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position. It is a remark among teachers, as common as household words, that “school-keeping might be a delightful employment, if one could take his pupils entirely out of the reach of their parents.” The experience of those who have had charge of academies in the country, where the pupils chiefly were away from their own homes, goes to establish the same point ; and any one, who has attentively watched the course of events in one of those important communities which we call a school district, cannot have failed to draw the conclusion to which we have come.
We would not, however, advocate the removal of the young from their parents for the purposes of education, except in extreme cases. We believe that our Creator has wisely established the family relation, and that it is our duty to draw out and render available its uses, rather than by extinction of the relation to destroy its abuses. We believe, indeed, that the child can be best educated among those of his own kindred, provided parents and teachers can by any means be made to understand one another's relative duties and obligations.
Enough has now been said to show that the subject assigned by the government of the Institute for my consideration, to wit : “THE MUTUAL DUTIES OF PARENTS AND TEACHERS," is one of no minor importance; it is for me to regret that it fell not into abler hands.
Between parties, who are so often brought into collision, it is highly desirable there should exist some well defined mutual understanding. In many of our public schools the usefulness of one teacher after another is effectually destroyed; the youth not only suffering from the interruption of their studies, but also from the angry looks and harsh words witnessed at home, the parents meantime working themselves up into the exercise of bad feeling, where, perhaps, nothing is designed but good. They are often parents, who feel sufficiently the importance of education, whose impulses are sufficiently powerful, if only moved in the right direction, to carry them into the performance of every good word and work. They make, it may be, liberal appropriations for the support of their schools, – but after all, the atinosphere is unhealthy. One sun after another rises upon them, only to raise the vapor and the mildew,- and shorn of their beams and robbed of their warmth, they go down in clouds and tempests, while the district over which they have passed is left in still greater darkness, and the
chill and the gloom of a winter's midnight yet hang over them, perhaps only to be again made more visible by the rising of another luckless luminary.
But why is this? Why all this waste of strength, of money, and of talent? Why so often must the teacher on the one hand, and the parent on the other, row in opposite directions ? Let us for a few moments inquire into the causes of the difficulty, and then we may hope the better to adapt a prevention or devise a remedy.
What, then, are some of the causes of misunderstanding between parents and teachers ?
1. Parents do not sufficiently feel the importance of schools. After all that has been said in our halls of legislation, in our political assemblies, in our public journals, and in our pulpits, upon the importance to a free and independent people, of a good education, there are many, very many, who have no adequate notion of its value. This lack of appreciation will show itself in many ways, to make the duties of the teacher more arduous.
One man keeps his son from the school on the slightest occasion ; another, by the same spirit, refuses to furnish the various facilities, which the teacher may deern necessary
for the prosecution of study. Now while such is the state of feeling in the parent's mind, the business of instructing his child, who will most assuredly partake of his father's spirit, will be more arduous than the making of bricks and furnishing the straw under the task-masters of the Egyptian monarch.
2. A false standard of excellence and attainment for our schools in the minds of parents, is another source of much difficulty and inconvenience to the teacher. The standard of their own attainments and of the school of their boy hood is put by many parents, for the youth and schools of the present day. They seem not to reflect that a child, in order to maintain his comparative standing in society now, must know more than if he had lived fifty years ago, - because the progress in education, without claiming much for the “march of intellect,” having kept pace in some ratio with other things, the whole body of the people are more advanced. Having in view a standard so low, the parent grudgingly furnishes the books and apparatus, which may be needed to carry his son beyond his own level, -and he sees no beauty or fitness in the plans and measures of the teacher, so unlike the instructer of his own early years. He has serious objection to all classification in
the school, because, as he says, he studied “ single handed," - and he is unwilling his child should be compelled, by any such“ machinery,” to go beyond the limits prescribed in his own mind.
3. A suspicious spirit on the part of parents, is another cause of misunderstanding. So universally does this operate on the minds of parents — induced, perhaps, by some failure or deception in a former teacher -- that, for some weeks, in many districts, they seem to stand on the opposite side, to watch for the appearance of some fault. It would seem to be their motto, - “We will believe no good till we see it.” The children, always ready imitators and quick of discernment, catch the same spirit, and watch for some imperfection, which they feel encouraged to report at home as soon as they see it, or think they see it. Faults, then, and not excellencies make the first impression both at school and at home; and that teacher, under such circumstances, must be a wonderful man and wonderfully fortunate, if he can ever attain to a good degree of their confidence, - which, if gained, must be gained after long trial, patient effort, yet so as by fire.
