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Methods in Defining and Reading.
friend had been kind enough to send me. This work had been published about two years. I had also been greatly indebted to this work, not only for other views which I entertained, and which will be developed in the progress of this and subsequent chapters, but also, in no small degree, for what I possessed of the spirit of philanthropy.
Some little pains were also taken to ornament the walls of the school room. Maps were hung up, evergreens procured, and early flowers. Had I possessed the pecuniary means of doing it, I would have devised and executed plans for rendering the whole school house, both internally and externally, quite attractive.
In teaching the alphabet to my pupils, I do not remember that I devised or adopted any new plans. In fact, I believe I had no abecedarians in my school.' If I had, I feel confident I pursued the same humdrum method which had prevailed time out of mind, except that I taught them in a class, rather than separately; in order to save time. I had, it is true, many new notions on the subject ; but an imaginary want of time always seemed to compel me to resort to the old methods.
In regard to spelling, I was careful to assign my pupils short lessons, and see that they understood their meaning. This last was quite an innovation. Defining words, as a school exercise, had then scarcely been heard of.
It is true we labored under great difficulties, in this matter of defining words, for want of suitable books. Here we came upon a department on which I had seldom, as yet, dared to place the
rude hand of reform. Our school books indeed, such as we had, I knew were sadly deficient; and in the department of defining we had none at all. A few of the older pupils had a very inferior sort of dictionary, containing definitions which in themselves required defining; but which were a little better for us than nothing at all; though the greater part of them were destitute even of this.
Had I possessed the means, I should have sent at once to a book store, and bought a set of some defining spelling book, and presented it to the school. But this I was unable to do; and there is room for doubt whether such a measure, however benevolent its exterior, is after all judicious.
In reading, we pursued a course altogether new to the pupils. Instead of reading just so many chapters, or articles, or verses, each was required to read a small paragraph over and over, till he both understood it, and could read it with propriety. It was my usual practice, however, to read it first myself, in every in
Method of Teaching Writing.
stance; and sometimes, if the pupil was an unapt scholar, to read it over for him several times.
I did not find this method of reading so irksome to the pupils as I had expected. It is well known how fond children are of novelties ; and so novel was our reading, that, for a few days it went off very well. But the pupils at length grew tired of it; and I found it necessary to resort, occasionally, to the old method. They probably found, in this, the appearance of progress. To stand still, as it were, at a single place in the book, for several minutes, seemed less to them like making improvement, than when they were reading off several pages at a single lesson.
But our lessons were, in any event, short. I had got over, in some measure, the notion that the pupil's improvement was in proportion to the space ran over. Sometimes, indeed, a large class read several pages at a time; but not usually. As a substitute for so much matter-of-course reading, I used to explain and illustrate things as we went on; and sometimes even relate stories.
Writing, instead of being pursued at all hours of the day, and under all circumstances, was confined entirely to the last half hour of the forenoon, and of the afternoon. This was allowing 10 each pupil an hour a day for the study of this art.
This plan, in regard to writing, is excellent. I know of but one objection which can be brought against it. It is that many boys in the winter, will, in this way, lose at least half their writing. Their parents and masters are accustomed to permit and even require them to leave the school at a certain time—frequently an hour before the exercises close.
But to this it may be replied, that in leaving school thus early, some lesson or other must be lost; and most pupils can better lose the writing lesson than any other.
The suggestion, to teach writing at these hours and in this manner, I believe I first learned from Hall's Lectures on School Keeping; an admirable work, which no teacher ought, in my opinion, to neglect.
In grammar and geography little was done; but that little was performed in a rational and intelligible manner. It was not a mere recitation of words. The pupil was brought to feel that there was meaning in language; and that there should be thoughts connected with it. In these branches, too, all our lessons were short.
Arithmetic was studied by a few, but not very thorough on account of a seem want of time. I had not yet come fully up to the belief-practically—that what is worth doing at all, in a school as well as elsewhere, is worth doing well; and that it
Exercise in Thinking.
is far better that an exercise should be attended to but once a day, or even once a week, than that it should not be understood. I still clung more or less--at times and in certain things— to the notion that there must be, every day, such a certain number of exercises ; that the pupils must read round,' as it is called, twice in the forenoon, and twice in the afternoon ; and that there must be writing, and arithmetic, and grammar, and geography, and every thing else going on, at least once in each half day.
Or rather, as perhaps I ought to say, I had not moral courage enough to innovate, in this respect, upon long established usages. Besides I felt, as I ought to have felt, that all improvement must from the nature of the case be gradual.
There can be but two advantages in 'going round twice, in each half day, with the reading and spelling exercises of our district schools. The first is, that it prevents ignorant teachers from imposing as long lessons upon pupils as otherwise they would ; the second, that it breaks in upon the disagreeable monotony which might otherwise prevail, and which commonly does prevail in the best schools.
