« AnteriorContinuar »
watch how the practised teacher solves or obviates this difficulty. As he feels more at his ease, the various other points, less pressing in his case, but yet important, can be attended to, and thus difficulties too great to be combatted in the mass, are readily overcome when attacked in detail.
Pints to ^anxiQ 8D.eiujj.ers.*
Having now got the teacher into the school, let me drop a few hints which may be of service in helping him to teach successfully. The greatest element in a Sabbath school teacher's success is earnestness of purpose; the teacher must be thoroughly in earnest, or he will never succeed. Whatever thy hand finds to do, do with all thy might, ought to be the guiding principle in the work. No one ought to enter the Sabbath school because it is fashionable and the thing to do; and no one should enter on the duties because, forsooth, some friend goes there. True, many a good earnest warm-hearted friend has induced another to become a Sabbath school teacher; and I know no more excellent act on the part of a teacher than to help on the work in this way. Andrew and Philip met the Lord, and felt the blessedness of the Sacred Presence. Brotherly love went forth a conqueror over selfish absorption of the benefits to be conferred by the Master. They burned to bring their loved friends to share their joy, and thereby increase it. Andrew findeth his brother Simon, and Philip findeth Nathanael. If a friend bring you to the Sabbath school, a double blessing may be the result; but if you—the young teacher—go merely because your friend goes, and with no higher object in view, then the chances are that you will not go for long. You are leaning on a weak reed, which may, at any moment, snap in your hand, and terminate your connection with the work. Circumstances may arise to sever friendships, and the school may become a place to be avoided rather than to be sought after and loved. No teacher should go to the Sabbath school pluming himself on his education, however excellent it may have been, and considering himself quite superior to teaching the class of little ones to which his superintendent may have appointed him. The superintendent will do his best for the interests of scholars, teachers, and school, in appointing teachers to their respective classes; and if your class is not up to your mind, do not let that be a reason why you should get discouraged. He who is called to command must first have learned to obey. Go cheerfully to the appointed work, and shew yourself the successful teacher by making your class quite up to your mind. You will, perhaps, think it strange, and be inclined to question the statement, when I tell you that it requires more tact to teach the alphabet class in the day-school than any other; and the teacher who can best interest and teach a class of beginners, is almost invariably the most successful teacher of the senior class. In one of the higher classes in the Sabbath school the teacher has some acquired knowledge on the part of the children to fall back upon, but in the younger classes there is no stock
* Extracts from a Lecture delivered to the South-Eastcrn District Sabbath School Uaion.
in trade, and the teacher must do his best to adapt his instructions to the capabilities of the young minds under his care.
Teaching is so very different from any other kind of employment I know of, that I would here take the opportunity of giving you a word of warning, lest you should become discouraged at your seeming want of success. A mechanic lifts a certain tool, formed in a particular way, to do a special work, and by acquired skill operates on some inert mass of materials before him. By steady application he brings out of the confusion the machine he designed, and having finished, can point in triumph to the result of his labours. But the teacher's case is very different. He does a certain work, but cannot see that on which he works. He comes into contact with the abstract in thought, with feelings and habits, and must suit his communications to make an impression on that which he cannot see. Too frequently the worker feels that little or nothing has been done; the mind has been enjoying a little day dream while the teacher has been doing his best to make an impression. What has gone in at the one ear has gone out at the other; and the calculations regarding an improvement in any evil habit get completely upset by seeing the very thing* or worse done so soon as the children leave the school. Be not discouraged in your work. You have the promise, "Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not." I remember a minister, an old friend of mine, who has now gone to his reward, telling me that at one time he very carefully and prayerfully prepared a series of sermons on the Atonement, and after having delivered them, felt greatly depressed at the idea that no good had resulted from the work. Years passed; the memory of the work had almost faded from his mind, when a stranger— a sailor I think he was—called to thank him for one of those very sermons, which, by God's blessing, had been the means of his conversion. Sow you the seed; nurture it as well as you can; God will take care of it.