4. A disposition to dictate, is another cause of the difficulty. In New England, men often have some adroitness in various kinds of business. The farmer, for instance, if he be a true Yankee, may at the sanie time be a carpenter, a wheelwright, a shoemaker, and a blacksmith - for all his own purposes. If he do not operate in all these departments, he feels perfectly at liberty to direct how the work shall be performed for him. So most parents feel disposed to give lessons to the schoolmaster. If they call a physician, he may administer to his patient either calomel or lobelia, as he chooses ; but the teacher must first hear their direction in his profession. And the most unfortunate part of it is, that the dictation usually comes to the teacher through the pupil, who, by the time he delivers his message, has pretty thoroughly imbibed the spirit of it, - and what part of it might be yielded by the parent, is sure to be insisted on as a matter of right by the child.
5. A want of personal acquaintance between the parties. Teachers in many of our schools spend months, and in some instances years with youth, whose parents they have never known. The parents during this time have probably formed their opinion of the teacher, perhaps have expressed it freely either for or against him, and yet, have never spoken a word
with him, and very likely may not even know him by sight.
They can understand but little of his character, of his temper, or of his interest in his school. All they can know of him is derived through their children - a knowledge which, to say the most for it, may be right or it may be wrong.
Let us not, however, be understood to place all the causes of these evils at the door of the parents.
it with sorrow — teachers have too often rendered themselves unworthy of the confidence and co-operation of parents. It must be admitted, however humbling the fact, that the office of the teacher has not unfrequently been filled with the personification of indolence, selfishness, and imbecility. Men have sometimes entered upon the business of teaching from no higher motive than their incapacity to gain a livelihood in any other way. Through the supineness of school committees, and the misdirected sympathy of some of their influential friends, there have been not a few men, who have gained their situations by the paper qualifications which they carried in their pocket-books, and who, so far as usefulness in their schools was concerned, might as well have been themselves paper men.
There is another order of teachers found in our district schools, who, it seems to us, except from motives of heavenborn charity, rarely ought to be employed. We refer to that large and very respectable class of young men, who are members of some college or other seminary, and who resort to school-keeping solely for the purpose of obtaining the pecuniary means to meet their further expenses. Many of these intend to prosecute their own studies to keep pace with their classes, while they have not the most distant thought of ever becoming permanent teachers, - of
of course their success and their reputation as instructers are minor considerations with them, so they find on rejoining their classes, that they have not 6 lost ground.” Some of this class may faithfully discharge their duties, - but many others manifest more interest in the progress of school hours as indicated upon the dials of their watches, than they do in the proficiency of their pupils; and spend more of their strength in their own service than in that of their schools.
The regular teacher too, may have his faults. He may have but little in his character which is attractive or conciliatory. He may be too self-sufficient, too pedantic, or too haughty. He may announce his plans without any apparent
wish to explain them, should he be reasonably requested so to do. He may be an off-sided man.
If the people among whom he resides put the wheel in motion and excite the electric fluid, he may refuse to hold the conductor, and so no spark would be kindled. Should they bow in the street, he may “set his face like Aint,” and “ let his course be right onward, and thus chill all their good feelings in the very bud, and seal up by a relentless frost all the fountains of mutual sociality.
Where the foregoing causes exist they must always produce a most unhappy state of things; and the teacher who attempts to go forward while they operate, will most certainly “rue the day ” when he first set his face upon school-keeping.
It is desirable all should understand the means of avoiding these evils, if they do not exist, or of removing them where they have gained a place.
In education, as in all other things, prevention is more valuable than cure. The teacher will, therefore, spare himself many pangs, and secure the foundation of much usefulness, if he can so conduct matters, as to prevent the existence of any cause of difficulty between himself and the parents of his pupils. This business of prevention lies partly with the teacher, and partly with the parents themselves.
We are now prepared, in consideration of these mutual deficiencies, to enter more particularly into the subject assigned. We shall, for the sake of arrangement, treat of the duties of each party separately, and shall commence with the
DUTIES OF THE TEACHER. 1. He should imbue himself with a feeling of the importance of his work. If he would gain the confidence of his employers, he must be prepared to show to them evidence of a living interest in his profession. But this cannot be shown unless it be deeply felt. In contemplating his duty, the teacher should form elevated conceptions of his sphere of action, and he should aim at nothing less than such an ascendancy over the minds of his pupils, as will enable him to govern, to instruct, and to elevate them as moral beings, as these several acts should be done.
2. He should seek frequent opportunity of intercourse with the parents. Though the advances toward this point, by the strict rules of etiquette, it would seem, should be made by the parents themselves. - (as by some it is actually and seasonably