Imágenes de páginas

One strong reason why so many children are complained of as being lazy, stupid, obstinate, is contained in this remark which I heard a teacher make not long since: "I do not dare to get thoroughly carried away by a lesson, for if I do, my children get so excited, that they become disorderly.” Alas, poor children! You are not to be interested, you are not to be pleased, you are not to be waked up, lest, perchance, you become disorderly!

As strict school discipline is the one thing indispensable to most, or many teachers, and as, most unfortunately, it is not in the nature of children to become intensely interested in anything, and still retain a rigidly upright position, and never, come what may, forget to raise the hand before answering, it follows, to the minds of those teachers, that rather than sacrifice the upright position and extended hand, it is better to avoid all such undue degree of interest, and preserve the minds of their pupils in that much-to-be-desired state of calm and tranquil serenity, -- say not stupidity, - which would insure for their schools a quiet, orderly, and well-disciplined appearance, “ if any body should happen to come in.” For my part, I consider that class in the best order in which each member is so thoroughly interested in the subject under discussion as to forget every other, even the weighty one of his position, and the perfect repose of his feet.

The two subjects which remain to be considered are the diurnal and annual motions of the earth, and the consequent phenomena. These would not be touched upon, according to the course suggested, until the children have arrived at the age of twelve or thirteen years. It seems to me, that at this age, the acquisition of the information will be better appreciated, will afford more rational enjoyment than if taught, however well, before the minds of the children are sufficiently mature to enable them to form any just conception of the subject. Both may be taught on a plan similar to that pursued in teaching the form of the earth, — by leading the pupils, from a knowledge of the phenomena, to reason out the cause of those phenomena.

Before I leave this subject of mathematical geography, I would speak of one thing more which has been suggested in such remarks as this — “What need is there of taking half an hour to teach children that the earth is round, or that its revolution on its axis causes the change from day to night? They could learn it in three minutes." Very true; but in all instruction - in elementary instruction especially — are we not aiming to form as well as furnish the mind ? And how do we help to form or strengthen the mind of a child by telling him that the earth is round? I would rather let him reason it out for himself, even if it took more than one half hour, and am very sure that the loss of time would be amply compensated by the increased intelligence and independence of thought evoked.

I have as yet said nothing about political geography. Generally speaking, it is much better taught than mathematical geography, for the reason that it is impossible to teach it with such utter disregard to principle as we may be guilty of in the latter. Still there is fault that might be found. For instance, I dislike to go into a school and hear the teacher say, without any preliminary, “Take France for your next lesson.” Still more do I dislike, when the hour for recitation arrives, to see one pupil after another stand and recite a part or the whole of the text contained in the book relating to France. I know of more than one teacher who requires each of her pupils to recite the whole of the lesson, word for word, she, meanwhile, sitting quietly at her desk, giving a very small proportion of her attention to the recitation, while the rest is devoted to keeping an observant watch over the deportment of the rest of the class, who being idle, both mentally and physically, are naturally ready for any mischief that may present itself.

A better way, I think, would be for each of the class to take his atlas, and, turning to the map of the country in question, talk about it; noticing the boundaries, mountains, rivers, lakes, and whatever other natural features may be indicated on the map, mentioning at the same time any facts relating to them that may chance to come within his knowledge. They may judge also, from the latitude and other circumstances, of the character of the climate, — from that of the character of the productions, exports, imports, etc. The teacher at the same time endeavors, by giving any additional information she may possess, which may interest or benefit the class, by showing pictures, and by reading, as suggested by a contributor to the Teacher, narratives of adventure, descriptions of scenery, &c., to impress on the minds of her pupils a correct and vivid idea of the country which they are studying. Whenever this result is achieved, she gives them a list of topics relating to the boundaries of the country, its rivers, mountains, lakes, towns, &c., and the character of the inhabitants, the climate, and the productions, on which they are to prepare themselves, from any source whatever, for the lesson to which this conversation is only to be considered as an introduction. They are also required to be able to draw a map of the country from memory, reciting what they have learned respecting each feature, as it is represented.

In this way political geography may be made an actual recreation for both teacher and pupils, and the latter may acquire much more general information than can possibly be the case where all the knowledge they contrive to glean is contained in the few words of the text-book.

