Page images
PDF
EPUB

Cheerful

ILSS.

own scholastic experiences, which, both as learner and as teacher, had not been delightful ones, led him no doubt to an exaggerated view of the misery of school-keeping as he had seen it. But he did not exaggerate the mischievous effect of a régime of brute force, and of a hard and ill-tempered pedagogue on the character of a child. Injustice breeds injustice. Every act of petulance or ill-temper will have some effect in deteriorating the character of the pupils, and will be reproduced in their own conduct towards their juniors or inferiors. Dr Channing has well said that “a boy compelled for six hours a day to see the countenance and hear the voice of a fretful, unkind, hard or passionate man is placed in a school of vice.”

The need of constant cheerfulness on the part of a teacher becomes more apparent when we consider the nature of childhood. In some professions an artificial gravity of demeanour is not inappropriate. The clergyman or the surgeon has much to do at the bedside, in the house of mourning, with the sick and the suffering, where anything approaching to levity would often be unbecoming. But the intercourse of a teacher is with the young, the strong and the happy, and he makes a great mistake if he thinks that a severe and forbidding manner is required by the dignity of his calling. A good fund of animal spirits puts the teacher at once into sympathetic rapport with his pupils, because it shews them that seriousness of purpose need not mean dulness, and that the possession of learning is not incompatible with a true enjoyment of life. We must not forget that to a little child the teacher is the possessor of unfathomable erudition, the representative and embodiment of that learning which he himself is being urged to acquire. And if he sees that the acquirement of it has rather

[blocks in formation]

made the teacher's life gloomy than bright or joyous, he may not put his inference into the form of a proposition, but he will none the less surely acquire a dislike for knowledge, and arrive at the conclusion that it cannot be such a cheering and beautiful thing after all. It is wellknown that the men and women most influential in the school-room are those who know how to share the enjoyment of their scholars in the playground; who at least do not frown at children's play, but shew an interest in it, recognize it as a proper and necessary employment of time, and indeed can play heartily themselves when the proper occasion comes. Many of the influences which surround a teacher's life have a special tendency to encourage a sedentary and physically inactive habit, and it is also observable that persons are not unfrequently attracted to the profession of teaching because they are not strong, and are studiously inclined. But it ought never to be forgotten that bodily activity is a very valuable qualification in a teacher and should be cultivated as far as possible; not rapidly lost as it too often is. That eminent schoolmaster shewed a true appreciation of his work who said, “Whenever the day comes in which I find I cannot run up stairs three at a time I shall think it high time to retire."

And among other merely physical qualifications ne- Quick cessary in a teacher one cannot overlook the need of perception great quickness both of eye and of ear. These are of ear. indispensable. In standing before a class, whether it be large or small, it is essential to stand so that every member of it should be brought into focus so to speak, that the eye should take in all that is going on, and that no act or movement should escape notice. I am more and more struck as I look at schools, with the importance of this. I often see teachers who either

F. L.

of eye and

2

place themselves so that they can not see every pupil, or who, by keeping the eye fixed either on the book, or on one particular part of the class, fail to check indifference or inattention simply because they do not see it and are not instantly conscious of it. No real intellectual drill or discipline is possible in such a class. It is a great thing therefore to cultivate in yourself the habit of glancing rapidly, of fixing the gaze instantly on any child who is wandering or disobedient, and applying a remedy without delay. And the need for a remedy will steadily diminish as your own vigilance increases. Let scholars know that every deviation from rule, every wandering look, every carelessly written letter in a copy is sure to be at once recognized by your quick glance, and they will cease very soon to give you much to detect. But let them see always before them a heavy eye, an unobservant manner, which permits let us say two out of every three faults to pass undiscovered, and they are skilful enough in the doctrine of chances to know well in effect what this means. It means that the probability is two to one against the detection of any given fault, and you will find that in this way, the chances being largely in favour of the disobedient one, disobedient acts will be multiplied in far greater proportion still. The teacher's ear too should be trained to a sensitive perception, of all discordant or unpermitted sounds. It should be acute to distinguish between the legitimate noise of work and the noise which impedes work or is inconsistent with it. Obvious as this is, many schoolmasters and mistresses waste much time and add greatly to the difficulties of their duty by disregarding it. Quick sensibility, both of ear and of eye, are special natural gifts with a few; but they may be acquired with the help of cultivation, even by those who have not been gifted by

[blocks in formation]

nature, if they only believe them to be worth having and take a little pains to obtain them. I may add that if a teacher possesses enough knowledge of the art of drawing to enable him to make impromptu rough diagrams illustrative of his lessons, the accomplishment is one which will add much to his effective power.

And may we not enumerate among the physical at- Voice. tributes which go to make a perfect teacher a gentle, and yet an authoritative voice. There is necessarily a great expenditure of voice in teaching, and it is of much importance to know how to economize it. As years go on, those whose profession obliges them to talk much ore rotundo, begin to find the vocal organs weak and overworked, and to regret all useless exertion of vocal power. And thus it should be borne in mind from the first that simply from the point of view of one's bodily health it is not good to shout or cry or lift up the voice unnecessarily. It is a great point in what you may call the dynamics of teaching to effect the maximum result with the minimum of effort. And it happens that in regard to the voice, a low tone not only effects as much as a loud one, but it actually effects more. The key at which the teacher's voice is habitually pitched determines the tone of all the school work. Children will all shout if you shout. On the other hand, if you determine never to raise your voice when you give a command they will be compelled to listen to you, and to this end to subjugate their own voices habitually, and to carry on all their work in quiet

The moral effect of this on the character of the pupils is not insignificant. A noisy school is one in which a great opportunity of civilizing and softening the manners is habitually lost. And a school whose work is always done on a low tone, is one in which not only is the teacher healthier, and better able to economize the

ness.

Pedantry.

resources of his own life, but as a place of moral discipline it is far more effective.

Touching the matter of speech, which among the minor conditions of effective and happy school-keeping is of far more significance than it may at first appear, I should like to add that some teachers seem to think it necessary to affect a studied precision in language, and to cultivate little crotchets as to elegant pronunciation, which are unknown outside of the school world. The perfection of language is the perfection of a transparent glass; it is the virtue of self-effacement. By it and through it one mind should look right into another and see exactly the thing which has to be seen; but if the medium is itself visible, if it challenge attention to itself, it is, in just that degree, an imperfect medium, and fails to fulfil its highest purpose. Ars est celare artem. The moment our speech becomes so precise and so proper that its precision and propriety become themselves noticeable things, that moment we cease to be good speakers in the best sense of the word. Ours is the one profession in which there is the greatest temptation to little pedantries of this kind, and it may therefore not be unfitting to refer to it. He whose speech or manner proclaims him to be a schoolmaster is not yet a perfect adept in his art. We may not conceal from ourselves that in society those whose manners and speech betray them thus are not popular, and that they are not unfrequently spoken of as pedants. Now what is it to be a pedant? It is to have our vision so narrowed by the particular duty we have in hand that we see it and other peoples' duties, so to speak, in false perspective, and mistake the relative importance of our own doings and theirs. In this sense there are pedants in all professions, and it must be owned that they are often the people

« PreviousContinue »