that the former master used to hear in the morning?
The boys are silent, looking to one another.
_Teacher_. Did he hear _any_ recitation immediately after school began?
_Boys_ (faintly, and with hesitation). No, sir.
_Teacher_. How long was it before he began to hear lessons?
Several boys simultaneously. "About half an hour." "A little while."
"Quarter of an hour."
"What did he do at this time?"
"Set copies," "Looked over sums," and various other answers are perhaps
The teacher makes a memorandum of this, and then inquires,
"And what lesson came after this?"
"All the boys in this school who studied Geography may rise."
A considerable number rise.
"Did you all recite together?"
"There are two classes, then?"
"Yes. sir." "Yes, sir." "More than two."
"All who belong to the class that recites first in the morning may
remain standing; the rest may sit."
The boys obey, and eight or ten of them remain standing. The teacher
calls upon one of them to produce his book, and assigns them a lesson in
regular course. He then requests some one of the number to write out, in
the course of the day, a list of the class, and to bring it with him to
the recitation the next morning.
"Are there any other scholars in the school who think it would be well
for them to join this class?"
In answer to this question probably some new scholars might rise, or
some hitherto belonging to other classes, who might be of suitable age
and qualifications to be transferred. If these individuals should appear
to be of the proper standing and character, they might at once be joined
to the class in question, and directed to take the same lesson.
In the same manner, the other classes would pass in review before the
teacher, and he would obtain a memorandum of the usual order of
exercises, and in a short time set all his pupils at work preparing for
the lessons of the next day. He would be much aided in this by the
previous knowledge which he would have obtained by private conversation,
as recommended under a former head. Some individual cases would require
a little special attention, such as new scholars, small children, and
others; but he would be able, before a great while, to look around him
and see his whole school busy with the work he had assigned them, and
his own time, for the rest of the morning, in a great degree at his own
I ought to say, however, that it is not probable that he would long
continue these arrangements unaltered. In hearing the different classes
recite, he would watch for opportunities for combining them, or
discontinuing those where the number was small; he would alter the times
of recitation, and group individual scholars into classes, so as to
bring the school, in a very short time, into a condition corresponding
more nearly with his own views. All this can be done very easily and
pleasantly when the wheels are once in motion; for a school is like a
ship in one respect - most easily steered in the right direction when
By this plan, also, the teacher obtains what is almost absolutely
necessary at the commencement of his labors, time for _observation_. It
is of the first importance that he should become acquainted, as early as
possible, with the characters of the boys, especially to learn who those
are which are most likely to be troublesome. There always will be a few
who will require special watch and care, and generally there will be
only a few. A great deal depends on finding these individuals out in
good season, and bringing the pressure of a proper authority to bear
upon them soon. By the plan I have recommended of not attempting to
remodel the school wholly at once, the teacher obtains time for noticing
the pupils, and learning something about their individual characters. In
fact, so important is this, that it is the plan of some teachers,
whenever they commence a new school, to let the boys have their own way,
almost entirely, for a few days, in order to find out fully who the idle
and mischievous are. This is, perhaps, going a little too far; but it is
certainly desirable to enjoy as many opportunities for observation as
can be secured on the first few days of the school.
6. Make it, then, a special object of attention, during the first day or
two, to discover who the idle and mischievous individuals are. They will
have generally seated themselves together in little knots; for, as they
are aware that the new teacher does not know them, they will imagine
that, though perhaps separated before, they can now slip together again
without any trouble. It is best to avoid, if possible, an open collision
with any of them at once, in order that they may be the better observed.