The first duty of the teacher towards his class is to strive to get intimately acquainted, with every one of his pupils, and to know them thoroughly. This is a work of time and of study. The superintendent has introduced you to a class of say six or eight pupils, to whom you are an utter stranger, and all of whom are strangers to you. I advise you to be exceedingly careful how you act, for your success, with that class at least, depends on the scholars' first impressions of their teacher. While you are anxious to know your pupils in their thoughts, feelings, temper, habits, &c, a very close, accurate, and rapid study is being made of the teacher by the pupils, and if there is any weak point about him, they will soon find it out. Do not think I am exaggerating. Many never experience any difficulty, as they have an innate power of attracting children to them; and some happen to get a class of naturally quiet loving and lovable children to teach; but I have seen a young teacher placed, before a class of boys of from nine to twelve years of age, and before the lesson was over, looking the very picture of despair, and apparently sweating with excitement and vexation at his failure to keep them in order and impart any instruction to them whatever. Let me give you a little picture of a class placed under a young teacher who fails to. win over his pupils at first sight. If it has never been your experience, be happy, and forget the sketch; if it has been, or is yours, I shall do my best to help you to amend it. Suppose the little portion of psalm or catechism said, and the Bibles opened at the lesson. First boy reads, not very fluently, stumbles a little, and the earnest teacher sets to in earnest to make this boy pronounce his words properly and read correctly. So intent is he on this particular point that he does not notice No. 3 looking off and gazing all round the room till his eye meets the eye of No. 4. No telegraph cable flashed a quicker message than the flashing of those eyes. No. 4 looks down to his hand, which is just half-way out of his trousers' pocket with a sugar ball or two in the palm. No. 3 is oblivious of everything else but the tempting sight, and is absorbed in anticipation. No. 5, craning his neck round No. 4 to see what is going on, inadvertently knocks down No. 4's new cap from the book-board, and is saluted by a knock of No. 4's elbow; and after lifting up the cap No. 4 scowls at him, and shakes his head threateningly. By this time No. 1 is finished reading; the teacher moves along the class, tells the boys to look on at the particular verse to be read, and then engages himself with No. 2 as with No. 1. No. 3 having to read next, is quiet and attentive, as the teacher is now pretty near him; at least as attentive as any boy could naturally be expected to be sitting so near such a treasure. Nos. 4 and 5 are still unreconciled, and No. 4 being the aggrieved party, is vigorously and ominously shaking his head, his wrath being no way abated by the frequent glances he gives to the soiled cap. No. 3 reads now, and No. 1 has time and opportunity to look around him. He sees something in the class before him, nudges his neighbour, and directs his attention to what is going on there; gives his opinion to No. 2, who apparently is of the same mind, and the whispering of these two worthies goes on unchecked, because the teacher is more than quite taken up with No. 3, who cannot get his tongue round the big words. Whilst No. 4 is reading, No. 3, bursting with anxiety to communicate the story of. the secret treasure, nudges No. 2, who tells No. 1, and the three look earnestly at No. 4 the moment he sits down after reading his verse. The scholars now know that they can be inattentive with impunity, and they are now thoroughly inattentive. No. 5, who is a bully, boldly says to No. 4, " Gie 's a bit." No. 4, a rather soft boy in the main, refusing, sits farther apart, but is followed by No. 5, gets a pretty smart knock from his elbow, and begins to cry. The noise attracts the teacher, who asks what is the matter, and is informed that No. 5 struck No. 4 with his elbow. Quick as thought comes No. 5's "Weel, he's aye dunching me. He '11 no dunch me for naething." The teacher endeavours to throw oil on the troubled waters; but no sooner has he become absorbed with some other member of the class than No. 5, shewing his fist clenched between the leaves of his book, indicates pretty plainly what he means when he says, "Wait till I get you oot." I need not dwell longer on this sketch. Insubordination to the teacher is almost sure to follow such conduct, and very often the bully and his sympathizers are lost to the school and to the teacher's good influences, for lack of a little proper care at first. You ask what can and ought to be done. I remember a story told me by an old gentleman whom I had the honour of reckoning as an intimate friend, the founder of the training system of education, the late David Stow. When quite a young man, Mr. Stow rented a small hall in the Briggate, and began Sabbath school work. Earnest, enthusiastic, he dived into the dark places of that region, and got a large number of scholars to enrol themselves in his school; but here his difficulties commenced. Every method he could think of was tried to civilize the young arabs; but instead of getting better in his hands, the sympathy of numbers, of which he made so much latterly, was against him, and he freely confessed they got worse. All sorts of tricks were played, and the pious instructions of the hour were apparently lost in the universal joy at some practical joke played on him or his fellow-workers. One evening, when engaged in prayer prior to dismissal, the noise was dreadful. Quietly the door opened, and an old gentleman, a minister, and friend of Mr. Stow, walked into the room. Perfect silence prevailed till Mr. Stow finished, and on looking up he found his friend standing before the desk looking earnestly at the boys, and they as earnestly looking at him. Kaising his hand, but still looking steadfastly at the scholars, he calmly but firmly repeated, "I will guide thee with mine eye,"—a text which became very precious to Mr. Stow as an educationist, and a text which I wish to impress on all teachers as containing a very great element of success in teaching, whether in the day school or Sabbath school. You know that it has been asserted that a man suddenly confronted by a savage beast has been able, by steadily gazing in the monster's eye, to make it stand at bay. Whether this be the case or not I cannot say, but it is a fact that a very unruly boy will quail before the steady gaze of an earnest master. Keep your pupils well in hand—I should rather say well in eye—and there is not the slightest fear of inattention or disorderly conduct. When the lesson is being read over it is not necessary that the teacher should fix his eyes on the verse, and mind nothing else. A glance along his class will be quite sufficient to inform him that every one is attending; a look at the inattentive boy will recal him to a proper sense of duty; and the knowledge on the part of the pupils that the teacher's eye is upon him, will be sure to deter him from looking round about; and as the mind must be fixed on something, it will most assuredly be fixed on the lesson, and it will become interesting if the teacher at all interests himself in it.
