty aroused, and
their whole souls engrossed in the new duties assigned them. The
teacher, too, feels a special interest in his experiment. Whatever else
he may be employed about, his eye turns instinctively to this group with
an intensity of interest which an experienced teacher who has long been
in the field, and who has tried experiments of this sort a hundred
times, can scarcely conceive; for let it be remembered that I am
describing the acts and feelings of a new beginner, of one who is
commencing his work with a feeble and trembling step, and perhaps this
is his first step away from the beaten path in which he has been
accustomed to walk.

This new plan is continued, we will suppose, for a week, during which
time the interest of the pupils continues. They get longer lessons and
make fewer mistakes than they did by the old method. Now, in
speculating on this subject, the teacher reasons very justly that it is
of no consequence whether the pupil receives his knowledge through the
eye or through the ear; whether they study in solitude or in company.
The point is to secure their progress in learning to spell the words of
the English language, and as this point is secured far more rapidly and
effectually by his new method, the inference is to his mind very
obvious, that he has made a great improvement--one of real and permanent
value. Perhaps he will consider it an extraordinary discovery.

But the truth is, that in almost all such cases as this, the secret of
the success is not that the teacher has discovered a _better_ method
than the ordinary ones, but that he has discovered a _new_ one. The
experiment will succeed in producing more successful results just as
long as the novelty of it continues to excite unusual interest and
attention in the class, or the thought that it is a plan of the
teacher's own invention leads him to take a peculiar interest in it. And
this may be a month, or perhaps a quarter; and precisely the same
effects would have been produced if the whole had been reversed, that
is, if the plan of dictation had been the old one, which in process of
time had, in this supposed school, lost its interest, and the teacher,
by his ingenuity and enterprise, had discovered and introduced what is
now the common mode.

"Very well," perhaps my reader will reply, "it is surely something
gained to awaken and continue interest in a dull study for a quarter, or
even a month. The experiment is worth something as a pleasant and useful
change, even if it is not permanently superior to the other."

It is indeed worth something. It is worth a great deal; and the teacher
who can devise and execute such plans, _understanding their real place
and value, and adhering steadily through them all to the great object
which ought to engage his attention,_ is in the almost certain road to
success as an instructor. What I wish is not to discourage such efforts;
they ought to be encouraged to the utmost; but to have their real
nature and design, and the real secret of their success fully
understood, and to have the teacher, above all, take good care that all
his new plans are made, not the substitutes for the great objects which
he ought to keep steadily in view, but only the means by which he may
carry them into more full and complete effect.

In the case we are supposing, however, we will imagine that the teacher
does not do this. He fancies that he has made an important discovery,
and begins to inquire whether _the principle,_ as he calls it, can not
be applied to some other studies. He goes to philosophizing upon it, and
can find many reasons why knowledge received through the ear makes a
more ready and lasting impression than when it comes through the eye. He
attempts to apply the method to Arithmetic and Geography, and in a short
time is forming plans for the complete metamorphosis of his school. When
engaged in hearing a recitation, his mind is distracted with his schemes
and plans, and instead of devoting his attention fully to the work he
may have in hand, his thoughts are wandering continually to new schemes
and fancied improvements, which agitate and perplex him, and which elude
his efforts to give them a distinct and definite form. He thinks he
must, however, carry out his _principle_. He thinks of its applicability
to a thousand other cases. He revolves over and over again in his mind
plans for changing the whole arrangement of his school. He is again and
again lost in perplexity, his mind is engrossed and distracted, and his
present duties are performed with no interest, and consequently with
little spirit or success.

Now his error is in allowing a new idea, which ought only to have
suggested to him an agreeable change for a time in one of his classes,
to swell itself into undue and exaggerated importance, and to draw off
his mind from what ought to be the objects of his steady pursuit.

Perhaps some teacher of steady intellectual habits and a well-balanced
mind may think that this picture is fanciful, and that there is little
danger that such consequences will ever actually result from such a
cause. But, far from having exasperated the results. I am of opinion
that I might have gone much farther. There is no doubt that a great many
instances have occurred in which some simple idea like the one I have
alluded to has led the unlucky conceiver of it, in his eager pursuit,
far deeper into the difficulty than I have here supposed. He gets into a
contention with the school committee, that formidable foe to the
projects of all scheming teachers; and it would not be very difficult to
find many actual cases where the individual has, in consequence of some
such idea, quietly planned and taken measures to establish some new
institution, where he can carry on unmolested his plans, and let the
world see the full results of his wonderful discoveries.

We have in our country a very complete system of literary institutions,
so far as external organization will go, and the prospect of success is
far more favorable in efforts to carry these institutions into more
complete and prosperous operation, than in plans for changing them, or
substituting others in their stead. Were it not that such a course would
be unjust to individuals, a long and melancholy catalogue might easily
be made out of abortive plans which have sprung up in the minds of young
men in the manner I have described, and which, after perhaps temporary
success, have resulted in partial or total failure. These failures are
of every kind. Some are school-books on a new plan, which succeeds in
the inventor's hand chiefly on account of the spirit which carried it
into effect, but which in ordinary hands, and under ordinary
circumstances, and especially after long-continued use, have failed of
exhibiting any superiority. Others are institutions, commenced with
great zeal by the projectors, and which prosper just as long as that
zeal continues. Zeal will make any thing succeed for a time. Others are
new plans of instruction or government, generally founded on some good
principle carried to an extreme, or made to grow into exaggerated and
disproportionate importance. Examples almost innumerable of these things
might be particularized, if it were proper, and it would be found, upon
examination, that the amount of ingenuity and labor wasted upon such
attempts would have been sufficient, if properly expended, to have
elevated very considerably the standard of education, and to have placed
existing institutions in a far more prosperous and thriving state than
they now exhibit.

The reader will perhaps ask, Shall we make no efforts at improvement?
Must every thing in education go on in a uniform and monotonous manner,
and, while all else is advancing, shall our cause alone stand still? By
no means. It must advance; but let it advance mainly by the industry and
fidelity of those who are employed in it; by changes slowly and
cautiously made; not by great efforts to reach forward to brilliant
discoveries, which will draw off the attention from essential duties,
and, after leading the projector through perplexities and difficulties
without number, end in mortification and failure.

Were I to give a few concise and summary directions in regard to this
subject to a young teacher, they would be the following:

1. Examine thoroughly the system of public and private schools as now
constituted in most of the states of this Union, until you fully
understand it and appreciate its excellences and its completeness; see
how fully it provides for the wants of the various classes of our

By this I mean to refer only to the completeness of the _system_ as a
system of organization. I do not refer at all to the internal management
of these institutions; this last is, of course, a field for immediate
and universal effort at progress and improvement.

2. If, after fully understanding this system as it now exists, you are
of opinion that something more is necessary; if you think some classes
of the community are not fully provided for, or that some of our
institutions may be advantageously exchanged for others, the plan of
which you have in mind, consider whether your age, and experience, and
standing as an instructor are such as to enable you to place confidence
in your opinion.

I do not mean by this that a young man may not make a useful discovery,
but only that he may be led away by the ardor of early life to fancy
that essential and important which is really not so. It is important
that each one should determine whether this is not the case with
himself, if his mind is revolving some new plan.

3. Perhaps you are contemplating only a single new institution, which is
to depend for its success on yourself and some coadjutors whom you have
in mind and whom you well know. If this is the case, consider whether
the establishment you are contemplating can be carried on, after you
shall have left it, by such men as can ordinarily be obtained. If the
plan is founded on some peculiar notions of your own, which would enable
you to succeed in it when others, who might also be interested in such a
scheme, would probably fail, consider whether there may not be danger
that your plan may be imitated by others who can not carry it into
successful operation, so that it may be the indirect means of doing
injury. A man is, in some degree, responsible for his example and for
the consequences which may indirectly flow from his course, as well as
for the immediate results which he produces. The Fellenberg school at
Hofwyl was perhaps, by its direct results, as successful for a time as
any other institution in the world; but there is a great offset to the
good which it has thus done to be found in the history of the thousand
wretched imitations of it which have been started only to linger a
little while and die, and in which a vast amount of time, and talent,
and money have been wasted.