Whenever, therefore, you see idleness or play, endeavor to remedy the
evil for the time by giving the individual something special to do, or
by some other measure, without, however, seeming to notice the
misconduct. Continue thus adroitly to stop every thing disorderly,
while, at the same time, you notice and remember where the tendencies to
By this means, the individuals who would cause most of the trouble and
difficulty in the discipline of the school will soon betray themselves,
and those whose fidelity and good behavior can be relied upon will also
be known. The names of the former should be among the first that the
teacher learns, and their characters should be among the first which he
studies. The most prominent among them - those apparently most likely to
make trouble - he should note particularly, and make inquiries out of
school respecting them, their characters, and their education at home,
so as to become acquainted with them as early and as fully as possible,
for he must have this full acquaintance with them before he is prepared
to commence any decided course of discipline with them. The teacher
often does irreparable injury by rash action at the outset. He sees, for
instance, a boy secretly eating an apple which he has concealed in his
hand, and which he bites with his book before his mouth, or his head
under the lid of his desk. It is perhaps the first day of the school,
and the teacher thinks he had better make an example at the outset, and
calls the boy out, knowing nothing about his general character, and
inflicts some painful or degrading punishment before all the school. A
little afterward, as he becomes gradually acquainted with the boy, he
finds that he is of mild, gentle disposition, generally obedient and
harmless, and that his offense was only an act of momentary
thoughtlessness, arising from some circumstances of peculiar temptation
at the time; a boy in the next seat, perhaps, had just before given him
the apple. The teacher regrets, when too late, the hasty punishment. He
perceives that instead of having the influence of salutary example upon
the other boys, it must have shocked their sense of justice, and excited
dislike toward a teacher so quick and severe, rather than of fear of
doing wrong themselves. It would be safer to postpone such decided
measures a little - to avoid all open collisions, if possible, for a few
days. In such a case as the above, the boy might be kindly spoken to in
an under tone, in such a way as to show both the teacher's sense of the
impropriety of disorder, and also his desire to avoid giving pain to
the boy. If it then turns out that the individual is ordinarily a
well-disposed boy, all is right, and if he proves to be habitually
disobedient and troublesome, the lenity and forbearance exercised at
first will facilitate the effect aimed at by subsequent measures. Avoid,
then, for the few first days, all open collision with any of your
pupils, that you may have opportunity for minute and thorough
And here the young teacher ought to be cautioned against a fault which
beginners are very prone to fall into, that of forming unfavorable
opinions of some of their pupils from their air and manner before they
see any thing in their conduct which ought to be disapproved. A boy or
girl comes to the desk to ask a question or make a request, and the
teacher sees in the cast of countenance, or in the bearing or tone of
the individual, something indicating a proud, or a sullen, or an
ill-humored disposition, and conceives a prejudice, often entirely
without foundation, which weeks perhaps do not wear away. Every
experienced teacher can recollect numerous cases of this sort, and he
learns, after a time, to suspend his judgment. Be cautious, therefore,
on this point, and in the survey of your pupils which you make during
the first few days of your school, trust to nothing but the most sure
and unequivocal evidences of character, for many of your most docile and
faithful pupils will be found among those whose appearance at first
prepossessed you strongly against them.
One other caution ought also to be given. Do not judge too severely in
respect to the ordinary cases of misconduct in school. The young teacher
almost invariably does judge too severely. While engaged himself in
hearing a recitation, or looking over a "sum," he hears a stifled laugh,
and, looking up, sees the little offender struggling with the muscles of
his countenance to restore their gravity. The teacher is vexed at the
interruption, and severely rebukes or punishes the boy, when, after
all, the offense, in a moral point of view, was an exceedingly light
one - at least it might very probably have been so. In fact, a large
proportion of the offenses against order committed in school are the
mere momentary action of the natural buoyancy and life of childhood.
