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What School Teachers may do.
against the laws of their country, are under twenty years of age.'
Reader, is this true? Are you a father, a mother, a teacher, and can you believe such a sentiment and not have your ears tingle? Is England unlike all other countries in the world ? Are your children or pupils unlike all others ? Are they not exposed, without your most earnest fostering care, to make shipwreck of that which you hold most dear— their reputation ? What guaranty hast thou, parent, that thy son, long ere he is twenty, shall not be an outcast, a beggar ; and what is worse still, I had almost said infinitely so, a penal offender against the laws of his country?
And yet it need not be so with him. Solomon was only repeating what was so obvious to the eyes of common sense, that it had long before his time passed into a proverb, when he said, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
If you wish your child to be respectable, useful and happy at twenty, rather than an outcast and a criminal, the way is open before you ; and it is a plain one. That is, it is plain if you do not get your eyes dazzled. Parents and teachers look at the glitter of this world until their eyes begin to dazzle, and they can no more see any thing truly plain and valuable, than they can accomplish impossibilities. Nothing can interest their spoiled sight that is simple, or unadorned, or merely excellent. They will labor with all their might, it is true; nay, more than this, they will make slaves of themselves to promote the temporal welfare, as they call it, of their children. But what do such parents mean by the temporal welfare of their children? Do they not mean a state in which their eyes will become dazzled, just like their own ? Do they not mean a state in which they will be compelled to obey implicitly the mandates of a tyrannical fashion, which bids its devotees toil and think fourteen, sixteen, or eighteen hours in twentyfour, to supply the present and future bodily wants of themselves and children ; and scarcely fourteen, sixteen or twenty minutes to supply the wants of the mind and soul?
DISTRICT SCHOOL MISSIONARIES.
DISTRICT school teachers in New England, are, for the most part, compelled to board in the families of their employers. During a term of four months, for example, they often reside
Anecdotes of a Teacher.
in fifteen, or twenty, or thirty families. In some, they spend two or three days, in others as many weeks; according to the whole number of their pupils, the number in each family, &c. This boarding in the families of a district has been sometimes
a regarded as degrading. Teachers, it has been said, ought not to be compelled to beg their bread from door to door. And it cannot be denied, that the custom has its inconveniences. But it also has its advantages.
One principal advantage, afforded by this boarding in families, is, that it enables the teacher to act the part of a school missionary. The last volume of this journal contained several articles on the importance of missionaries of education. Now a finer opportunity cannot be desired by a missionary, who wishes to confine his operations, for a few months, to a single school district, than is afforded by boarding a few days with each of the proprietors and patrons of his school.
This suggestion is not the offspring of mere theory. We have seen and known missionaries of this description; and we have witnessed the happy results of the labors of a single term, extending through a series of years afterward. We propose to relate a few anecdotes of a school missionary whom we knew ; begging our readers to keep in mind the fact, that, as a general rule, whatever man has done, man may do.
The person to whom we allude, was a young man about twenty four years of age, whom, for distinction's sake, we shall call Mr D. He had been a teacher, during the winter, for many years, and in many different places ; and had witnessed, with pain, the apathy among parents, which every where prevailed. He resolved to make one effort to awaken them.
Accordingly, he took the charge of a large school, situated in a central part of one of our most flourishing New England towns, and immediately entered upon the duties of his mission.
It may not be iinproper to say, that Mr D. was exceedingly fond of reading and study, and many other means of self-improvement. Few men that we have known, seemed to feel mere strongly the desire of progress. All this, however, he was determined to forego, to accomplish his purposes.
But what were the steps he took to awaken parents ?
He rose early. It was customary for teachers, in that region, to lie in bed late, to be out of the way.' He obtained permission to rise as soon as he pleased, and make a fire for the family – for it was not usually the custom of families to keep more than one fire — and sit by it till the rest were up. But he was not long required to sit alone. The gentleman of the house, and sometimes the lady, would get up, and come and
His Efforts to awaken Parents.
sit with him. Of course, the conversation would turn upon the school and its concerns; which afforded an excellent opportunity of suggesting improvements.
Had this course been long continued, its novelty would probably have soon worn off, or perhaps settled into disgust with the whole subject. Mr D. seemed neither to know or think of any thing else but the improvement of his school. But as he seldom remained in a family more than one week, and often not more than three or four days, the conversation never became intolerable, and seldom uninteresting.
Instead of carrying his dinner,' and remaining at the school room during the intermission, he usually walked to his lodgings, whatever might be the distance. This gave him a fine opportunity of fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes, for further conversation with the family on his favorite topic. - Added to this, he usually spent his evenings at his boarding place, conversing in the most familiar manner, either with the parents or the pupils.
