to his business. A merchant, for example, may be employed nearly all the
day at his counting-room, and so may a mechanic. A physician may spend
all his waking hours in visiting patients, and feel little more than
healthy fatigue. The reason is, that in all these employments, and, in
fact, in most of the employments of life, there is so much to diversify,
so many little incidents constantly occurring to animate and relieve,
and so much bodily exercise, which alternates with and suspends the
fatigues of the mind, that the labors may be much longer continued, and
with less cessation, and yet the health not suffer. But the teacher,
while engaged in his work, has his mind continually on the stretch.
There is little relief, little respite, and he is almost entirely
deprived of bodily exercise. He must, consequently, limit his hours of
attending to his business, or his health will soon sink under labors
which Providence never intended the human mind to bear.
There is another circumstance which facilitates the progress of the
teacher. It is a fact that all this general progress has a direct and
immediate bearing upon his pursuits. A lawyer may read in an evening an
interesting book of travels, and find nothing to help him with his case,
the next day, in court; but almost every fact which the teacher thus
learns will come _at once into use_ in some of his recitations at
school. We do not mean to imply by this that the members of the legal
profession have not need of a great variety and extent of knowledge;
they doubtless have. It is simply in the _directness_ and _certainty_
with which the teacher's knowledge may be applied to his purpose that
the business of teaching has the advantage over every other pursuit.
This fact, now, has a very important influence in encouraging and
leading forward the teacher to make constant intellectual progress, for
every step brings at once a direct reward.
10. THE CHESTNUT BURR. - _A story for school-boys._ - One fine Saturday
afternoon, in the fall of the year, the master was taking a walk in the
woods, and he came to a place where a number of boys were gathering
One of the boys was sitting upon a bank trying to open some chestnut
burrs which he had knocked off from the tree. The burrs were green, and
he was attempting to open them by pounding them with a stone.
He was a very impatient boy, and was scolding in a loud, angry, tone
against the burrs. He did not see, he said, what in the world chestnuts
were made to grow so for. They ought to grow right out in the open air,
like apples, and not have such vile porcupine skins on them, just to
plague the boys. So saying, he struck with all his might a fine large
burr, crushed it to pieces, and then jumped up, using at the same time
profane and wicked words. As soon as he turned round he saw the master
standing very near him. He felt very much ashamed and afraid, and hung
down his head.
"Roger," said the master (for this boy's name was Roger), "can you get
me a chestnut burr?"
Roger looked up for a moment to see whether the master was in earnest,
and then began to look around for a burr.
A boy who was standing near the tree, with a red cap full of burrs in
his hand, held out one of them. Roger took the burr and handed it to the
master, who quietly put it into his pocket, and walked away without
saying a word.
As soon as he was gone, the boy with the red cap said to Roger, "I
expected that the master would have given you a good scolding for
"The master never scolds," said another boy, who was sitting on a log
pretty near, with a green satchel in his hand, "but you see if he does
not remember it." Roger looked as if he did not know what to think about
"I wish," said he, "I knew what he is going to do with that burr."
That afternoon, when the lessons had been all recited, and it was about
time to dismiss the school, the boys put away their books, and the
master read a few verses in the Bible, and then offered a prayer, in
which he asked God to forgive all the sins which any of them had
committed that day, and to take care of them during the night. After
this he asked the boys all to sit down. He then took his handkerchief
out of his pocket and laid it on the desk, and afterward he put his
hand into his pocket again, and took out the chestnut burr, and all the
boys looked at it.
"Boys," said he, "do you know what this is?"
One of the boys in the back seat said, in a half whisper, "It is nothing
but a chestnut burr."
"Lucy," said the master to a bright-eyed little girl near him, "what is
"It is a chestnut burr, sir," said she.
"Do you know what it is for?"
"I suppose there are chestnuts in it."
"But what is this rough, prickly covering for?"
Lucy did not know.
"Does any body here know?" said the master.
One of the boys said that he supposed it was to hold the chestnuts
together, and keep them up on the tree.
"But I heard a boy say," replied the master, "that they ought not to be
made to grow so. The nut itself, he thought, ought to hang alone on the
branches, without any prickly covering, just as apples do."
"But the nuts themselves have no stems to be fastened by," answered the
"That is true; but I suppose this boy thought that God could have made
them grow with stems, and that this would have been better than to have
them in burrs."
After a little pause the master said that he would explain TO them what
the chestnut burr was for, and wished them all to listen attentively.
"How much of the chestnut is good to eat, William?" asked he, looking at
a boy before him.
"Only the meat."
"How long does it take the meat to grow?"
"All summer, I suppose, it is growing."
"Yes; it begins early in the summer, and gradually swells and grows
until it has become of full size, and is ripe, in the fall. Now suppose
there was a tree out here near the school-house, and the chestnut meats
should grow upon it without any shell or covering; suppose, too, that
they should taste like good ripe chestnuts at first, when they were very
small. Do you think they would be safe?"