This is no reason why they should be indulged, or why the order and
regularity of the school should be sacrificed, but it should prevent
their exciting feelings of anger or impatience, or very severe
reprehension. While the teacher should take effectual measures for
restraining all such irregularities, he should do it with the tone and
manner which will show that he understands their true moral character,
and deals with them, not as heinous sins, which deserve severe
punishment, but as serious inconveniences, which he is compelled to
There are often cases of real moral turpitude in school, such as where
there is intentional, willful mischief, or disturbance, or habitual
disobedience, and there may even be, in some cases, open rebellion. Now
the teacher should show that he distinguishes these cases from such
momentary acts of thoughtlessness as we have described, and a broad
distinction ought to be made in the treatment of them. In a word, then,
what we have been recommending under this head is, that the teacher
should make it his special study, for his first few days in school, to
acquire a knowledge of the characters of his pupils, to learn who are
the thoughtless ones, who the mischievous, and who the disobedient and
rebellious, and to do this with candid, moral discrimination, and with
as little open collision with individuals as possible.
7. Another point to which the teacher ought to give his early attention
is to separate the bad boys as soon as he can from one another. The
idleness and irregularity of children in school often depends more on
accidental circumstances than on character. Two boys may be individually
harmless and well-disposed, and yet they may be of so mercurial a
temperament that, together, the temptation to continual play will be
irresistible. Another case that more often happens is where one is
actively and even intentionally bad, and is seated next to an innocent,
but perhaps thoughtless boy, and contrives to keep him always in
difficulty. Now remove the former away, where there are no very frail
materials for him to act upon, and place the latter where he is exposed
to no special temptation, and all would be well.
This is all very obvious, and known familiarly to all teachers who have
had any experience. But beginners are not generally so aware of it at
the outset as to make any direct and systematic efforts to examine the
school with reference to its condition in this respect. It is usual to
go on, leaving the boys to remain seated as chance or their own
inclinations grouped them, and to endeavor to keep the peace among the
various neighborhoods by close supervision, rebukes, and punishment. Now
these difficulties may be very much diminished by looking a little into
the arrangement of the boys at the outset, and so modifying it as to
diminish the amount of temptation to which the individuals are exposed.
This should be done, however, cautiously, deliberately, and with
good-nature, keeping the object of it a good deal out of view. It must
be done cautiously and deliberately, for the first appearances are
exceedingly fallacious in respect to the characters of the different
children. You see, perhaps, some indications of play between two boys
upon the same seat, and hastily conclude that they are disorderly boys,
and must be separated. Something in the air and manner of one or both of
them confirms this impression, and you take the necessary measures at
once. You then find, when you become more fully acquainted with them,
that the appearances which you observed were only momentary and
accidental, and that they would have been as safe together as any two
boys in the school. And perhaps you will even find that, by their new
position, you have brought one or the other into circumstances of
peculiar temptation. Wait, therefore, before you make such changes,
till you have ascertained _actual character_, doing this, however,
without any unnecessary delay.
In such removals, too, it is well, in many cases, to keep the motive and
design of them as much as possible out of view; for by expressing
suspicion of a boy, you injure his character in his own opinion and in
that of others, and tend to make him reckless. Besides, if you remove a
boy from a companion whom he likes, avowedly to prevent his playing, you
offer him an inducement, if he is a bad boy, to continue to play in his
new position for the purpose of thwarting you, or from the influence of
resentment. It would be wrong, indeed, to use any subterfuge or
duplicity of any kind to conceal your object, but you are not bound to
explain it; and in the many changes which you will be compelled to make
in the course of the first week for various purposes, you may include
many of these without explaining particularly the design or intention of
any of them.
In some instances, however, you may frankly state the whole case without
danger, provided it is done in such a manner as not to make the boy feel
that his character is seriously injured in your estimation. It must
depend upon the tact and judgment of the teacher to determine upon the
particular course to be pursued in the several cases, though he ought to
keep these general principles in view in all.
In one instance, for example, he will see two boys together, James and
Joseph we will call them, exhibiting a tendency to play, and after
inquiring into their characters, he will find that they are
good-natured, pleasant boys, and that he had better be frank with them
on the subject. He calls one of them to his desk, and perhaps the
following dialogue ensues:
"James, I am making some changes in the seats, and thought of removing
you to another place. Have you any particular preference for that seat?"