Such devotion to his profession was altogether new in that region, and could not fail of exciting attention and interest. On one point, it was impossible for parents to mistake, which was, that the teacher was in earnest. This prepared them, in some measure, to listen to his suggestions.
But his efforts did not end in mere ' talk' with the parents and children. As soon as breakfast or dinner was over, he hastened at once to the school room. At evening, he remained there after the pupils were gone, as long as he could without being late at
Sometimes, too, he returned and spent his evenings there. If dinner or breakfast was too late at any time—and such an event sometimes happened during the short days of winterhe took his hat, and with nothing but the simple apology that the hour had arrived for him to go, went to the school room. This course, in one or two instances, gave a slight offence; but was not usually misinterpreted. He believed the neglect of punctuality, on the part of a teacher, to be a far greater evil than the loss of a single meal. No family permitted him to go to school without his accustomed meal but once.
One of his earliest efforts was to awaken in the minds of the parents of his pupils, the belief that the district school was worth something; that it was not merely a necessary evil, but, as a substitute for the family circle, a great and positive good. Next, he endeavored to convince them of the vast importance of a steady attendance, on the part of the pupils, and of an exact punctuality to the hours of opening the school. Then the subject of the school room and its furniture – the benches, desks, stove, books, &c.— would gradually come up.
His greatest success was with mothers. He was not long in convincing them of the evil of having little girls sit five or six hours a day on hard benches without backs; and of inducing the committee, through their influence, to build new benches, of an appropriate form and character.
But success, in no stinted measure, attended his efforts in every direction. Not only were the benches and desks improyed, but the children were sent to school early and regularly. A few drops of rain, or a little mud, or the arrival of some friend of the family, or a little headache, did not often serve as an apology for remaining at home a day or two. The pupils came cheerfully, too; not like the ox to the slaughter.
The new master and his new measures became, at length, a topic of frequent and interesting conversation ; not only among mothers, but among all. Some, of course, were opposed to every innovation. But mind had been touched, and inquiry elicited; and the 'march' had now become onward. Formerly, it was only on exhibition days, or some other equally remarkable occasions, that the parents visited the school, or appeared to take any considerable interest in its progress. Now it was not uncoinmon to find half a dozen or a dozen visitors at the school
' room, during a single afternoon. Not that the exercises themselves were much better than formerly, but the people were awaking from a long slumber over the whole subject.
There was, it has already been admitted, a great difference of opinion about the new doctrines and measures, and with some persons Mr D. spent his morņings, and noons, and evenings. almost in vain. They cared far more about the character of their meals - whether they should bave roast turkey for dinner and oysters for supper — than about the school. They cared more, far more, about the wants of their own and their childrens' perishable bodies, than those of their imperishable souls.
Mr D., however, persevered in his missionary labors, and, by the majority, was sustained. Three successive tours did he make, in the course of two years, from house to house, through every part of the district, reasoning with the people – persuading, urging and entreating them -- sometimes with success, sometimes to no purpose but to confirm them in their errors and prejudices. We will not say that he was always correct in his opinions, or judicious in his efforts and measures. He was evidently too anxious for speedy results - unwilling to wait the slow progress of gradual and salutary changes. Yet in despite of errors and mistakes, he evidently possessed the
Results of these Labors.
spirit of a missionary ; and were every district school teacher to possess at once the same spirit, and labor with the same zeal and perseverance, it would effect a greater revolution than the world has ever yet seen.
But Mr D. was not left to labor wholly alone. There were other teachers in the same region, who caught his spirit, and began to exhibit it. One of these disciples became even more distinguished in his zeal for improvement than the master. There were none, however, who went farther, in unremitting attempts to stir up the minds of the parents in their respective districts than Mr D.
There were nine school districts in the town. So great was the excitement on the subject of common school improvement, that teachers' wages were, in a few years, considerably raised, and in some instances nearly doubled. The old school houses began to undergo repairs, and new ones to be built. New and improved books were also introduced into the classes, and in a few instances, new subjects of study. The school visitors began to perform their duty more faithfully than before, and to receive a moderate compensation from the public for their services. And though nearly fifteen years have passed away since Mr D. was laboring, in season and out of season a missionary of education among them the happy consequences of his labors are not yet forgotten. His name is even sometimes mentioned with respect and with affection; and the memory of his patience, and diligence, and faith, and hope, inscribed, not in brass or marble, but on the warm heart and never dying soul.
District school teacher, whoever you are, and wherever your lot is cast, remember you have a sphere of labor, for which many a herald of the everlasting gospel, did he understand the importance of your avocation as a means of elevating mankind, might sigh in vain. When you enter the humblest family, remember you have something to do somebody to interest, awaken, excite, direct. Remember, that though compelled to beg your bread from door to door, you may be among the most active of missionaries, you shall be blessed in your deeds, and shall in no wise lose' any part of your reward, present or future.