I could say much more on this subject, but I leave you to make the application,—remembering that I do not mean you to frighten any child by a look of anger, but to guide him by a look expressive of firmness and love. Order, as has been well said, is heaven's first law; and it must be the teacher's, or very little can be done productive of good. I have not the slightest doubt but that some of you may think I am, if not exactly exaggerating, at least stretching this chord, to its utmost tension, and harping on it rather long. I am perfectly certain of this, that every gentleman present who has been a superintendent of a Sabbath school for any length of time, and who has taken the trouble of studying his teachers and their classes, will endorse every word I have said.
I have already said that the teacher's first duty is to get thoroughly acquainted with his pupils. As the number in any class, unless perhaps the infant class, is small, this will not be a matter of great difficulty. The boy with whom you become first and best acquainted is the bold careless boy, who, unchecked, will become a bully to his neighbours, and a pest to class and teacher; but whose bold nature may make him the most strongly affectionate boy of all. You get his name—say it is John Brown for the nonce. You begin the work, and the boy looks off. First boy reads; attentive teacher, following our advice, glances along his class, sees John staring about him,—doesn't wait till John sees his teacher's eye on him, but before first boy has finished reading,—says, "Brown, look on your book !" which he does mechanically, and as mechanically looks off immediately; and is again saluted with, "Now, Brown, look on your book!" and again, "Now, Brown, didn't I tell you to look on your book I" and again, "Now, Brown, if you don't look on your book," followed by an ominous shake of the head, which is supposed to mean something, but which 'Brown' knows very well is not backed up by either cane or tawse, and means nothing. The teacher in this very soon reaches his last entrenchment, and instead of conquering is conquered,— a fact equally well known to teacher and scholar. Now, by all means get up the names of your scholars, but never, on any account, call a boy by his surname. Any here who have studied French and German, know well how much better adapted those languages are than our strong forcible English to express the tender relationships made and established between friends and kindred. Both languages tutoient; and this very fact is, I am sure, one, if not the main cause, of the universal politeness to be found in France and Germany. A French teacher, by the use of 'thou' instead of 'you,' informs his pupil that he regards him as a friend; and he at once reciprocates the feeling by tutoieing in return. Were he not to do so in response to his teacher's kindness, his fellow-pupils would look upon his conduct with horror, and he would be despised by every one who knew what he had done. Unfortunately we don't tutoie, and the only means we have of expressing regard for our pupils is by calling them by their Christian names. Besides, ordinary politeness demands it from us; and instead of saying to ourselves, "Oh! what's the use of being polite to him, he's only a boy," I say, be specially polite to him, that he may be polite to yourself and others. "Is not the boy father to the man 1" Remember that love begets love; speak kindly; say, "Now, John, I don't think you noticed what a nice verse Tom read, and how well he read it; you might read it for us and we '11 all listen." John reads, and you have all the class on your side listening to John's reading. Secure the sympathy of numbers on your side, and your success is certain. No child loves to be isolated from its fellows. In admonishing, reproving, encouraging, or praising, carry the whole class with you; never pounce upon the individual and give a lecture. Bather speak to the class of the sorrow you feel when any boy does what John has been doing, and John will be sure to amend in that very particular. This is only one of many ways to secure attention; the teacher will shape out plans for himself to suit circumstances and particular cases. The teacher must be a man of ways and means and plans, willing and ready to try new schemes and methods in conducting his work. The teacher who gets into a rut, and ends at the end of the year in the same regular routine manner in which he began at the beginning, will not make the same progress as he who boldly strikes out for himself in securing attention and encouraging pupils in their work. By all means endeavour to draw out the homelier feelings of your pupils, and they will gladly follow you, and try to receive whatever instruction you may impart. And