4. Consider the influence you may have upon the other institutions of
our country, by attaching yourself to some one under the existing
organization. If you take an academy or a private school, constituted
and organized like other similar institutions, success in your own will
give you influence over others. A successful teacher of an academy
raises the general standard of academic instruction. A college
professor, if he brings extraordinary talents to bear upon the regular
duties of that office, throws light, universally, upon the whole science
of college discipline and instruction, and thus aids in infusing a
continually renewed life and vigor into those venerable seats of
learning that might otherwise sink into decrepitude and decay. By going,
however, to some new field, establishing some new and fanciful
institution, you take yourself from such a sphere; you exert no
influence over others, except upon feeble imitators, who fail in their
attempts, and bring discredit upon your plans by the awkwardness with
which they attempt to adopt them. How much more service, then, to the
cause of education will a man of genius render, by falling in with the
regularly organized institutions of the country and elevating them, than
if in early life he were to devote his powers to some magnificent
project of an establishment to which his talents would unquestionably
have given temporary success, but which would have taken him away from
the community of teachers, and confined the results of his labors to the
more immediate effects which his daily duties might produce.

5. Perhaps, however, your plan is not the establishment of some new
institution, but the introduction of some new study or pursuit into the
one with which you are connected. Before, however, you interrupt the
regular arrangements of your school to make such a change, consider
carefully what is the real and appropriate object of your institution.
Every thing is not to be done in school. The principles of division of
labor apply with peculiar force to this employment; so that you must not
only consider whether the branch which you are now disposed to introduce
is important, but whether it is really such an one as it is on the whole
best to include among the objects to be pursued in such an institution.
Many teachers seem to imagine that if any thing is in itself important,
and especially if it is an important branch of education, the question
is settled of its being a proper object of attention in school. But this
is very far from being the case. The whole work of education can never
be intrusted to the teacher. Much must of course remain in the hands of
the parent; it ought so to remain. The object of a school is not to take
children out of the parental hands, substituting the watch and
guardianship of a stranger for the natural care of father and mother.
Far from it. It is only the association of the children for those
purposes which can be more successfully accomplished by association. It
is a union for few, specific, and limited objects, for the
accomplishment of that part (and it is comparatively a small part of
the general objects of education) which can be most successfully
effected by public institutions and in assemblies of the young.

6. If the branch which you are desiring to introduce appears to you to
be an important part of education, and if it seems to you that it can be
most successfully attended to in schools, then consider whether the
introduction of it, _and of all the other branches having equal claims_,
will or will not give to the common schools too great a complexity.
Consider whether it will succeed in the hands of ordinary teachers.
Consider whether it will require so much time and effort as will draw
off in any considerable degree, the attention of the teacher from the
more essential parts of his duty. All will admit that it is highly
important that every school should be simple in its plan--as simple as
its size and general circumstances will permit, and especially that the
public schools in every town and village of our country should never
lose sight of what is and must be, after all, their great
design--_teaching the whole population to ready write, and calculate._

7. If it is a school-book which you are wishing to introduce, consider
well before you waste your time in preparing it, and your spirits in the
vexatious work of getting it through the press; whether it is, _for
general use_, so superior to those already published as to induce
teachers to make a change in favor of yours. I have italicized the words
_for general use_, for no delusion is more common than for a teacher to
suppose that because a text-book which he has prepared and uses in
manuscript is better for _him_ than any other work which he can obtain,
it will therefore be better for _general circulation_. Every man, if he
has any originality of mind, has of course some peculiar method of his
own, and he can of course prepare a text-book which will be better
adapted to this method than those ordinarily in use. The history of a
vast number of text-books, Arithmetics, Geographies, and Grammars, is
this: A man of somewhat ingenious mind, adopts some peculiar mode of
instruction in one of these branches, and is quite successful, not
because the method has any very peculiar excellence, but simply because
he takes a greater interest in it, both on account of its novelty and
also from the fact that it is his own invention. He conceives the plan
of writing a text-book to develop and illustrate this method. He hurries
through the work. By some means or other he gets it printed. In due time
it is regularly advertised. The journals of education give notice of it;
the author sends a few copies to his friends, and that is the end of it.
Perhaps a few schools may make a trial of it, and if, for any reason,
the teachers who try it are interested in the work, probably in their
hands it succeeds. But it does not succeed so well as to attract general
attention, and consequently does not get into general circulation. The
author loses his time and his patience. The publisher, unless,
unfortunately, it was published on the author's account, loses his
paper, and in a few months scarcely any body knows that such a book ever
saw the light.

It is in this way that the great multitude of school-books which are now
constantly issuing from the press take their origin. Far be it from me
to discourage the preparation of good school-books. This department of
our literature offers a fine field for the efforts of learning and
genius. What I contend against is the endless multiplicity of useless
works, hastily conceived and carelessly executed, and which serve no
purpose but to employ uselessly talents which, if properly applied,
might greatly benefit both the community and the possessor.

8. If, however, after mature deliberation, you conclude that you have
the plan of a school-book which you ought to try to mature and execute,
be slow and cautious about it. Remember that so great is now the
competition in this branch, nothing but superior excellence or very
extraordinary exertions will secure the favorable reception of a work.
Examine all that your predecessors have done before you. Obtain,
whatever may be the trouble and expense, all other text-books on the
subject, and examine them thoroughly. If you see that you can make a
very decided advance on all that has been done, and that the public will
probably submit to the inconvenience and expense of a change to secure
the result of your labors, go forward slowly and carefully in your work,
no matter how much investigation, how much time and labor it may
require. The more difficulty you may find in gaining the eminence, the
less likely will you be to be followed by successful competitors.

9. Consider, in forming your text-book, not merely the whole subject on
which you are to write, but also look extensively and thoroughly at the
institutions throughout the country, and consider carefully the
character of the teachers by whom you expect it to be used. Sometimes a
man publishes a text-book, and when it fails on trial, he says "it is
because they did not know how to use it. The book in itself was good.
The whole fault was in the awkwardness and ignorance of the teacher."
How absurd! As if, to make a good text-book, it was not as necessary to
adapt it to teachers as to scholars. A _good text-book, which the
teachers for whom it was intended did not know how to use!!_ In other
words, a good contrivance, but entirely unfit for the purpose for which
it was intended.

10. Lastly, in every new plan, consider carefully whether its success in
your hands, after you have tried it and found it successful, be owing to
its novelty and to your own special interest in it, or to its own innate
and intrinsic superiority. If the former, use it so long as it will
last, simply to give variety and interest to your plans. Recommend it in
conversation or in other ways to teachers with whom you are acquainted,
not as a wonderful discovery, which is going to change the whole science
of education, but as one method among others which may be introduced
from time to time to relieve the monotony of the teacher's labors.

In a word, do not go away from the established institutions of our
country, or deviate from the great objects which are at present, and
ought continually to be pursued by them, without great caution,
circumspection, and deliberate inquiry. But, within these limits,
exercise ingenuity and invention as much as you will. Pursue steadily
the great objects which demand the teacher's attention. They are simple
and few. Never lose sight of them, nor turn to the right or to the left
to follow any ignis fatuus which may arise to allure you away, but
exercise as much ingenuity and enterprise as you please in giving
variety and interest to the modes by which these objects are pursued.

If planning and scheming are confined within these limits, and conducted
on these principles, the teacher will save all the agitating perplexity
and care which will otherwise be his continual portion. He can go
forward peaceably and quietly, and while his own success is greatly
increased, he may be of essential service to the cause in which he is
engaged, by making known his various experiments and plans to others.
For this purpose, it seems to me highly desirable that every teacher
should KEEP A JOURNAL of all his plans. In these should be carefully
entered all his experiments; the new methods he adopts; the course he
takes in regard to difficulties which may arise, and any interesting
incidents which may occur which it would be useful for him to refer to
at some future time. These, or the most interesting of them, should be
made known to other teachers. This may be done in several ways:

(1.) By publishing them in periodicals devoted to education. Such
contributions, furnished by judicious men, would be among the most
valuable articles in such a work. They would be far more valuable than
any general speculations, however well conceived or expressed.