But were every child furnished with pleasant employment, and with suitable seasons for exercise in the open air, the second class exercise might far better be spared. Let there be but one exercise in each class in half a day; and let that be thoroughly attended to. I am here 'speaking of speiling, reading, and writing. As to arithmetic, grammar and geography, it enough that they come once a day.
Our religious instruction consisted merely in repeating portions of the “ shorter catechism," at the close of the week. An example of daily prayer was indeed set, and the older classes read in the New Testament as a regular exercise; and I was accustomed to moralize on daily occurrences. This last is probably the most effectual way of religious teaching in our district schools ; as it is, first, most agreeable to the pupils; secondly, least likely to awaken any where sectarian jealousy ; thirdly, most effectual in reaching the heart; and lastly, the impressions are the most permanent.
One exercise was introduced into this school, which was altogether of my own invention. It was a sort of silent or thinking exercise. After the school had been opened a short time in the morning, and my oldest or first class had read a Testament lesson, they were required to devote a certain number of min. utes, usually from five to ten, to reflection. No scholar might attend to business of any kind whatever, during the time ; but all were required to observe the most perfect silence.
When I announced that the time was expired, they were required to be able to tell me what had been done by their own class the preceding day. In some instances, I found them able to give a pretty faithful narration of all the exercises, and of many observations and illustrations of my own at the time. With a little aid, by way of questions and suggestions, I could usually draw out a pretty full history of their progress. They were also desired to state any errors they might have made, or had observed, not only in themselves, but in me, as their teacher. They were thus led to profit, on every successive day, by the errors of the past.
A WORD ON PHYSICAL EDUCATION.
The “Christian Reflector" has the following excellent remarks on the importance of bodily exercise in the open air, especially to females.
Every man, nay, every female, ought in some mode, if possible, to take a good amount of exercise in the open air. Some persons are timid about exposing themselves to the air, and some jarenis are learful lest their little ones should ever feel the gentle breezes of heaven. Herein is a great, and, as it often proves, a fatal mistake. We expose our health most by exclusion, or rather by inclusion. Why does the student grow pale? Not by any tendency of vigorous study to blanch his fresh cheek, but by his inclusion within close walls, and neglect of physical exercise. The student may be as healthy as any other man, if he will do as other healthy men do.
• The delicate female, now pale as the paper I am writing on, may learn how to bloom again, if she will, two or three times a day, just throw aside those too delicate garments which so hinder her action, and robe herself for labor. Where? How? Let not our politest and gentlest readers be too soon alarmed. Let them recover their firmness by turning their eyes off our page a moment, till they reflect a little, and they may not need hartshorn or cologne, to prevent their fainting, when we venture to tell them in the garden, with a well handled hoe, and shining spade, and strong-teethed rake, mellowing, and shaping, and smoothing the earth their brothers have ploughed for them. We will not now recommend that they stop on their way back to the parlor, to look at Susan's cheeks, as she actively bends over the wash-tub, that they may ascertain how to spread over their own
Common Schools in Connecticut.
cheeks the finest rouge ever invented for the human countenance. We dare not say that it would make them bloom as Susan blooms, to take her place a few moments, and help her scrub and wring. No-only look, at her, and you may for a time possibly blush for your own paleness, as you think of the occasion of it, and this blush may save one visit to the toilette.'
COMMON Schools IN CONNECTICUT. We have alluded, inore than once, to the favorable state of things in Connecticut, as regards Common Schools, and in view of the fact that the Legislature had appointed an efficient Board of Education, with powers not unlike those of the Board of Education in Massachusetts, and adopted other efficient measures to arouse public attention have ventured to say that Connecticut was prospectively — redeemed.
Of late we have received from the individual who is to act as the Secretary of the Connecticut Board of Education, in a printed pamphlet of twentyfour octavo pages, the "Address of the Board of Commissioners of Cominon Schools,” with the Report of the Joint Select Committee to the Legislature, from which we collect the following statistical facts.
Blank forms, requiring information on the subject of Common Schools having been forwarded to all the school societies in the State, by the Comptroller, the Joint Committee of the Legislature at its last session collected from them the following results.
There are, in the whole State, 211 school societies; 1664 school districts, of which 1080 made their returns; and 83,237 children in the State between the ages of 4 and 16; of whom 59,911 are included in the districts which made returns, though only 40,026 of the same number were found in average attendance. The average number of months during which schools are kept in the State, is about seven, but ranging as low as two in summer and two in winter. The number of male teachers employed during winter is 1018; females in summer, 1109. The compensation of the male teachers is estimated at $63,982 92; and that of females at $34,588 94; of which whole amount, about 60,000 are paid from the State Fund. This does not include local funds of the Societies, which in sonje towns are so large as to pay the whole remainder of the expense of employing teachers.