Page images

School-tiine to be filled with work.


and even noise is not a sin. But let him have no intervals of leisure in school. There, and in school time, where play is not permitted, let work be systematically pre. scribed. You will of course take care that the work is duly varied, that it does not put too great a strain on one set of muscles, or on one set of faculties; you will see that light mechanical work alternates duly with serious intellectual application. But work of some kind—work which is duly superintended, and which cannot be evaded, should be provided for every minute of the school day. 'Let every child have,' said Joseph Lancaster, ‘at all times, something to do and a motive for doing it.'

No doubt this business of maintaining discipline The faculty comes more easily to some than others. There are mand; some who seem qualified and designed by nature to natural or exercise ascendency over others. They are born like acquired. Hamlet's father with

An eye like Mars, to threaten and command," or better still they are naturally endowed with that sweet graciousness and attractiveness of manner which at once win confidence, and predispose the hearers to listen and obey. Of such a teacher her pupil may often say as Richard Steele once said in the finest compliment ever paid to a lady, “That to love her is a liberal education.” And yet those of us who are not thus equipped by nature have no right to be discouraged. Every one may acquire the power of ruling others by steadily setting himself to do so, by thinking well over his orders before he gives them, by giving them without faltering or equivocation, by obeying them himself, by determining in every case, and at whatever cost, to see them obeyed, and above all by taking care that they are reasonable and right, and properly adapted to the nature of childhood, to its weaknesses and its needs.

The law of

Since obedience and fixed attention are habits, they habit.

are subject to the same law which is found to regulate all other habits. And this law is very curious and worth attention. In virtue of it we find that any one act which we perform to-day is easier to perform to-morrow, and easier still next day, and afterwards becomes so mechanical by frequent repetition that in due time it is difficult for us not to do it. We may observe this in ourselves, in all the little manual acts which we perform every day: they become exactly like one another even without any conscious desire on our part that they should be like. Our handwriting for instance becomes so fixed, that it is positively difficult for us to disguise it. And on the other hand all acts which we leave undone become daily more difficult; the habit of not doing becomes as confirmed as that of doing. Bishop Butler has analysed this law of habit at much length, and with great subtlety; and he proves that all our habits whether mental, bodily or moral are strengthened by repeated acts. The practice of speaking the truth, of temperance, of charity, or of prompt obedience, becomes strengthened every time it is put into action. The question is as old as Aristotle, Does character produce actions, or do actions produce character? Is for example a man a temperate man because he abstains from excessive indulgence; or does he so abstain because he is a temperate and virtuous man? Now no doubt either of these questions might in a sense be answered in the affirmative ; because habit and character act and react on each other. But in the long run it is far truer to say that habits make character, than to say character makes habits. Character has been not improperly called a bundle of habits. We are what we are not so much because of what we wish to be, nor of any sentiments we have formed, but simply

[blocks in formation]

by virtue of what we are doing every day. And if as is probably true of all of us, we are constantly saddened by noticing how far we fall short of our own ideal; there is but one remedy; it is to place ourselves in new conditions, to brace ourselves up to some new effort, and to form a new set of habits. Mere meditation on what we wish to be, good resolutions, clear perception of the difference between right and wrong, are of little use unless they shew themselves in acts. Nay they are worse than useless. Hear Butler: “Going over the theory of virtue in one's mind, talking well and drawing fine pictures of it: this is so far from necessarily or certainly conducing to form a habit of it in him who thus employs himself that it may harden the mind in a contrary course. * * For from our very faculty of habit, passive impressions, by being repeated grow weaker. Thoughts by often passing through the mind are felt less sensibly. Being accustomed to danger begets intrepidity, i.e. lessens fear, and to distress lessens the emotion of pity. And from these two observations together, that practical habits are formed and strengthened by repeated acts and that passive impressions grow weaker by being repeated, it may follow that motives and excitements (to right action) are continually less and less consciously felt, even as the active habits strengthen.”

Now, I know of no truth more fruitful or far-reaching Its bearing in its bearing on a teacher's work than this, nor one on on school

work. which he will do well oftener to reflect. I say nothing of its bearing on your own personal character, on your capacity for work, on the steadiness and the method of your reading; but think for a moment what it means in relation to the pupils who come to you for instruction. It means that every time they come into your presence the habit of obedient attention is being either confirmed

or weakened. It means that every unregarded counsel or order of yours falls more ineffectually on the ear than the last. It means that prompt and exact obedience if insisted on in little things, becomes available for great things; it means in short that on the daily régime of your school depends the whole difference for life, in the case of your pupils, between a wandering loose slipshod style of thinking and of reading, and an orderly and observant mind, one accustomed to put forth all its best powers and to bring them to bear on any object worthy of pursuit. And what a profound difference this is ! It is only when we try to realize it and to see it in relation to our own life, and to the lives of the people who are struggling and failing around us, that the true significance

of early drill and discipline becomes apparent to us. Recreation. The sports and recreations of childhood come fairly

within the province of a schoolmaster and deserve his careful thought. But it would be easy to err on the side of over-regulation and too minute direction on this point. It is of the essence of healthy and really useful play that it should be spontaneous. What children are learning—and they are learning much—in play, ought to be learned unconsciously, and without any suspicion that they are being drilled and disciplined. Their own fresh instincts are here the safest guides to you, when you want to supply them with recreation. The toys 'which they like best, are not merely objects to look at; such as would gratify the taste of older persons. The capacity for admiration is soon exhausted in children. They like best something to handle, to arrange, to derange, and to re-arrange; a doll which can be dressed and undressed, a house of bricks which can be built up and pulled down; a tool which can be actually used; a machine model or a puzzle which will take to pieces. It is not

[blocks in formation]

the beauty or the costliness of a toy which gives permanent pleasure to a child; but the possession of some object however rude, which calls into exercise his faculties of invention, of tactual and physical activity, and even of destructiveness. For destructiveness is not wholly a vice. It is in its way a symptom of curiosity and of inquisitiveness, of desire to know what a thing is made of, and how it is made. And this after all is the true philosophic instinct; without it, we should have no great inventors, and make little or no advance in science. We must not repress this instinct because some of its manifestations are apt to be inconvenient to us. It is our business to take the instinct for granted, to recognize its usefulness and to provide due scope for its exercise. This is now often done in great public schools, by attaching to them workshops, in which boys who have a mechanical turn are allowed to learn the use of tools and a turning-lathe, to make the apparatus used in the lessons on science as well as boxes and other useful articles for themselves.

Regular gymnastic and calisthenic exercises, gra- Gymnasduated and arranged on a system, have their value, though they are for several reasons less in favour in English than in French and German schools. A covered gymnasium, with cross-bars, ropes and poles for leaping and climbing is a useful appendage to every school. But it is not well to rely too much on this artificial help. Most good English teachers prefer to let nature have freer play, and suggest her own form of gymnastics. The movements of a healthy child in running, in leaping, in rowing, in swimming, in throwing a ball, in achieving some object which he cares to attain, are quite as valuable, as the regulated preconcerted set of movements of a professor of gymnastics,


« PreviousContinue »