William said "No; the boys would pick and eat them before they had time
"Well, what harm would there be in that? Would it not be as well to have
the chestnuts early in the summer as to have them in the fall?"
William hesitated. Another boy who sat next to him said,
"There would not be so much meat in the chestnuts if they were eaten
before they had time to grow."
"Right," said the master; "but would not the boys know this, and so all
agree to let the little chestnuts stay, and not eat them while they were
William said he thought they would not. If the chestnuts were good, he
was afraid they would pick them off and eat them if they were small.
All the rest of the boys in the school thought so too.
"Here, then," said the master, "is one reason for having prickles around
the chestnuts when they are small. But then it is not necessary to have
all chestnuts guarded from boys in this way; a great many of the trees
are in the woods, which the boys do not see; what good do the burrs do
in these trees?"
The boys hesitated. Presently the boy who had the green satchel under
the tree with Roger, who was sitting in one corner of the room, said,
"I should think they would keep the squirrels from eating them.
"And besides," continued he, after thinking a moment, "I should suppose,
if the meat of the chestnut had no covering, the rain would wet it and
make it rot, or the sun might dry and wither it."
"Yes," said the master, "these are very good reasons why the nut should
be carefully guarded. First the meats are packed away in a hard brown
shell, which the water can not get through; this keeps it dry, and away
from dust and other things which might injure it. Then several nuts thus
protected grow closely together inside this green, prickly covering,
which spreads over them and guards them from the larger animals and the
boys. Where the chestnut gets its full growth and is ripe, this
covering, you know, splits open, and the nuts drop out, and then any
body can get them and eat them."
The boys were then all satisfied that it was better that chestnuts
should grow in burrs.
"But why," asked one of the boys, "do not apples grow so?"
"Can any body answer that question?" asked the master.
The boy with the green satchel said that apples had a smooth, tight
skin, which kept out the wet, but he did not see how they were guarded
The master said it was by their taste. "They are hard and sour before
they are full grown, and so the taste is not pleasant, and nobody wishes
to eat them, except sometimes a few foolish boys, and these are punished
by being made sick. When the apples are full grown, they change from
sour to sweet, and become mellow - then they can be eaten. Can you tell
me of any other fruits which are preserved in this way?"
One boy answered, "Strawberries and blackberries;" and another said,
"Peaches and pears."
Another boy asked why the peach-stone was not outside the peach, so as
to keep it from being eaten; but the master said that he would explain
this another time. Then he dismissed the scholars, after asking Roger to
wait until the rest had gone, as he wished to see him alone.
Several of the articles which follow were communicated for this work by
different teachers, at the request of the author.
11. THE SERIES OF WRITING LESSONS. - Very many pupils soon become weary
of the dull and monotonous business of writing, unless some plans are
devised to give interest and variety to the exercise; and, on this
account, this branch of education, in which improvement may be most
rapid, is often the last and most tedious to be acquired.
A teacher, by adopting the following plan, succeeded in awakening a
great degree of interest on the subject, and, consequently, of promoting
rapid improvement. The plan was this: he prepared, on a large sheet of
paper, a series of lessons in coarse-hand, beginning with straight
lines, and proceeding to the elementary parts of the various letters,
and finally to the letters themselves. This paper was posted up in a
part of the room accessible to all.
The writing-books were made of three sheets of foolscap paper, folded
into a convenient size, making twenty-four pages in the book. The books
were to be ruled by the pupil, for it was thought important that each
should learn this art. Every pupil in school, then, being furnished with
one of these writing-books, was required to commence this series, and to
practice each lesson until he could write it well; then, and not till
then, he was permitted to pass to the next. A few brief directions were
given under each lesson on the large sheet. For example, under the line
of straight marks, which constituted the first lesson, was written as
_Straight, equidistant, parallel, smooth, well-terminated._
These directions were to call the attention of the pupil to the
excellences which he must aim at, and when he supposed he had secured
them, his book was to be presented to the teacher for examination. If
approved, the word _Passed_, or, afterward, simply _P_., was written
under the line, and he could then proceed to the next lesson. Other
requisites were necessary, besides the correct formation of the letters,
to enable one to pass; for example, the page must not be soiled or
blotted, no paper must be wasted, and, in no case, a leaf torn out. As
soon as _one line_ was written in the manner required, the scholar was
allowed to pass. In a majority of cases, however, not less than a page
would be practiced, and in many instances a sheet would be covered,
before one line could be produced which would be approved.
One peculiar excellency of this method was, that although the whole
school were working under a regular and systematic plan, individuals
could go on independently; that is, the progress of no scholar was
retarded by that of his companion; the one more advanced might easily
pass the earlier lessons in a few days, while the others would require
weeks of practice to acquire the same degree of skill.
