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there is no estimating improvement by dollars and cents. We grant, the multiplication and frequent change of school-books are a great and sore evil, but this at least is not the fault of the instructor; and no good can possibly come of disputing a question with him, which in reality, has been settled already by the school committee.
6. Parents should see that their children are decently clothed, and cleanly in their persons, This duty belongs mainly to the mother, and her character may very readily be seen, as reflected in the persons of her children. The teacher has a right to expect of the parents the faithful performance of this duty. He ought not to be insulted with filthiness, and surely he need not, so long as soft water falls in rich abundance from the heavens, - and a pair of scissors and a comb are possessed by every family. He can have no heart to corne in contact with pupils, who are sometimes so sadly neglected in this particular. This point however is so obvious, that we need not waste words
it. 7. Parents are bound to secure the constant attendance of their children. This is no trilling article of their duty. Perhaps there is no one thing to be named, which contributes so largely to the perplexities of the teacher and to the injury of our public schools, as irregular attendance. Downright sickness of the child is a good excuse for absence from school, and perhaps we may add, in some instances, illness in the family. But beyond these, it seems to us, there can be no good reason for keeping a scholar from his school. It is heartsickening to witness for what trilling causes many of the children are kept away from our schools. Frequently it happens, that some unimportant errand, as trifling if we may be allowed to be specific — as the purchase of a cent's worth of yeast, is made the occasion of a half day's absence from school
an injury done to the child's mind, which cannot be estimated in dollars and cents. Who can compute the amount of idle habits of study, having their foundation in that indifference to education, which, for some trifling errand amounting, perhaps, to the value of a dime - oftener, however, to less than a cent, permits the child to be away from his class, and thus practically teaches him to consider his school as a very cheap affair.
Every school, if the teacher would lay out his strength to advantage, should, to a considerable extent, be classified. His
mind, as far as practicable, must act upon masses of mind. But irregularity of attendance is most ruinous to classification. A scholar, by being absent one half the time, it may be demonstrated, is, to all the intents and purposes of the school absent all the time. One day he is absent, and of course, loses all that day's lessons; the next day he is present, but is still deficient in his lessons, because, as he says to his teacher, “I was absent yesterday, and not knowing where to study, I have not studied at all !' Again he is absent-again he is present; the same result follows, and at the week's end he has learned nothing as it should be learned. Such is the effect upon the pupil himself.
But the difficulty is not now half told. He is a member of the school the teacher must consider him such; and as the parents of such pupils often make fair promises for the future, the teacher feels bound, if possible, to keep him along with his class. To effect this, the class must be osten put back on his account, which operates as a severe discouragement to them. Sometimes the instructor is obliged to devote particular attention to this scholar singly, by which the other pupils are robbed of the proportion of his time which is their due, and they are obliged to suffer an injury the most of all unpleasant,
for when scholars, who are always at their post, have learned their lessons well, it is cruel in the last degree, that they should be deprived of the pleasure of showing their faithfulness — the pleasure of a good recitation.
Nor is this all. The teacher - the unthought of teacher is not made of iron or brass. His patience being so frequently, so thoughtlessly, and so unnecessarily taxed, and his best efforts being so ill requited, he may - unless he is superhuman, he most certainly must — relax his exertions. He will find it next to impossible for a series of weeks or months, after having labored faithfully without success, to maintain bis interest and his efficiency under all the discouraging circumstances of the case. As soon as his spirits flag, the whole school will imperceptibly catch the feeling, and they all are the sufferers. This is not an extreme case ; it is not a fancy picture; it is not speculation. It is history! and I am sorry to be obliged to add, it is the exact history of most of our public schools!
Can any wonder, then, that we should earnestly urge, that parents should co-operate with the teacher in this particular?
And shall it ever be, that for some trifling“ errand,"
(we have often wished the word were " expunged” from our language,) which, by early rising, might as well be done long before school hours; or for some pretext originating in the imbecility or lack of forethought of our children's natural guardians - must it ever be, that the teacher's life shall be a life of perplexity, and the design of our public school system be so far frustrated ?
What has been said of irregular attendance will apply with equal force to want of punctuality to the hour of opening the school. The reasons for tardiness, if possible, are often more futile than those for entire absence. The effects upon the school are nearly the same; for the current proverb, “ better late than never," will hardly hold in this case. But the effects of tardiness are most disastrous upon the child. He is allowed to be his own teacher of a most deleterious lesson. Let it never be forgotten, it is just as easy to be strictly punctual as otherwise ; and the parent, who will not lay the foundation of a habit so valuable in a child, when it can be done without cost, deserves not the privilege of being a parent! He betrays his trust; he injures his own child!