(2.) In newspapers intended for general circulation. There are very few
editors whose papers circulate in families who would not gladly receive
articles of this kind to fill a teacher's department in their columns.
If properly written, they would be read with interest and profit by
multitudes of parents, and would throw much light on family government
and instruction.

(3.) By reading them in teachers' meetings. If half a dozen teachers who
are associated in the same vicinity would meet once a fortnight, simply
to hear each other's journals, they would be amply repaid for their time
and labor. Teachers' meetings will be interesting and useful, when those
who come forward in them will give up the prevailing practice of
delivering orations, and come down at once to the scenes and to the
business of the school-room.

There is one topic connected with the subject of this chapter which
deserves a few paragraphs. I refer to the rights of the committee, or
the trustees, or patrons in the control of the school. The right to such
control, when claimed at all, is usually claimed in reference to the
teacher's new plans, which renders it proper to allude to the subject
here; and it ought not to be omitted, for a great many cases occur in
which teachers have difficulties with the trustees or committee of their
school. Sometimes these difficulties result at last in an open rupture;
at other times in only a slight and temporary misunderstanding, arising
from what the teacher calls an unwise and unwarrantable interference on
the part of the committee or the trustees in the arrangements of the
school. Difficulties of some sort very often arise. In fact, a right
understanding of this subject is, in most cases, absolutely essential to
the harmony and co-operation of the teacher and the representatives of
his patrons.

There are then, it must be recollected, three different parties
connected with every establishment for education: the parents of the
scholars, the teacher, and the pupils themselves. Sometimes, as, for
example, in a common private school, the parents are not organized, and
whatever influence they exert they must exert in their individual
capacity. At other times, as in a common district or town school, they
are by law organized, and the school committee chosen for this purpose
are their legal representatives. In other instances, a board of trustees
are constituted by the appointment of the founders of the institution,
or by the Legislature of a state, to whom is committed the oversight of
its concerns, and who are consequently the representatives of the
founders and patrons of the school.

There are differences between these various modes of organization which
I shall not now stop to examine, as it will be sufficiently correct for
my purpose to consider them all as only various ways of organizing the
_employers_ in the contract by which the teacher is employed. The
teacher is the agent; the patrons represented in these several ways are
the principals. When, therefore, in the following paragraphs I use the
word _employers_, I mean to be understood to speak of the committee, or
the trustees, or the visitors, or the parents themselves, as the case in
each particular institution may be; that is, the persons for whose
purpose and at whose expense the institution is maintained, or their

Now there is a very reasonable and almost universally established rule,
which teachers are very frequently prone to forget, namely, _the
employed ought always to be responsible to the employers, and to be
under their direction._ So obviously reasonable is this rule, and, in
fact, so absolutely indispensable in the transaction of all the business
of life, that it would be idle to attempt to establish and illustrate it
here. It has, however, limitations, and it is applicable to a much
greater extent, in some departments of human labor than in others. It is
_applicable_ to the business of teaching, and though I confess that it
is somewhat less absolute and imperious here, still it is obligatory, I
believe, to a far greater extent than teachers have been generally
willing to admit.

A young lady, I will imagine, wishes to introduce the study of Botany
into her school. The parents or the committee object; they say that they
wish the children to confine their attention exclusively to the
elementary branches of education. "It will do them no good," says the
chairman of the committee, "to learn by heart some dozen or two of
learned names. We want them to read well, to write well, and to
calculate well, and not to waste their time in studying about pistils,
and stamens, and nonsense."

Now what is the duty of the teacher in such a case? Why, very plainly
her duty is the same as that of the governor of a state, where the
people, through their representatives, regularly chosen, negative a
proposal which he considers calculated to promote the public good. It is
his duty to submit to the public will; and, though he may properly do
all in his power to present the subject to his employers in such a light
as to lead them to regard it as he does, he must still, until they do so
regard it, bow to their authority; and every magistrate who takes an
enlarged and comprehensive view of his duties as the executive of a
republican community, will do this without any humiliating feelings of
submission to unauthorized interference with his plans. He will, on the
other hand, enjoy the satisfaction of feeling that he confines himself
to his proper sphere, and leave to others the full possession of rights
which properly pertain to them.

It is so with every case where the relation of employer and employed
subsists. You engage a carpenter to erect a house for you, and you
present your plan; instead of going to work and executing your orders
according to your wishes, he falls to criticising and condemning it; he
finds fault with this, and ridicules that, and tells you you ought to
make such and such an alteration in it. It is perfectly right for him to
give his opinion, in the tone and spirit of _recommendation or
suggestion_, with a distinct understanding that with his employer rests
the power and the right to decide. But how many teachers take
possession of their school-room as though it was an empire in which they
are supreme, who resist every interference of their employers as they
would an attack upon their personal freedom, and who feel that in regard
to every thing connected with school they have really no actual

In most cases, the employers, knowing how sensitive teachers very
frequently are on this point, acquiesce in it, and leave them to
themselves. Whenever, in any case, they think that the state of the
school requires their interference, they come cautiously and fearfully
to the teacher, as if they were encroaching upon his rights, instead of
advancing with the confidence and directness with which employers have
always a right to approach the employed; and the teacher, with the view
he has insensibly taken of the subject, being perhaps confirmed by the
tone and manner which his employers use, makes the conversation quite as
often an occasion of resentment and offense as of improvement. He is
silent, perhaps, but in his heart he accuses his committee or his
trustees of improper interference in _his_ concerns, as though it was no
part of _their_ business to look after work which is going forward for
their advantage, and for which they pay.

Perhaps some individuals who have had some collision with their trustees
or committee will ask me if I mean that a teacher ought to be entirely
and immediately under the supervision and control of the trustees, just
as a mechanic is when employed by another man. By no means. There are
various circumstances connected with the nature of this employment, such
as the impossibility of the employers fully understanding it in all its
details, and the character and the standing of the teacher himself,
which always will, in matter of fact, prevent this. The employers always
will, in a great many respects, place more confidence in the teacher and
in his views than they will in their own. But still, the ultimate power
is theirs. Even if they err, if they wish to have a course pursued
which is manifestly inexpedient and wrong, _they still have a right to
decide._ It is their work; it is going on at their instance and at their
expense, and the power of ultimate decision on all disputed questions
must, from the very nature of the case, rest with them. The teacher may,
it is true, have his option either to comply with their wishes or to
seek employment in another sphere; but while he remains in the employ of
any persons, whether in teaching or in any other service, he is bound to
yield to the wishes of his employers when they insist upon it, and to
submit good-humoredly to their direction when they shall claim their
undoubted right to direct.

This is to be done, it must be remembered, when they are wrong as well
as when they are right. The obligation of the teacher is not founded
upon _the superior wisdom_ of his employers in reference to the business
for which they have engaged him, for they are very probably his
inferiors in this respect, but _upon their right as employers_ to
determine _how their own work shall be done._ A gardener, we will
suppose, is engaged by a gentleman to lay out his grounds. The gardener
goes to work, and, after a few hours, the gentleman comes out to see how
he goes on and to give directions. He proposes something which the
gardener, who, to make the case stronger, we will suppose knows better
than the proprietor of the grounds, considers ridiculous and absurd;
nay, we will suppose _it is_ ridiculous and absurd. Now what can the
gardener do? There are obviously two courses. He can say to the
proprietor, after a vain attempt to convince him he is wrong, "Well,
sir, I will do just as you say. The grounds are yours: I have no
interest in it or responsibility, except to accomplish your wishes."
This would be right. Or he might say, "Sir, you have a right to direct
upon your own grounds, and I do not wish to interfere with your plans;
but I must ask you to obtain another gardener. I have a reputation at
stake, and this work, if I do it even at your direction, will be
considered as a specimen of my taste and of my planning, so that I must,
in justice to myself, decline remaining in your employment." This, too,
would be right, though probably, both in the business of gardening and
of teaching, the case ought to be a strong one to render it expedient.

But it would not be right for him, after his employer should have gone
away, to say to himself, with a feeling of resentment at the imaginary
_interference_, "I shall not follow any such directions; I understand my
own trade, and shall receive no instructions in it from him," and then,
disobeying all directions, go on and do the work contrary to the orders
of his employer, who alone has a right to decide.

