« PreviousContinue »
I HAVE thought it right to dedicate one of these The lectures to the consideration of a teacher's character teacher as
an admi. rather as a ruler and administrator than as an instructor, nistrator For it need not be said that he who can teach but and ruler. cannot govern works at an enormous disadvantage. Perfect discipline in a class or a school is an indispensable condition of successful teaching. It is necessary for the pupils, not only because by it they will learn in a given time twice as much and twice as easily ; but because one of the things they come to school to acquire over and above certain arts and accomplishments which are generally termed education, is the practice of obedience. The habit of subjugating one's own impulses, of constantly recognizing the supremacy of law, and bringing our actions into harmony with it, is one of the first conditions of an orderly and well-disciplined life. He who does not at least acquire that at school, has been under instruction to little purpose, whatever progress he may have made in technical learning. And it is of no less consequence to the teacher. His own health, his temper, and his happiness suffer grievously if he cannot command perfect obedience. One may secure it by personal influence and another by force, and it will be easy for us to see which is the better method
not to be
of the two. But by some means or other it must be had: it is better to gain it by force than not at all. For without it the school is a place of torment to all concerned, and must always remain inefficient for every
purpose which it professes to serve. Obedience
It may clear the ground a little if I say how obedience had by de- is not to be gained. You cannot get it by demanding manding or claiming it; by declaring that you will have it; or
even by explaining to your scholars how useful and indispensable it is. Obedience is a habit, and must be learned like other habits, rather by practice than by theory; by being orderly, not by talking about order. There are some things on which it is well to draw out the intelligence and sympathies of a child, and to make him understand the full reason and motive of what you do. But on this point, I would not, except on rare and special occasions, enter into any discussions, or offer any explanations. All entreaty—“Now do give me your attention ; '-all self-assertion—'I will have order;'-all threats—'If you don't attend to me, I will punish you;' are in themselves signs of weakness. They beget and propagate disobedience; they never really correct it. All noise and shouting aggravate the evil, and utterly fail to produce more than a temporary lull at best.
“He who in quest of silence ‘silence' hoots,
Is apt to make the hubbub he imputes." All talk about discipline in a school is in fact mischievous. To say 'I ought to be obeyed' is to assume that a child's knowledge is to be the measure of his obedience, to invite him to discuss the grounds of your authority, perhaps to dispute it. A nation, we know, is in an abnormal state while its members are debating the rights of man or the fundamental principles of government. There should be underlying all movement
and political activity, a settled respect for law and a feeling that law once made must be obeyed. family life of a right kind is possible, if the members ever treat the authority of the parent as an open question. The duty of obeying is not so much a thing to be learned per se. It must be learned before the learning of anything else becomes possible. It is like food or air in relation to our bodily lives; not a thing to be sought for and possessed for itself, but an antecedent condition, without which all other possessions become impossible. So it is not well in laying down a school rule to say anything about the penalty which will fall upon those who transgress it. Shew that you do not expect transgression; and then, if it comes, treat it—as far as you can with perfect candour and honesty do so—as something which surprises and disappoints you; and for which you must apply some remedy rather for the scholar's sake than your own. Now the first way to secure obedience to commands Commands
to be well is to make every rule and regulation you lay down the
considered subject of careful previous thought. Determine on the before they best course and be sure you are right. Then
are given. you
will gain confidence in yourself, and without such confidence authority is impossible. Be sure that if you have any secret misgiving as to the wisdom of the order you give or as to your own power ultimately to enforce it, that misgiving will reveal itself in some subtle way, and your order will not be obeyed. An unpremeditated or an indefinite command-one the full significance of which you yourself have not understood-often proves to be a mistake, and has to be retracted. And every time you retract an order your authority is weakened. Never give a command unless you are sure you can enforce it, nor unless you mean to see that it is obeyed. You must
not shrink from any trouble which may be necessary to carry out a regulation you have once laid down. It may involve more trouble than you were prepared for; but that trouble you are bound to take, in your scholar's interest and in your own.
We must not evade the consequences of our own orders, even when we did not foresee or even desire all of them. The law once laid down should be regarded as a sacred thing, binding the lawgiver as much as the subject. Every breach of it on the scholar's part, and all wavering or evasion in the enforcement of it on your own, puts a premium on future disobedience and goes far to weaken in the whole of your pupils a sense of the sacredness of law.
And when rules and orders descend to details, your supervision should be so perfect, that you will certainly know whether in all these details the orders have been obeyed or not. Unless you can make arrangements for detecting a breach of law with certainty, do not lay down a law at all. It may be replied to this, that an attitude of habitual suspicion is not favourable to the cultivation of self-respect in a scholar; and that you want often to trust him, and shew you rely on his honour. True. The development of the conscience and of the sentiment of honour is one of your highest duties; but in cases where you can safely appeal to the sense of honour, it is not a command which is wanted, but a wish, a principle, a request. You explain that a certain course of action is right or desirable or honourable in itself; and you say to your scholar, 'Now I think you see what I mean; I shall trust you to do it.' part in some degree with your own prerogative as a governor, and invite him to take a share in his selfgovernment. But you do not put your wishes into the form of a command in this case. Commands are for
That is, you
ment to be
those in whom the capacity for self-command is imperfectly developed; and in their case vigilance does not imply suspicion : it is for them absolutely needful to know that when you say a thing has to be done, you mean for certain to know whether it is done or not. Involuntary and mechanical obedience has to be learned first; the habit of conscious, voluntary rational obedience will come by slow degrees.
And let us not forget that admirable rule so often Overquoted from Jean Paul Richter, “Pas trop gouverner;" govern. we should not over-govern, we should never multiply avoided. commands, nor needlessly repeat one. Our governing force should be regarded by us as a bank reserve, on which we should be afraid to draw too often, because it may become 'exhausted. Every good ruler economizes power, and never puts it all forth at once. Children should feel, when they see us exercising authority, that there is a great reserve of unused strength and resolution behind, which they can neither see nor measure. It is not the visible exercise of power which impresses children most, but the unseen, which affects their imagination, and to which they can assign no limit. And this is most fully felt when the manner of putting forth strength is habitually calm and quiet, when you abstain from giving commands in regard to things which are indifferent, and when such commands as you give are few and short. “Even a grown man,” says Richter, “whom some one should follow all day long with moveable pulpit and stool of confession, from which to hurl sermons and anathemas, could never attain any real activity and moral freedom. How much less then a weak child, who at every step in life must be entangled with a 'stop,' 'run,' be quiet,' 'do this, do that? Your watch stops while you wind it up, and you everlastingly