During the writing-hour the scholars would practice each at the lesson
where he left off before, and at a particular time each day the books
were brought from the regular place of deposit and laid before the
teacher for examination. Without some arrangement for an examination of
all the books together, the teacher would be liable to interruption at
any time from individual questions and requests, which would consume
much time, and benefit only a few.
When a page of writing could not pass, a brief remark, calling the
attention of the pupil to the faults which prevented it, was sometimes
made in pencil at the bottom of the page. In other cases, the fault was
of such a character as to require full and minute oral directions to the
pupil. At last, to facilitate the criticism of the writing, a set of
arbitrary marks, indicative of the various faults, was devised and
applied, as occasion might require, to the writing-books, by means of
These marks, which were very simple in their character, were easily
remembered, for there was generally some connection between the sign
and the thing signified. For example, the mark denoting that letters
were too short was simply lengthening them in red ink; a faulty curve
was denoted by making a new curve over the old one, &c. The following
are the principal criticisms and directions for which marks were
Strokes rough. Too tall or too short.
Curve wrong. Stems not straight.
Bad termination Careless work.
Too slanting, and the reverse. Paper wasted.
Too broad, and the reverse. Almost well enough to pass.
Not parallel. Bring your book to the teacher.
Form of the letter bad. Former fault not corrected.
Large stroke made too fine, and the reverse.
A catalogue of these marks, with an explanation, was made out and placed
where it was accessible to all, and by means of them the books could be
very easily and rapidly, but thoroughly criticised.
After the plan had gone on for some time, and its operation was fully
understood, the teacher gave up the business of examining the books into
the hands of a committee, appointed by him from among the older and more
advanced pupils. That the committee might be unbiased in their judgment,
they were required to examine and decide upon the books without knowing
the names of the writers. Each scholar was, indeed, required to place
her name on the right hand upper corner of every page of her
writing-book, for the convenience of the distributors; but this corner
was turned down when the book was brought in, that it might not be seen
by the committee.
This committee was invested with plenary powers, and there was no appeal
from their decision. In case they exercised their authority in an
improper way, or failed on any account to give satisfaction, they were
liable to impeachment, but while they continued in office they were to
be strictly obeyed.
This plan went on successfully for three months, and with very little
diminution of interest. The whole school went regularly through the
lessons in coarse-hand, and afterward through a similar series in
fine-hand, and improvement in this branch was thought to be greater than
at any former period in the same length of time.
The same principle of arranging the several steps of an art or a study
into a series of lessons, and requiring the pupil to pass regularly from
one to the other, might easily be applied to other studies, and would
afford an agreeable variety.
12. THE CORRESPONDENCE. - A master of a district school was walking
through the room with a large rule in his hands, and as he came up
behind two small boys, he observed that they were playing with some
papers. He struck them once or twice, though not very severely, on the
head with the rule which he had in his hand. Tears started from the eyes
of one. They were called forth by a mingled feeling of grief,
mortification, and pain. The other, who was of "sterner stuff," looked
steadily into the master's face, and when his back was turned, shook his
fist at him and laughed in defiance.
Another teacher, seeing a similar case, did nothing. The boys, when they
saw him, hastily gathered up their playthings and put them away. An hour
or two after, a little boy, who sat near the master, brought them a note
addressed to them both. They opened it, and read as follows:
"To EDWARD AND JOHN, - I observed, when I passed you to-day, from your
concerned looks, and your hurried manner of putting something into your
desk, that you were doing something that you knew was wrong. When you
attempt to do any thing whatever which conscience tells you is wrong,
you only make yourself uneasy and anxious while you do it, and then you
are forced to resort to concealment and deception when you see me
coming. You would be a great deal happier if you would always be doing
your duty, and then you would never be afraid. Your affectionate
teacher, - - ."
As the teacher was arranging his papers in his desk at the close of
school, he found a small piece of paper neatly folded up in the form of
a note, and addressed to him. He read as follows:
"DEAR TEACHER, - We are very much obliged to you for writing us a note.
We were making a paper box. We know it was wrong, and are determined not
to do so any more. We hope you will forgive us.
"Your pupils, EDWARD, JOHN."
Which of these teachers understood human nature best?
13. WEEKLY REPORTS. - The plan described by the following article, which
was furnished by a teacher for insertion here, was originally adopted,
so far as I know, in a school on the Kennebec. I have adopted it with
A teacher had one day been speaking to her scholars of certain cases of
slight disorder in the school, which, she remarked, had been gradually
creeping in, and which, as she thought, it devolved upon the scholars,
by systematic efforts, to repress. She enumerated instances of disorder
in the arrangement of the rooms, leaving the benches out of their
places, throwing waste papers upon the floor, having the desk in
disorder inside, spilling water upon the entry floor, irregular
deportment, such as too loud talking or laughing in recess, or in the
intermission at noon, or when coming to school, and making unnecessary
noise in going to or returning from recitations.