And yet a great many teachers take a course as absurd and unjustifiable
as this would be. Whenever the parents, or the committee, or the
trustees express, however mildly and properly, their wishes in regard to
the manner in which they desire to have their own work performed, their
pride is at once aroused. They seem to feel it an indignity to act in
any other way than just in accordance with their own will and pleasure;
and they absolutely refuse to comply, resenting the interference as an
insult; or else, if they apparently yield, it is with mere cold
civility, and entirely without any honest desire to carry the wishes
thus expressed into actual effect.

Parents may, indeed, often misjudge. A good teacher will, however, soon
secure their confidence, and they may acquiesce in his opinion. But they
ought to be watchful, and the teacher ought to feel and acknowledge
their authority on all questions connected with the education of their
children. They have originally entire power in regard to the course
which is to be pursued with them. Providence has made the parents
responsible, and wholly responsible, for the manner in which their
children are prepared for the duties of this life, and it is interesting
to observe how very cautious the laws of society are about interfering
with the parent's wishes in regard to the education of the child. There
are many cases in which enlightened governments might make arrangements
which would be better than those made by the parents if they are left to
themselves. But they will not do it; they ought not to do it. God has
placed the responsibility in the hands of the father and mother, and
unless the manner in which it is exercised is calculated to endanger or
to injure the community, there can rightfully be no interference except
that of argument and persuasion.

It ought also to be considered that upon the parents will come the
consequences of the good or bad education of their children, and not
upon the teacher, and consequently it is right that they should direct.
The teacher remains, perhaps, a few months with his charge, and then
goes to other places, and perhaps hears of them no more. He has thus
very little at stake. The parent has every thing at stake; and it is
manifestly unjust to give one man the power of deciding, while he
escapes all the consequences of his mistakes, if he makes any, and to
take away all the _power_ from those upon whose heads all the suffering
which will follow an abuse of the power must descend.



There is, perhaps, no way by which a writer can more effectually explain
his views on the subject of education than by presenting a great variety
of actual cases, whether real or imaginary, and describing particularly
the course of treatment which he would recommend in each. This method of
communicating knowledge is very extensively resorted to in the medical
profession, where writers detail particular cases, and report the
symptoms and the treatment for each succeeding day, so that the reader
may almost fancy himself actually a visitor at the sick-bed, and the
nature and effects of the various prescriptions become fixed in the mind
with almost as much distinctness and permanency as actual experience
would give.

This principle has been kept in view, the reader may perhaps think, too
closely in all the chapters of this volume, almost every point brought
up having been illustrated by anecdotes and narratives. I propose,
however, devoting one chapter now to presenting a number of
miscellaneous cases, without any attempt to arrange them. Sometimes the
case will be merely stated, the reader being left to draw the inference;
at others, such remarks will be added as the case suggests. All will,
however, be intended to answer some useful purpose, either to exhibit
good or bad management and its consequences, or to bring to view some
trait of human nature, as it exhibits itself in children, which it may
be desirable for the teacher to know. Let it be understood, however,
that these cases are not selected with reference to their being strange
or extraordinary. They are rather chosen because they are common; that
is, they, or cases similar, will be constantly occurring to the teacher,
and reading such a chapter will be the best substitute for experience
which the teacher can have. Some are descriptions of literary exercises
or plans which the reader can adopt in classes or with a whole school;
others are cases of discipline, good or bad management, which the
teacher can imitate or avoid. The stories are from various sources, and
are the results of the experience of several individuals.

1. HATS AND BONNETS.--The master of a district school was accidentally
looking out of the window one day, and he saw one of the boys throwing
stones at a hat, which was put up for that purpose upon the fence. He
said nothing about it at the time, but made a memorandum of the
occurrence, that he might bring it before the school at the proper time.
When the hour set apart for attending to the general business of the
school had arrived, and all were still, he said,

"I saw one of the boys throwing stones at a hat to-day: did he do right
or wrong?"

There were one or two faint murmurs which sounded like "_Wrong_" but the
boys generally made no answer.

"Perhaps it depends a little upon the question whose hat it was. Do you
think it does depend upon that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, suppose then it was not his own hat, and he was throwing stones
at it without the owner's consent, would it be plain in that case
whether he was doing right or wrong?"

"Yes, sir; wrong," was the universal reply.

"Suppose it was his own hat, would he have been right? Has a boy a right
to do what he pleases with his own hat?"

"Yes, sir," "Yes, sir;" "No, sir," "No, sir," answered the boys,

"I do not know whose hat it was. If the boy who did it is willing to
rise and tell me, it will help us to decide this question."

The boy, knowing that a severe punishment was not in such a case to be
anticipated, and, in fact, apparently pleased with the idea of
exonerating himself from the blame of willfully injuring the property of
another, rose and said,

"I suppose it was I, sir, who did it, and it was my own hat."

"Well," said the master, "I am glad that you are willing to tell frankly
how it was; but let us look at this case. There are two senses in which
a hat may be said to belong to any person. It may belong to him because
he bought it and paid for it, or it may belong to him because it fits
him and he wears it. In other words, a person may have a hat as his
property, or he may have it only as a part of his dress. Now you see
that, according to the first of these senses, all the hats in this
school belong to your fathers. There is not, in fact, a single boy in
this school who has a hat of his own."

The boys laughed.

"Is not this the fact?"

"Yes, sir."

It certainly is so, though I suppose James did not consider it. Your
fathers bought your hats. They worked for them and paid for them. You
are only the wearers, and consequently every generous boy, and, in fact,
every honest boy, will be careful of the property which is intrusted to
him, but which, strictly speaking, is not his own.

2. MISTAKES.--A wide difference must always be made between mistakes
arising from carelessness, and those resulting from circumstances beyond
control, such as want of sufficient data, and the like. The former are
always censurable; the latter never; for they may be the result of
correct reasoning from insufficient data, and it is the reasoning only
for which the child is responsible.

"What do you suppose a prophet is?" said a teacher to a class of little
boys. The word occurred in their reading lesson.

The scholars all hesitated; at last one ventured to reply:

"If a man should sell a yoke of oxen, and get more for them than they
are worth, he would be a prophet."

"Yes," said the instructor, "that is right; that is one kind of
_profit_, but this is another and a little different," and he proceeded
to explain the word, and the difference of the spelling.

This child had, without doubt, heard of some transaction of the kind
which he described, and had observed that the word _profit_ was applied
to it. Now the care which he had exercised in attending to it at the
time, and remembering it when the same word (for the difference in the
spelling he of course knew nothing about) occurred again, was really
commendable. The fact, which is a mere accident, that we affix very
different significations to the same sound, was unknown to him. The
fault, if any where, was in the language and not in him, for he reasoned
correctly from the data he possessed, and he deserved credit for it.

The teacher should always discriminate carefully between errors of this
kind, and those that result from culpable carelessness.

3. TARDINESS.--"My duty to this school," said a teacher to his pupils,
"demands, as I suppose you all admit, that I should require you all to
be here punctually at the time appointed for the commencement of the
school. I have done nothing on this subject yet, for I wished to see
whether you would not come early on principle. I wish now, however, to
inquire in regard to this subject, and to ascertain how many have been
tardy, and to consider what must be done hereafter."

He made the inquiries, and ascertained pretty nearly how many had been
tardy, and how often within a week.

The number was found to be so great that the scholars admitted that
something ought to be done.

"What shall I do?" asked he. "Can any one propose a plan which will
remedy the difficulty?"

There was no answer.

"The easiest and pleasantest way to secure punctuality is for the
scholars to come early of their own accord, upon principle. It is
evident, from the reports, that many of you do so, but some do not. Now
there is no other plan which will not be attended with very serious
difficulty, but I am willing to adopt the one which will be most
agreeable to yourselves, if it will be likely to accomplish the object.
Has any one any plan to propose?"

There was a pause.

"It would evidently," continued the teacher, "be the easiest for me to
leave this subject, and do nothing about it. It is of no personal
consequence to me whether you come early or not, but as long as I hold
this office I must be faithful, and I have no doubt the school
committee, if they knew how many of you were tardy, would think I ought
to do something to diminish the evil.

