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Advantages of his Desk.
from the floor. This last may be a little too high for a few of the smallest pupils who write ; but it would not be so high as those at which they are now usually required to sit ; besides which, they might stand and sit alternately; as the elevation or depression of the desk is simple, and is but the work of a moment. More than this even; in adapting the desk to the school room, the lower part of it might be a little shortened, so that the lower point might be two feet, instead of two feet, six inches and a half; and the higher point only three feet, four and a half.
Some may question, whether a desk which is thus moveable, will stand firmly enough for the school room. We have not forgotten to look minutely into this matter; and so far as we are able to judge, the desk will be strong and firm, and not liable to get out of repair. Of course, however, like all things else, much of its strength and firmness will depend on the faithfulness and fidelity of the builder, as well as the excellence of the materials with which it is constructed. To secure its attachment to a particular part of the school room, as well as to make it stand more firmly, it might be screwed to the floor.
The favorable impressions we had received on examining the Alleviating Writing Desk were somewhat confirmed, subsequently, by the following recommendation from Mr B. F. Foster, one of the most popular and successful teachers of peninanship in our country:
In schools, academies and colleges this invention is calculated to afford many advantages; as desks thus constructed, by being easily adapted to the relative height of each pupil, will not only facilitate the acquisition of fine penmanship, but prevent the evils constantly resulting from the awkward and ungraceful position too frequently contracted by those who are daily confined to study.'
These desks may be made single or double* ; but for common schools would probably be preferred single. They may also be made, even when single, so as to accommodate one, two, three, or even more pupils. If made, however, to accommodate more than two, they will not be found so convenient of transportation as they now are. Of the size which Mr Luther contemplates the whole of the frame work of the desk, except the desk itself, may be packed into a box a foot square; so at least we understood him.
The only solid objection to the universal application of these
By the term double is here meant the com on counting house mode of construction; in which there is a desk on each side of a form; and the occupants on the two sides, sit facing each other.
Its Expense not an Objection.
desks to all our schools, from the common school to the university, will be, as we apprehend, the expense. What this is likely to be for each desk, we are uncertain Much will depend on the expensiveness of the material, as well as the elegance and finish of the workmanship. The expense will be an important point, and when we can ascertain what this is likely to be, we will communicate it.
Meanwhile, we beg parents and teachers to consider the usefulness of these desks. They need not remain permanently in the school room. A family, owning a certain number of desks, say two, may consider them as a part of the household furniture;
and take them to the school room, or withhold them when they please. If there were likely to be difficulty in this way, however—if it were found inconvenient to have them owned by individuals—the whole might be purchased by the district, and used exclusively at the school room.
Let them consider not only the expense of the desks, but also the expense of doing without them. To us it is more than probable, that the loss of time while lingering under painful diseases, induced or aggravated by the present bad postures of school rooms, to say nothing of the inconvenience of enduring the pain itself, and the money paid to nurses, apothecaries, and physicians, would, at a low estimate, more than outweigh the expense of procuring a set of these desks. The desks are used on the principle of prevention; and will it not be forever true, that prevention is not only better, but cheaper than cure? Must it not be so in the very nature of things ? How then, is it possible for desks, such as we have been speaking of, not to be truly economical ?
But suppose they were not so. Suppose they were to cost ten dollars, or even twenty dollars more to each family in a school district, than the value of the time lost by disease resulting from the want of them, and the expense of combating it. Do we not pay our tens, yea, our twenties of dollars for articles of comfort, and even of luxury in our families, without uttering a word of complaint? Shall we expend largely on the furniture of our houses-our chairs, our sofas, our timepieces, our carpets, our centre tables, our extra dresses, book bindings, &c. —and shall we do nothing for our school rooms ? Must these be cheerless and comfortless, like so many barns or prisons ?
We cannot—we will not-refrain from pleading the cause of common schools. We must insist on good houses, good rooms, good, comfortable, healthful, and, withal, beautiful furniture ; good, agreeable, and healthful books ; good, agreeable, and healthful teachers, male and female. We insist on all these
A Smart' Schoolmaster.
and many more things, as matters of importance in early education. We despise, most heartily, the custom, nearly universal, of turning off the young with something which is regarded by them, if not by ourselves, às inferior in its character or quality. Thus we sometimes give them inferior tools to work with, inferior beds to sleep on, inferior clothes to wear, inferior food and drink, and an inferior place at table. We give them, moreover, inferior schools and school rooms, and school books and teachers. Any thing, we seem to say, will do well enough for little children.
For ourselves, however, we are determined on a different course. We demand, for every child, the best and most wholesome food and drink, the best clothes, the best associates, the best books, the best school. We demand for him what he will be likely to regard as a pleasant, a comfortable, and an agreeable school room. There should be good chairs, or good seats with backs, and good and commodious desks; either on the plan of Mr Luther, or on some other plan. It is butchery to retain in school such seats or desks as are in most common use among US. There should be handsome floors, and walls, and ceilings. There should be a father and mother in each school; and all the scholars should be brothers and sisters. In other words, the school should be formed as nearly as possible on the model of the family; and he who will not seek the happiness, present and future, of his children while at the school room, and spare neither money, nor time, nor influence, to render the school as much as possible a substitute for his own parlor ; and a wise male and female teacher, not only the affectionate educators of his children, but, for the time, as nearly as possible their parents, has not yet begun, to good purpose, the work which Divine Providence, especially in a crisis like this, has assigned him.