8. Parents should be slow in condemning the teacher for supposed faults. This is a point on which many are very apt to act wrong. Too often is it the case, that a teacher is tried, condemned and publicly executed, without even a hearing. Some troublesome, precocious youth, who has, it may be very justly, received some proportionate reward for his dark deeds, determines on revenge. He immediately tells his story to any who will hear it. If his parents are inconsiderate, and encourage him to go on, he is tempted to overreach the truth on the one hand, and to stop short of it on the other, till he succeeds in having the combustible materials around him lighted into a Aame. Such a fire is seldom kindled without most severely scathing somebody ; and it sometimes happens, that those inost burned, are they who apply the match and fan the flame.
The truth is, few parents are capable of judging at the first blush
upon the merits of a case, which they have not witnessed. They have strong partialities in favor of the complainant; and then they have but very inadequate views of the difficulties, the untold and untellable difficulties, with which the teacher must daily contend. We undertake to say,
expect more of a teacher, than he can possibly accomplish. They expect him to
advance their children in learning, without making the proper allowance for the difference of abilities which his pupils possess. Every parent wishes his son to be foremost in improvement, and he expects it, because he wishes it. At the same time he expects the school to be a perfect pattern of good order, because in his family, where, perhaps, he has but one child, he has never known any insurmountable outrage. He forgets, that probably fisty other parents are expecting for their children, as much as he for his, – and that the teacher is laboring in laudable ambition to do faithfully, all that can be expected of him, with some three or four scores of individuals, whose tempers and capacities and habits are as different as their countenances.
In judging of the teacher's government, the parent commonly compares it with his own family discipline, - because the fam . ily is the only community with which he is acquainted, at all analogous to the school. He forgets, perhaps, his own recent fit of impatience, even among his little circle of some half a dozen; and wonders at the unrestrained and unrestrainable temper of the schoolmaster, who, it is said, was not quite selfpossessed in his school of a hundred.
But the analogy does not hold between the family and the school. The parent has authority in the premises, from which, to all intents, there is no appeal; and his children know it. He has several rooms at his command for solitary confinement, or for solitary reproof and reasoning. He has sole command of the “ staff of life” in his community, which he can deal out in measured quantities, with water, to be taken alone, or he can withhold it altogether till submission is quietly yielded ! Moreover, he has the advantage of knowing perfectly, the disposition of each subject of his authority, and may always proceed advisedly in the adaptation of his discipline. He has ample leisure for the purpose ; for, if his business be pressing during the day, he can postpone the whole matter till the calm and silent hour of evening, when, unexcited and undisturbed, he may pursue his steady purpose. With all these advantages it would be strange, if a parent could not govern his own household well, and that, too, without much resort to the rod. The parent may well wonder at himself, if he have not good discipline.
But the case is not thus with the teacher. His authority in these latter days, is somewhat questionable. He usually has
but one room for his use, and that one often too small even for the pursuit of the more quiet duties of the school. He has no prison, - and if he had, he has no authority to confine beyond his usual school hours. He has no “ bread and water to dispense or to withhold. He cannot, unless his discernment is supernatural, have a perfect knowledge of the disposition of each pupil, and hence he is, from the nature of the case, liable to misjudgment in the adaptation of his means. He has no leisure. He must work all the time ; for his reputation depends upon his success in teaching. He is expected to advance each pupil daily. He has not the time to adjust all his measures by deliberate reflection. He cannot always put off the case. His community probably may need the immediate check bis punishment will give, and if he should neglect to work the pump, the ship would probably sink, and bury him and his in the waves of insufferable confusion.
Consider well the life of the teacher. He must apply himself constantly, and often to numberless things at the same time. We have been told, I know, that the teacher “ should never do but one thing at the same time.” But this is impossible. Two things he must always do at once ; he must govern and instruct. He never can do the latter without having his mind on the former. It is this double attention which makes his life a weary one. He might govern with comparative ease, if his duty ended there. The instruction would be delightful, if that could be pursued alone. But they must go together. With respect to the orie, not a mistake must pass unnoticed. Every error in declension or conjugation, in orthography or calculation, in matter or manner, must be detected and set right; - and at the same time, the stolen whispered must be heard, the clandestine play thing must be captured, the incipient plot must be discovered, the arch trick must be anticipated, ihe idler must be watched, the wayward reproved and set right, and the stubborn and the impudentthe coarse and the turbulent must be subdued. All these things must go together; they cannot be separated. Then, in ordinary schools, unforeseen perplexities will arise. One boy has lost his book ; another has left his at home ; another makes a clamorous complaint of some injury done him by his next neighbor ; a fourth is too warm and opens the window; a fifth is too cold and immediately shuts it, or applies to the teacher for liberty to do so. Add to these the perplexities occasioned