"The best plan that I can think of is that all who are tardy should lose
their recess."

The boys looked rather anxiously at one another, but continued silent.

"There is a great objection to this plan from the fact that a boy is
sometimes necessarily absent, and by this rule he will lose his recess
with the rest, so that the innocent will be punished with the guilty."

"I should think, sir," said William, "that those who are _necessarily_
tardy might be excused."

"Yes, I should be very glad to excuse them, if I could find out who they

The boys seemed to be surprised at this remark, as if they thought it
would not be a difficult matter to decide.

"How can I tell?" asked the master.

"You can hear their excuses, and then decide."

"Yes," said the teacher: "but here are fifteen or twenty boys tardy this
morning; now how long would it take me to hear their excuses, and
understand each case thoroughly, so that I could really tell whether
they were tardy from good reasons or not?"

No answer.

"Should you not think it would take a minute apiece?"

"Yes, sir."

"It would, undoubtedly, and even then I could not in many cases tell. It
would take fifteen minutes, at least. I can not do this in school hours,
for I have not time, and if I do it in recess it will consume the whole
of every recess. Now I need the _rest_ of a recess as well as you, and
it does not seem to me to be just that I should lose the whole of mine
every day, and spend it in a most unpleasant business, when I take pains
myself to come punctually every morning. Would it be just?"

"No, sir."

"I think it would be less unjust to deprive all those of their recess
who are tardy; for then the loss of a recess by a boy who had not been
to blame would not be very common, and the evil would be divided among
the whole; but in the plan of my hearing the excuses it would all come
upon one."

After a short pause one of the boys said that they might be required to
bring written excuses.

"Yes, that is another plan," said the teacher; "but there are objections
to it. Can any of you think what they are? I suppose you have all been,
either at this school or at some other, required to bring written
excuses, so that you have seen the plan tried. Now have you never
noticed any objection to it?"

One boy said that it gave the parents a great deal of trouble at home.

"Yes," said the teacher, "this is a great objection; it is often very
inconvenient to write. But that is not the greatest difficulty; can any
of you think of any other?"

There was a pause.

"Do you think that these written excuses are, after all, a fair test of
the real reasons for tardiness? I understand that sometimes boys will
tease their fathers or mothers for an excuse when they do not deserve
it, 'Yes, sir,' and sometimes they will loiter about when sent of an
errand before school, knowing that they can get a written excuse, when
they might easily have been punctual."

"Yes, sir," "Yes, sir," said the boys.

"Well, now, if we adopt this plan, some unprincipled boy would always
contrive to have an excuse, whether necessarily tardy or not; and,
besides, each parent would have a different principle and a different
opinion as to what was a reasonable excuse, so that there would be no
uniformity, and, consequently, no justice in the operation of the

The boys admitted the truth of this, and, as no other plan was
presented, the rule was adopted of requiring all those who were tardy to
remain in their seats during the recess, whether they were necessarily
tardy or not. The plan very soon diminished the number of loiterers.

4. HELEN'S LESSON.--The possibility of being inflexibly firm in
measures, and, at the same time, gentle and mild in manners and
language, is happily illustrated in the following description, which is
based on an incident narrated by Mrs. Sherwood:

"Mrs. M. had observed, even during the few days that Helen had been
under her care, that she was totally unaccustomed to habits of diligence
and application. After making all due allowance for long-indulged habits
of indolence and inattention, she one morning assigned an easy lesson to
her pupil, informing her at the same time that she should hear it
immediately before dinner. Helen made no objections to the plan, but she
silently resolved not to perform the required task. Being in some
measure a stranger, she thought her aunt would not insist upon perfect
obedience, and besides, in her estimation, she was too old to be treated
like a child.

"During the whole morning Helen exerted herself to be mild and obliging;
her conduct toward her aunt was uncommonly affectionate. By these and
various other artifices she endeavored to gain her first victory.
Meanwhile Mrs. M. quietly pursued her various avocations, without
apparently noticing Helen's conduct. At length dinner-hour arrived; the
lesson was called for, but Helen was unprepared. Mrs. M. told Helen she
was sorry that she had not learned the lesson, and concluded by saying
that she hoped she would be prepared before tea-time.

"Helen, finding she was not to come to the table, began to be a little
alarmed. She was acquainted in some measure with the character of her
aunt, still she hoped to be allowed to partake of the dessert, as she
had been accustomed to on similar occasions at home, and soon regained
her wonted composure. But the dinner-cloth was removed, and there sat
Helen, suffering not a little from hunger; still she would not complain;
she meant to convince her aunt that she was not moved by trifles.

"A walk had been proposed for the afternoon, and as the hour drew near,
Helen made preparations to accompany the party. Mrs. M. reminded her of
her lesson, but she just noticed the remark by a toss of the head, and
was soon in the green fields, apparently the gayest of the gay. After
her return from the excursion she complained of a head-ache, which in
fact she had. She threw herself languidly on the sofa, sighed deeply,
and took up her History.

"Tea was now on the table, and most tempting looked the white loaf. Mrs.
M. again heard the pupil recite, but was sorry to find the lesson still
imperfectly prepared. She left her, saying she thought half an hour's
additional study would conquer all the difficulties she found in the

"During all this time Mrs. M. appeared so perfectly calm, composed, and
even kind, and so regardless of sighs and doleful exclamations, that
Helen entirely lost her equanimity, and let her tears flow freely and
abundantly. Her mother was always moved by her tears, and would not her
aunt relent? No. Mrs. M. quietly performed the duties of the table, and
ordered the tea-equipage to be removed. This latter movement brought
Helen to reflection. It is useless to resist, thought she; indeed, why
should I wish to? Nothing too much has been required of me. How
ridiculous I have made myself appear in the eyes of my aunt, and even of
the domestics!

"In less than an hour she had the satisfaction of reciting her lesson
perfectly; her aunt made no comments on the occasion, but assigned her
the next lesson, and went on sewing. Helen did not expect this; she had
anticipated a refreshing cup of tea after the long siege. She had
expected that even something nicer than usual would be necessary to
compensate her for her past sufferings. At length, worn out by
long-continued watching and fasting, she went to the closet, provided
herself with a cracker, and retired to bed to muse deliberately on the
strange character of her aunt.

"Teachers not unfrequently threaten their pupils with some proper
punishment, but, when obliged to put the threat into execution, contrive
in some indirect way to abate its rigor, and thus destroy all its
effects. For example, a mother was in the habit, when her little boy ran
beyond his prescribed play-ground, of putting him into solitary
confinement. On such occasions, she was very careful to have some
amusing book or diverting plaything in a conspicuous part of the room,
and not unfrequently a piece of gingerbread was given to solace the
runaway. The mother thought it very strange her little boy should so
often transgress, when he knew what to expect from such a course of
conduct. The boy was wiser than the mother; he knew perfectly well how
to manage the business. He could play with the boys beyond the garden
gate, and if detected, to be sure he was obliged to spend a quiet hour
in the pleasant parlor. But this was not intolerable as long as he could
expect a paper of sugar-plums, a cake, or at least something amply to
compensate him for the loss of a game at marbles."

5. COMPLAINTS or LONG LESSONS.--A college officer assigned lessons which
the idle and ignorant members of the class thought too long. They
murmured for a time, and at last openly complained. The other members of
the class could say nothing in behalf of the professor, awed by the
greatest of all fears to a collegian, the fear of being called a
"_fisher_" or a "_blueskin_" The professor paid no attention to the
petitions and complaints which were poured in upon him, and which,
though originated by the idle, all were compelled to vote for. He
coldly, and with uncompromising dignity, went on; the excitement in the
class increased, and what is called a college rebellion, with all its
disastrous consequences to the infatuated rebels, ensued.