"I have a plan to propose," said the teacher, "which I think may be the
pleasantest way of promoting a reform in things of this kind. It is
this. Let several of your number be chosen a committee to prepare
statedly - perhaps as often as once a week - a written report of the state
of the school. The report might be read before the school at the close
of each week. The committee might consist, in the whole, of seven or
eight, or even of eleven or twelve individuals, who should take the
whole business into their hands. This committee might appoint
individuals of their number to write in turn each week. By this
arrangement, it would not be known to the school generally who are the
writers of any particular report, if the individuals wish to be
anonymous. Two individuals might be appointed at the beginning of the
week, who should feel it their business to observe particularly the
course of things from day to day with reference to the report.
Individuals not members of the committee can render assistance by any
suggestions they may present to this committee. These should, however,
generally be made in writing.
"Subjects for such a report will be found to suggest themselves very
abundantly, though you may not perhaps think so at first. The committee
may be empowered not only to state the particulars in which things are
going wrong, but the methods by which they may be made right. Let them
present us with any suggestions they please. If we do not like them, we
are not obliged to adopt them. For instance, it is generally the case,
whenever a recitation is attended in the corner yonder, that an end of
one of the benches is put against the door, so as to occasion a serious
interruption to the exercises when a person wishes to come in or go out.
It would come within the province of the committee to attend to such a
case as this, that is, to bring it up in the report. The remedy in such
a case is a very simple one. Suppose, however, that instead of the
_simple_ remedy, our committee should propose that the classes reciting
in the said corner should be dissolved and the studies abolished? We
should know the proposal was an absurd one, but then it would do no
hurt; we should have only to reject it.
"Again, besides our faults, let our committee notice the respects in
which we are doing particularly well, that we may be encouraged to go on
doing well, or even to do better. If they think, for example, that we
are deserving of credit for the neatness with which books are kept - for
their freedom from blots, or scribblings, or dog's-ears, by which
school-books are so commonly defaced, let them tell us so. And the same
of any other excellence."
With the plan as thus presented, the scholars were very much pleased. It
was proposed by one individual that such a committee should be appointed
immediately, and a report prepared for the ensuing week. This was done.
The committee were chosen by ballot. The following may be taken as a
specimen of their reports:
"The Committee appointed to write the weekly report have noticed several
things which they think wrong. In the first place, there have been a
greater number of tardy scholars during the past week than usual. Much
of this tardiness, we suppose, is owing to the interest felt in building
the bower; but we think this business ought to be attended to only in
play-hours. If only one or two come in late when we are reading in the
morning, or after we have composed ourselves to study at the close of
the recess, every scholar must look up from her book - we do not say they
ought to do so, but only that they will do so. However, we anticipate an
improvement in this respect, as we know 'a word to the wise is
"In the two back rows we are sorry to say that we have noticed
whispering. We know that this fact will very much distress our teacher,
as she expects assistance, and not trouble, from our older scholars. It
is not our business to reprove any one's misconduct, but it is our duty
to mention it, however disagreeable it may be. We think the younger
scholars, during the past week, have much improved in this respect. Only
three cases of whispering among them have occurred to our knowledge.
"We remember some remarks made a few weeks ago by our teacher on the
practice of prompting each other in the classes. We wish she would
repeat them, for we fear that, by some, they are forgotten. In the class
in Geography, particularly in the questions on the map, we have noticed
sly whispers, which, we suppose, were the hints of some kind friend
designed to refresh the memory of her less attentive companion. We
propose that the following question be now put to vote. Shall the
practice of prompting in the classes be any longer continued?
"We would propose that we have a composition exercise _this_ week
similar to the one on Thursday last. It was very interesting, and we
think all would be willing to try their thinking powers once more. We
would propose, also, that the readers of the compositions should sit
near the centre of the room, as last week many fine sentences escaped
the ears of those seated in the remote corners.
"We were requested by a very public-spirited individual to mention once
more the want of three nails, for bonnets, in the entry. Also, to say
that the air from the broken pane of glass on the east side of the room
is very unpleasant to those who sit near.
"Proposed that the girls who exhibited so much taste and ingenuity in
the arrangement of the festoons of evergreen, and tumblers of flowers
around the teacher's desk, be now requested to remove the faded roses
and drooping violets. We have gazed on these sad emblems long enough.
"Finally, proposed that greater care be taken by those who stay at noon
to place their dinner-baskets in proper places. The contents of more
than one were partly strewed upon the entry floor this morning."
If such a measure as this is adopted, it should not be continued
uninterrupted for a very long time. Every thing of this sort should be