CONFESSIONS OF A SCHOOLMASTER.
Early the next autumn, I was invited to take charge of a school, at a considerable distance from my former sphere of labor. What report, with her thousand tongues, had testified of me, I never knew, I only learned that they wanted a 'smart' master,' and therefore came for me. The school, for several years had been taught, in the winter, by easy, good-natured, but rather inefficient men; and they wanted somebody of a different character.
They proposed to employ me four months, at twelve dollars a month and my board. I believe I have already told you it was customary in that region, with few exceptions, for teachers to go from house to house, and board in the families. I had done so the previous winter.—The price offered me was so tempting, and the call so urgent, that I accepted it.
I had just begun to feel my ignorance, and to perceive the responsibilities of a schoolmaster. I will not say that I regarded these responsibilities as I ought to have done ; for I doubt, almost, if this were possible. Eternity alone, it seems to me now, set this matter in its true light. But I felt them to such a degree as to give me much anxiety. How should I govern ? How should I begin? How should I succeed ?-were questions that sometimes rested with great weight on my mind. I have lain awake nearly the whole of the first night, on opening my school, and sometimes several of the succeeding ones, studying what to do, and how to manage.
One thing I had learned during the two preceding winters; which was not to lay down a code of rules or laws for my pupils before circumstances seemed to call for them. If you form your set of laws in the first place, it is taking the pupils to be bad, which always seems to have an unhappy tendency. It is the same thing, or at least has the same effect as to express a want of confidence in them, or a want of respect for their characters. And in proportion as they discover a want of respect for them, they will generally lose respect for themselves. Now nothing is more deeply unfortunate to the young than a want of self-respect. This lost, and all is lost. And any thing which diminishes this is, I say again, of a most unhappy tendency.
My method was to seem to take it for granted, that every one knew what was about right, and meant to govern himself accordingly. If he conducted improperly, I made strange of it, and gently reminded him that he had forgotten himself. This, with most pupils—for indeed it was very nearly the truth-was sufficient. If, however, a considerable number continued to disregard a certain thing, or to repeat, too frequently, certain acts which I conceived were unfavorable to good order, and subversive of just principles, I then made a law against them.
Such a law, to be good for any thing, must have a penalty annexed to it. This penalty was usually mild, but was always —unless it were in some most extraordinary case-inflicted. I had found out long before this, that punishments, however light, should be certain. Uncertainty defeats their whole purpose.
This may be the place, too, for observing that I had made
A Singular Adventure.
some progress in the art of teaching. Not much, I confess— certainly less than I had in the art of governing or managing. Still I had done something. I had learned to pay my whole attention to a class while it was reading, unless, indeed, a monitor was, for a time, employed; in which case, I ventured to be absent. But such monitors were very seldom employed ; and, in general, if I found it necessary to leave the class, I disbanded it. In short, I had come to the resolution to avoid doing more than one thing at a time.
But the main object of my present article is to relate a curious incident that took place this winter, and which came very near breaking up the school, and destroying my rising reputation as a schoolmaster, forever.
There was, in the school, a certain boy whom, for distinction's sake, I shall call Charles. He was always ready to play tricks when set a going by others; but he was not very artful in getting rid of the punishment due to a fault. Some children, you are aware, have the skill to do things which are wrong, and then shift the blame upon others. I had several of this description, at the time of which I am now speaking. They were even willing to unite in roguery, in order to enlist Charles ; and generally skilful enough to escape censure, and involve Charles in trouble. Of this trait in their character, I was, however, at first utterly ignorant. Instead of regarding them as the ringleaders—the seducers-and Charles as only an accomplice, I thought Charles was himself the ringleader; and at length I began to watch and warn him.
And according to the principles I have elsewhere advocated, the more he saw himself suspected, watched, and doubted, the worse he became.
At last I began to threaten him with punishment. The results of these threats, any one who had a thorough knowledge of human nature might have foreseen. The boy grew worse and worse, every day. The time finally arrived when, in my judgment, it became necessary to punish him.
Near the school house was a large alder swamp. A boy was sent to this swamp to cut whips. I think his orders were to get and bring in three. The whips came. The boy looked affrighted. The other scholars looked at each other, and at me. One young man, of riper judgment than most of the pupils, hung his head. I now suppose that, knowing the character of Charles, he had doubts whether I was pursuing the right course.
The school room was rather small, as is the New England fashion ; not more, I think, than fifteen or sixteen feet square. In order to make room for my operations, as well as to strike the boy and the beholders with terror, I ordered all the inside mov