Another professor had the dexterity to manage the case in a different
way. After hearing that there was dissatisfaction, he brought up the
subject as follows:

"I understand, gentlemen, that you consider your lessons too long.
Perhaps I have overrated the abilities of the class, but I have not
intended to assign you more than you can accomplish. I feel no other
interest in the subject than the pride and pleasure it would give me to
have my class stand high, in respect to the amount of ground it has gone
over, when you come to examination. I propose, therefore, that you
appoint a committee, in whose abilities and judgment you can confide,
and let them examine this subject and report. They might ascertain how
much other classes have done, and how much is expedient for this class
to attempt; and then, by estimating the number of recitations assigned
to this study, they can easily determine what should be the length of
the lessons."

The plan was adopted, and the report put an end to the difficulty.

6. ENGLISH COMPOSITION.--The great prevailing fault of writers in this
country is an affectation of eloquence. It is almost universally the
fashion to aim, not at striking thoughts, simply and clearly expressed,
but at splendid language, glowing imagery, and magnificent periods. It
arises, perhaps, from the fact that public speaking is the almost
universal object of ambition, and, consequently, both at school and at
college, nothing is thought of but oratory. Vain attempts at oratory
result, in nine cases out of ten, in grandiloquence and empty
verbiage--common thoughts expressed in pompous periods.

The teacher should guard against this, and assign to children such
subjects as are within the field of childish observation. A little skill
on his part will soon determine the question which kind of writing shall
prevail in his school. The following specimens, both written with some
skill, will illustrate the two kinds of writing alluded to. Both were
written by pupils of the same age, twelve; one a boy, the other a girl.
The subjects were assigned by the teacher. I need not say that the
following was the writer's first attempt at composition, and that it is
printed without alteration.


The joyful sailor embarks on board of his ship, the sails are spread to
catch the playful gale, swift as an arrow he cuts the rolling wave. A
few days thus sporting on the briny wave, when suddenly the sky is
overspread with clouds, the rain descends in torrents, the sails are
lowered, the gale begins, the vessel is carried with great velocity, and
the shrouds, unable to support the tottering mast, gives way to the
furious tempest; the vessel is drove among the rocks, is sprung aleak;
the sailor works at the pumps till, faint and weary, is heard from
below, six feet of water in the hold; the boats are got ready, but,
before they are into them, the vessel is dashed against a reef of rocks;
some, in despair, throw themselves into the sea; others get on the rocks
without any clothes or provisions, and linger a few days, perhaps weeks
or months, living on shell fish, or perhaps taken up by some ship;
others get on pieces of the wreck, and perhaps be cast on some foreign
country, where perhaps he may be taken by the natives, and sold into
slavery where he never more returns.

In regard to the following specimen, it should be stated that when the
subject was assigned, the pupil was directed to see how precisely she
could imitate the language and conversation which two little children
really lost in the woods would use. While writing, therefore, her mind
was in pursuit of the natural and the simple, not of the eloquent.


_Emily_. Look here! see how many berries I've got. I don't believe
you've got so many.

_Charles_. Yes, I'm sure I have. My basket's almost full; and if we
hurry, we shall get ever so many before we go home. So pick away as fast
as you can, Emily.

_Emily_. There, mine is full. Now we'll go and find some flowers for
mother. You know somebody told us there were some red ones close to that

_Charles_. Well, so we will. We'll leave our baskets here, and come back
and get them.

_Emily_. But if we can't find our way back, what shall we do?

_Charles_. Poh! I can find the way back. I only want a quarter to seven
years old, and I sha'n't lose myself, I know.

_Emily_. Well, we've got flowers enough, and now I'm tired and want to
go home.

_Charles. I_ don't; but, if you are tired, we'll go and find our

_Emily_. Where do you think they are? We've been looking a great while
for them. I know we are lost, for when we went after the flowers we
only turned once, and coming back we have turned three times.

_Charles_. Have we? Well, never mind, I guess we shall find them.

_Emily_. I'm afraid we sha'n't. Do let's run.

_Charles_. Well, so do. Oh, Emily! here's a brook, and I am sure we
didn't pass any brook going.

_Emily_. Oh dear! we must be lost. Hark! Charles, didn't you hear that
dreadful noise just now? Wasn't it a bear?

_Charles_. Poh! I should love to see a bear here. I guess, if he should
come near me, I would give him one good slap that would make him feel
pretty bad. I could kill him at the first hit.

_Emily_. I should like to see you taking hold of a bear. Why, didn't you
know bears were stronger than men? But only see how dark it grows; we
sha'n't see ma to-night, I'm afraid.

_Charles_. So am I: do let's run some more.

_Emily_. Oh, Charles, do you believe we shall ever find the way out of
this dreadful long wood?

_Charles_. Let's scream, and see if somebody won't come.

_Emily_. Well (screaming), ma! ma!

_Charles_ (screaming also). Pa! pa!

_Emily_. Oh dear! there's the sun setting. It will be dreadfully dark
by-and-by, won't it?

We have given enough for a specimen. The composition, though faulty in
many respects, illustrates the point we had in view.

7. Insincere Confession.--An assistant in a school informed the
principal that she had some difficulty in preserving order in a certain
class composed of small children. The principal accordingly went into
the class, and something like the following dialogue ensued:

"Your teacher informs me," said the principal, "that there is not
perfect order in the class. Now if you are satisfied that there has not
been order, and wish to help me discover and correct the fault, we can
do it very easily. If, on the other hand, you do not wish to co-operate
with me, it will be a little more difficult for me to correct it, and I
must take a different course. Now I wish to know, at the outset, whether
you do or do not wish to help me?"

A faint "Yes, sir," was murmured through the class.

"I do not wish you to assist me unless you really and honestly desire it
yourselves; and if you undertake to do it, you must do it honestly. The
first thing which will be necessary will be an open and thorough
exposure of all which has been wrong, and this, you know, will be
unpleasant. But I will put the question to vote by asking how many are
willing that I should know, entirely and fully, all that they have done
in this class that has been wrong?"

Very nearly all the hands were raised at once, promptly, and the others
were gradually brought up, though with more or less of hesitation.

"Are you willing not only to tell me yourselves what you have done, but
also, in case any one has forgotten something which she has done, that
others should tell me of it?"

The hands were all raised.

After obtaining thus from the class a distinct and universal expression
of willingness that all the facts should be made known, the principal
called upon all those who had any thing to state to raise their hands,
and those who raised them had opportunity to say what they wished. A
great number of very trifling incidents were mentioned, such as could
not have produced any difficulty in the class, and, consequently, could
not have been the real instances of disorder alluded to. Or at least it
was evident, if they were, that in the statement they must have been so
palliated and softened that a really honest confession had not been
made. This result might, in such a case, have been expected. Such is
human nature, that in nine cases out of ten, unless such a result had
been particularly guarded against, it would have inevitably followed.

Not only will such a result follow in individual cases like this, but,
unless the teacher watches and guards against it, it will grow into a
habit. I mean, boys will get a sort of an idea that it is a fine thing
to confess their faults, and by a show of humility and frankness will
deceive their teacher, and perhaps themselves, by a sort of
acknowledgment, which in fact exposes nothing of the guilt which the
transgressor professes to expose. A great many cases occur where
teachers are pleased with the confession of faults, and scholars
perceive it, and the latter get into the habit of coming to the teacher
when they have done something which they think may get them into
difficulty, and make a sort of half confession, which, by bringing
forward every palliating circumstance, and suppressing every thing of
different character, keeps entirely out of view all the real guilt of
the transgression. The criminal is praised by the teacher for the
frankness and honesty of the confession, and his fault is freely
forgiven. He goes away, therefore, well satisfied with himself, when, in
fact, he has been only submitting to a little mortification,
voluntarily, to avoid the danger of a greater; much in the same spirit
with that which leads a man to receive the small-pox by inoculation, to
avoid the danger of taking it in the natural way.

The teacher who accustoms his pupils to confess their faults voluntarily
ought to guard carefully against this danger. When such a case as the
one just described occurs, it will afford a favorable opportunity of
showing distinctly to pupils the difference between an honest and a
hypocritical confession. In this instance the teacher proceeded thus:

"Now there is one more question which I wish you all to answer by your
votes honestly. It is this. Do you think that the real disorder which
has been in this class--that is, the real cases which you referred to
when you stated to me that you thought that the class was not in good
order--have been now really exposed, so that I honestly and fully
understand the case? How many suppose so?"