And is it not actually the duty of teachers to renounce at once this lifeless, crumbling system of words without ideas? It seems to me that it is no longer a question of taste or expediency, but one of simple right and wrong — that any teacher who has the ability, or can acquire the ability, to pursue a different course, and yet neglects to do so, is guilty of a moral wrong of no small magnitude, and it becomes those who hold the reins of power in these latter days, to remember the words of our greatest thinker: “How can an inanimate, mechanical, gerund-grinder foster the growth of anything; much more of mind, which grows, not like a vegetable by having its roots littered with etymological compost, but like a spirit, by mysterious contact of spirit; thought kindling itself at the fire of living thought? How shall he give kindling in whose own inward man there is no live coal, but all is burnt out to a dead grammatical cinder, who knows of the human soul thus much: that it has a faculty called memory, which can be acted on through the muscular integument by appliance of birch rods ? Alas! so it is everywhere, so will it ever be, till the hodman is discharged or reduced to hod-bearing; and an architect is hired, and on all hands, fitly encouraged; till communities, and individuals discover that with generals and field-marshals for killing, there should be world-honored dignitaries, and were it possible, true, Godordained priests for teaching."

F. H. T.



The writer of the following pages proposes to discuss the question from a primary school teacher's point of view, and in the negative, on the ground that such punishment is, as a practice, injudicious.

Though there are various causes of imperfect recitations, it is probable that idleness is the chief, but idleness itself has a cause, either mental or physical; and though there can be no perfect recitation without industry, it does not follow that the most persistent industry will always secure a perfect recitation. Sometimes there is an inherent difficulty; the lesson which is of a reasonable length for the average of the class, is too long for the few whose intellects move more slowly; or, if judiciously assigned as to length, the subject may be uninteresting, or the text unintelligible to a child, on account of being expressed in unfamiliar terms. And even when a lesson has been thoroughly committed to memory, there may be a failure in recitation, arising from distracted attention or some other disturbing cause.

We think, however, that if the true cause of a large proportion of the failures in recitation which a thoroughly “live” and interesting teacher encounters, could be ascertained, it would be found to lie, not in the mental disinclination of the pupil for study, but in disability produced by physical causes, such as insufficient sleep, over-excited nerves, or indigestion. It would be hardly reasonable to expect thorough attention and interested study the morning after the Fourth of July, yet there is scarcely a day when some of our pupils have not been having a Fourth of July or its equivalent in unseasonable hours, improper food, and exciting amusements.

The teacher is unaware of the cause why Master John does not study, indeed Master John does not know himself,— he only knows he “cannot get his lesson," and the rattan or the ruler comes down unsparingly on the young offender for not executing what was really as hopeless a task, for the time being, as the labors of Sisyphus. Whereas “the old folks at home” are the parties who really deserve the castigation.

We do not say there are no cases in which corporal punishment should be administered for the idleness which causes imperfect recitations, but that we think the practice injudicious, not only because there may have been temporary inability to acquire the lesson, but because violence does not promote mental growth.

The true object of all study is to lead the learner to think for himself, to expand his mind, and this cannot be done through fear. Fear may possibly make one child study more or commit more words to memory, but nine out of ten would feel its disturbing influence too much to be able to fix the attention enough to assimilate ideas.

It has been said that there is no royal road to learning, and we are certainly not of those who believe that every step can be made smooth and every dark spot luminous; but we do believe that no pains should be spared to invest every employment of the schoolroom with interest, and every possible light be brought to bear upon the little learner's pathway to make it attractive.

But every teacher knows that while a new reading lesson, a fresh page of spelling to write down, a new map to study, or a new article in descriptive geography may be made to glow with interest, and every eye will beam brightly, and every mind be on the alert to listen to her remarks or suggestions, or answer her questions, such a lesson once gone over is not fixed in the memory of any but the brightest and most retentive, — the majority go away as would the same number of adults from a good lecture or sermon, knowing they have been interested, but unable to give even the heads. Afterwards must come the drudgery; the old reading lesson must be read again and again till all the interest is out of it, the drilling upon the spelling lesson must continue till every word is perfectly learned, the soiled and familiar mapa pored over till every name is stamped upon the memory. Then the child flags in interest, does not want to study, thinks he knows it because he has been over it before, and fails to-day on the lesson he recited perfectly a month ago; and just at this point comes in the teacher's temptation to resort to the cheap stimulus of the rod. We said “cheap,” — no, it is always dear, for no teacher can afford to incur the ill will which such a course excites, and it rarely is a benefit to the pupil.

« AnteriorContinuar »