Not a single hand was raised.

"How many of you think, and are willing to avow your opinion, that I
have _not_ been fully informed of the case?"

A large proportion held up their hands.

"Now it seems the class pretended to be willing that I should know all
the affair. You pretended to be willing to tell me the whole, but when I
call upon you for the information, instead of telling me honestly, you
attempt to amuse me by little trifles, which in reality made no
disturbance, and you omit the things which you know were the real
objects of my inquiries. Am I right in my supposition?"

They were silent. After a moment's pause, one perhaps raised her hand,
and began now to confess something which she had before concealed.

The teacher, however, interrupted her by saying,

"I do not wish to have the confession made now. I gave you all time to
do that, and now I should rather not hear any more about the disorder. I
gave an opportunity to have it acknowledged, but it was not honestly
improved, and now I should rather not hear. I shall probably never know.

"I wished to see whether this class would be honest--really honest, or
whether they would have the insincerity to pretend to be confessing when
they were not doing so honestly, so as to get the credit of being frank
and sincere, when in reality they are not so. Now am I not compelled to
conclude that this latter is the case?"

Such an example will make a deep and lasting impression. It will show
that the teacher is upon his guard; and there are very few so hardened
in deception that they would not wish that they had been really sincere
rather than rest under such an imputation.

8. Court.--A pupil, quite young (says a teacher), came to me one day
with a complaint that one of her companions had got her seat. There had
been some changes in the seats by my permission, and probably, from some
inconsistency in the promises which I had made, there were two claimants
for the same desk. The complainant came to me, and appealed to my
recollection of the circumstance.

"I do not recollect any thing about it," said I.

"Why, Mr. B.!" replied she, with astonishment.

"No," said I; "you forget that I have, every day, arrangements, almost
without number, of such a kind to make, and as soon as I have made one I
immediately forget all about it."

"Why, don't you remember that you got me a new baize?"

"No; I ordered a dozen new baizes at that time, but I do not remember
who they were for."

There was a pause; the disappointed complainant seemed not to know what
to do.

"I will tell you what to do. Bring the case into court, and I will try
it regularly."

"Why, Mr. B., I do not like to do any thing like that about it; besides,
I do not know how to write an indictment."

"Oh," I answered, "the scholars will like to have a good trial, and this
will make a new sort of case. All our cases thus far have been for
_offenses_--that is what they call criminal cases--and this will be only
an examination of the conflicting claims of two individuals to the same
property, and it will excite a good deal of interest. I think you had
better bring it into court."

She went slowly and thoughtfully to her seat, and presently returned
with an indictment.

"Mr. B., is this right?"

It was as follows:

I accuse Miss A.B. of coming to take away my seat--the one Mr. B. gave

Witnesses, { C.D.
{ E.T.

"Why--yes--that will do; and yet it is not exactly right. You see this
is what they call a _civil_ case."

"I don't think it is very _civil_."

"No, I don't mean it was civil to take your seat, but this is not a case
where a person is prosecuted for having done any thing wrong."

The plaintiff looked a little perplexed, as if she could not understand
how it could be otherwise than wrong for a girl to usurp her seat.

"I mean, you do not bring it into court as a case of wrong. You do not
want her to be punished, do you?"

"No, I only want her to give me up my seat; I don't want her to be

"Well, then, you see that, although she may have done wrong to take your
seat, it is not in that point of view that you bring it into court. It
is a question about the right of property, and the lawyers call such
cases _civil_ cases, to distinguish them from cases where persons are
tried for the purpose of being punished for doing wrong. These last are
called criminal cases."

The aggrieved party still looked perplexed. "Well, Mr. B.," she
continued, "what shall I do? How shall I write it? I can not say any
thing about _civil_ in it, can I?"

A form was given her which would be proper for the purpose, and the case
was brought forward, and the evidence on both sides examined. The
irritation of the quarrel was soon dissipated in the amusement of a
semi-serious trial, and both parties good-humoredly acquiesced in the

9. TEACHERS' PERSONAL CHARACTER.--Much has been said within a few years,
by writers on the subject of education in this country, on the
desirableness of raising the business of teaching to the rank of a
learned profession. There is but one way of doing this, and that is
raising the personal characters and attainments of the teachers
themselves. Whether an employment is elevated or otherwise in public
estimation, depends altogether on the associations, connected with it in
the public mind, and these depend altogether on the characters of the
individuals who are engaged in it. Franklin, by the simple fact that he
was a printer himself, has done more toward giving dignity and
respectability to the employment of printing, than a hundred orations
on the intrinsic excellence of the art. In fact, all mechanical
employments have, within a few years, risen in rank in this country, not
through the influence of efforts to impress the community directly with
a sense of their importance, but simply because mechanics themselves
have risen in intellectual and moral character. In the same manner, the
employment of the teacher will be raised most effectually in the
estimation of the public, not by the individual who writes the most
eloquent oration on the intrinsic dignity of the art, but by the one who
goes forward most successfully in the exercise of it, and who, by his
general attainments and public character, stands out most fully to the
view of the public as a well-informed, liberal-minded, and useful man.

If this is so--and it can not well be denied--it furnishes to every
teacher a strong motive to exertion for the improvement of his own
personal character. But there is a stronger motive still in the results
which flow directly to himself from such efforts. No man ought to engage
in any business which, as mere business, will engross all his time and
attention. The Creator has bestowed upon every one a mind, upon the
cultivation of which our rank among intelligent beings, our happiness,
our moral and intellectual power, every thing valuable to us, depend;
and after all the cultivation which we can bestow, in this life, upon
this mysterious principle, it will still be in embryo. The progress
which it is capable of making is entirely indefinite. If by ten years of
cultivation we can secure a certain degree of knowledge and power, by
ten more we can double, or more than double it, and every succeeding
year of effort is attended with equal success. There is no point of
attainment where we must stop, or beyond which effort will bring in a
less valuable return.

Look at that teacher, and consider for a moment his condition. He began
to teach when he was twenty years of age, and now he is forty. Between
the ages of fifteen and twenty he made a vigorous effort to acquire
such an education as would fit him for these duties. He succeeded, and
by these efforts he raised himself from being a mere laborer, receiving
for his daily toil a mere daily subsistence, to the respectability and
the comforts of an intellectual pursuit. But this change once produced,
he stops short in his progress. Once seated in his desk, he is
satisfied, and for twenty years he has been going through the same
routine, without any effort to advance or to improve. He does not
reflect that the same efforts, which so essentially altered his
condition and prospects at twenty, would have carried him forward to
higher and higher sources of influence and enjoyment as long as he
should continue them. His efforts ceased when he obtained a situation as
teacher at fifty dollars a month, and, though twenty years have glided
away, he is now exactly what he was then.

There is probably no employment whatever which affords so favorable an
opportunity for personal improvement--for steady intellectual and moral
progress, as that of teaching. There are two reasons for this:

First, there is time for it. With an ordinary degree of health and
strength, the mind can be vigorously employed at least ten hours a day.
As much as this is required of students in many literary institutions.
In fact, ten hours to study, seven to sleep, and seven to food,
exercise, and recreation, is perhaps as good an arrangement as can be
made; at any rate, very few persons will suppose that such a plan allows
too little under the latter head. Now six hours is as much as is
expected of a teacher under ordinary circumstances, and it is as much as
ought ever to be bestowed; for, though he may labor four hours out of
school in some new field, his health and spirits will soon sink under
the burden, if, after his weary labors during the day in school, he
gives up his evenings to the same perplexities and cares. And it is not
necessary. No one who knows any thing of the nature of the human mind,
and who will reflect a moment on the subject, can doubt that a man can
make a better school by expending six hours labor upon it with alacrity
and ardor, than he can by driving himself on to ten. Every teacher,
therefore, who is commencing his work, should begin with the firm
determination of devoting only six hours daily to the pursuit. Make as
good a school, and accomplish as much for it as you can in six hours,
and let the rest go. When you come from your school-room at night, leave
all your perplexities and cares behind you. No matter what unfinished
business or unsettled difficulties remain, dismiss them till another sun
shall rise, and the hour of duty for another day shall come. Carry no
school-work home with you, and do not even talk of your school-work at
home. You will then get refreshment and rest. Your mind, during the
evening, will be in a different world from that in which you have moved
during the day. At first this will be difficult. It will be hard for
you, unless your mind is uncommonly well disciplined, to dismiss all
your cares; and you will think, each evening, that some peculiar
emergency demands your attention _just at that time,_ and that as soon
as you have passed the crisis you will confine yourself to what you
admit are generally reasonable limits; but if you once allow school,
with its perplexities and cares, to get possession of the rest of the
day, it will keep possession. It will intrude itself into all your
waking thoughts, and trouble you in your dreams. You will lose all
command of your powers, and, besides cutting off from yourself all hope
of general intellectual progress, you will, in fact, destroy your
success as a teacher. Exhaustion, weariness, and anxiety will be your
continual portion, and in such a state no business can be successfully

There need be no fear that employers will be dissatisfied if the teacher
acts upon this principle. If he is faithful, and enters with all his
heart into the discharge of his duties during six hours, there will be
something in the ardor, and alacrity, and spirit with which his duties
will be performed which parents and scholars will both be very glad to
receive in exchange for the languid, and dull, and heartless toil in
which the other method must sooner or later result.

* * * * *

If the teacher, then, will confine himself to such a portion of time as
is, in fact, all he can advantageously employ, there will be much left
which can be devoted to his own private employment--more than is usual
in the other avocations of life. In most of these other avocations there
is not the same necessity for limiting the hours which a man may devote
to his business. A merchant, for example, may be employed nearly all the
day at his counting-room, and so may a mechanic. A physician may spend
all his waking hours in visiting patients, and feel little more than
healthy fatigue. The reason is, that in all these employments, and, in
fact, in most of the employments of life, there is so much to diversify,
so many little incidents constantly occurring to animate and relieve,
and so much bodily exercise, which alternates with and suspends the
fatigues of the mind, that the labors may be much longer continued, and
with less cessation, and yet the health not suffer. But the teacher,
while engaged in his work, has his mind continually on the stretch.
There is little relief, little respite, and he is almost entirely
deprived of bodily exercise. He must, consequently, limit his hours of
attending to his business, or his health will soon sink under labors
which Providence never intended the human mind to bear.

There is another circumstance which facilitates the progress of the
teacher. It is a fact that all this general progress has a direct and
immediate bearing upon his pursuits. A lawyer may read in an evening an
interesting book of travels, and find nothing to help him with his case,
the next day, in court; but almost every fact which the teacher thus
learns will come _at once into use_ in some of his recitations at
school. We do not mean to imply by this that the members of the legal
profession have not need of a great variety and extent of knowledge;
they doubtless have. It is simply in the _directness_ and _certainty_
with which the teacher's knowledge may be applied to his purpose that
the business of teaching has the advantage over every other pursuit.

This fact, now, has a very important influence in encouraging and
leading forward the teacher to make constant intellectual progress, for
every step brings at once a direct reward.

10. THE CHESTNUT BURR.--_A story for school-boys._--One fine Saturday
afternoon, in the fall of the year, the master was taking a walk in the
woods, and he came to a place where a number of boys were gathering

One of the boys was sitting upon a bank trying to open some chestnut
burrs which he had knocked off from the tree. The burrs were green, and
he was attempting to open them by pounding them with a stone.


He was a very impatient boy, and was scolding in a loud, angry, tone
against the burrs. He did not see, he said, what in the world chestnuts
were made to grow so for. They ought to grow right out in the open air,
like apples, and not have such vile porcupine skins on them, just to
plague the boys. So saying, he struck with all his might a fine large
burr, crushed it to pieces, and then jumped up, using at the same time
profane and wicked words. As soon as he turned round he saw the master
standing very near him. He felt very much ashamed and afraid, and hung
down his head.

"Roger," said the master (for this boy's name was Roger), "can you get
me a chestnut burr?"

Roger looked up for a moment to see whether the master was in earnest,
and then began to look around for a burr.

A boy who was standing near the tree, with a red cap full of burrs in
his hand, held out one of them. Roger took the burr and handed it to the
master, who quietly put it into his pocket, and walked away without
saying a word.

As soon as he was gone, the boy with the red cap said to Roger, "I
expected that the master would have given you a good scolding for
talking so."

"The master never scolds," said another boy, who was sitting on a log
pretty near, with a green satchel in his hand, "but you see if he does
not remember it." Roger looked as if he did not know what to think about

"I wish," said he, "I knew what he is going to do with that burr."

That afternoon, when the lessons had been all recited, and it was about
time to dismiss the school, the boys put away their books, and the
master read a few verses in the Bible, and then offered a prayer, in
which he asked God to forgive all the sins which any of them had
committed that day, and to take care of them during the night. After
this he asked the boys all to sit down. He then took his handkerchief
out of his pocket and laid it on the desk, and afterward he put his
hand into his pocket again, and took out the chestnut burr, and all the
boys looked at it.

"Boys," said he, "do you know what this is?"

One of the boys in the back seat said, in a half whisper, "It is nothing
but a chestnut burr."

"Lucy," said the master to a bright-eyed little girl near him, "what is

"It is a chestnut burr, sir," said she.

"Do you know what it is for?"

"I suppose there are chestnuts in it."

"But what is this rough, prickly covering for?"

Lucy did not know.

"Does any body here know?" said the master.

One of the boys said that he supposed it was to hold the chestnuts
together, and keep them up on the tree.

"But I heard a boy say," replied the master, "that they ought not to be
made to grow so. The nut itself, he thought, ought to hang alone on the
branches, without any prickly covering, just as apples do."

"But the nuts themselves have no stems to be fastened by," answered the
same boy.

"That is true; but I suppose this boy thought that God could have made
them grow with stems, and that this would have been better than to have
them in burrs."

After a little pause the master said that he would explain TO them what
the chestnut burr was for, and wished them all to listen attentively.

"How much of the chestnut is good to eat, William?" asked he, looking at
a boy before him.

"Only the meat."

"How long does it take the meat to grow?"

"All summer, I suppose, it is growing."

"Yes; it begins early in the summer, and gradually swells and grows
until it has become of full size, and is ripe, in the fall. Now suppose
there was a tree out here near the school-house, and the chestnut meats
should grow upon it without any shell or covering; suppose, too, that
they should taste like good ripe chestnuts at first, when they were very
small. Do you think they would be safe?"

William said "No; the boys would pick and eat them before they had time
to grow."

"Well, what harm would there be in that? Would it not be as well to have
the chestnuts early in the summer as to have them in the fall?"

William hesitated. Another boy who sat next to him said,

"There would not be so much meat in the chestnuts if they were eaten
before they had time to grow."

"Right," said the master; "but would not the boys know this, and so all
agree to let the little chestnuts stay, and not eat them while they were

William said he thought they would not. If the chestnuts were good, he
was afraid they would pick them off and eat them if they were small.

All the rest of the boys in the school thought so too.

"Here, then," said the master, "is one reason for having prickles around
the chestnuts when they are small. But then it is not necessary to have
all chestnuts guarded from boys in this way; a great many of the trees
are in the woods, which the boys do not see; what good do the burrs do
in these trees?"

The boys hesitated. Presently the boy who had the green satchel under
the tree with Roger, who was sitting in one corner of the room, said,

"I should think they would keep the squirrels from eating them.

"And besides," continued he, after thinking a moment, "I should suppose,
if the meat of the chestnut had no covering, the rain would wet it and
make it rot, or the sun might dry and wither it."

"Yes," said the master, "these are very good reasons why the nut should
be carefully guarded. First the meats are packed away in a hard brown
shell, which the water can not get through; this keeps it dry, and away
from dust and other things which might injure it. Then several nuts thus
protected grow closely together inside this green, prickly covering,
which spreads over them and guards them from the larger animals and the
boys. Where the chestnut gets its full growth and is ripe, this
covering, you know, splits open, and the nuts drop out, and then any
body can get them and eat them."

The boys were then all satisfied that it was better that chestnuts
should grow in burrs.

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