The question is unexpected, and James hesitates. He wishes to sit next
to Joseph, but doubts whether it is quite prudent to avow it; so he
says, slowly and with hesitation,
"No, sir, I do not know that I have."
"If you have any reason, I wish you would tell me frankly, for I want
you to have such a seat as will be pleasant to you."
James does not know what to say. Encouraged, however, by the
good-humored tone and look which the master assumes, he says, timidly,
"Joseph and I thought we should like to sit together, if you are
"Oh! you and Joseph are particular friends, then, I suppose?"
"Why, yes, sir."
"I am not surprised, then, that you want to sit together, though, to
tell the truth, that is rather a reason why I should separate you."
"Because I have observed that when two great friends are seated
together, they are always more apt to whisper and play. Have you not
"Why, yes, sir."
"You may go and ask Joseph to come here."
When the two boys make their appearance again, the teacher continues:
"Joseph, James tells me that you and he would like to sit together, and
says you are particular friends; but I tell him," he adds, smiling,
"that that is rather a reason for separating you. Now if I should put
you both into different parts of the school, next to boys that you are
not acquainted with, it would be a great deal easier for you to be still
and studious than it is now. Do you not think so yourselves?"
The boys look at one another and smile.
"However, there is one way you can do. You can guard against the extra
temptation by extra care; and, on the whole, as I believe you are pretty
good boys, I will let you have your choice. You may stay as you are,
and make extra exertion to be perfectly regular and studious, or I will
find seats for you where it will be a great deal easier for you to be
so. Which do you think you should rather do?"
The boys hesitate, look at one another, and presently say that they had
rather sit together.
"Well," said the teacher, "it is immaterial to me whether you sit
together or apart, if you are only good boys, so you may take your seats
and try it a little while. If you find it too hard work to be studious
and orderly together, I can make a change hereafter. I shall soon see."
Such a conversation will have many good effects. It will make the boys
expect to be watched, without causing them to feel that their characters
have suffered. It will stimulate them to greater exertion to avoid all
misconduct, and it will prepare the way for separating them afterward
without awakening feelings of resentment, if the experiment of their
sitting together should fail.
Another case would be managed, perhaps, in a little different way, where
the tendency to play was more decided. After speaking to the individuals
mildly two or three times, you see them again at play. You ask them to
wait that day after school and come to your desk.
They have, then, the rest of the day to think occasionally of the
difficulty they have brought themselves into, and the anxiety and
suspense which they will naturally feel will give you every advantage
for speaking to them with effect; and if you should be engaged a few
minutes with some other business after school, so that they should have
to stand a little while in silent expectation, waiting for their turn,
it would contribute to the permanence of the effect.
"Well, boys," at length you say, with a serious but frank tone of voice,
"I saw you playing in a disorderly manner to-day, and, in the first
place, I wish you to tell me honestly all about it. I am not going to
punish you, but I wish you to be open and honest about it. What were you
The boys hesitate.
"George, what did you have in your hand?"
"A piece of paper."
"And what were you doing with it?"
_George_. William was trying to take it away from me.
"Was there any thing on it?"
George looks down, a little confused.
_William_. George had been drawing some pictures on it.
"I see each of you is ready to tell of the other's fault, but it would
be much more honorable if each was open in acknowledging his own. Have I
ever had to speak to you before for playing together in school?"
"Yes, sir, I believe you have," says one, looking down.
"More than once?"
"More than twice?"
"I do not recollect exactly; I believe you have."
"Well, now, what do you think I ought to do next?"
The boys have nothing to say.
"Do you prefer sitting together, or are you willing to have me separate
"We should rather sit together, sir, if you are willing," says George.
"I have no objection to your sitting together, if you could only resist
the temptation to play. I want all the boys in the school to have
There is a pause, the teacher hesitating what to do.
"Suppose, now, I were to make one more experiment, and let you try to be
good boys in your present seat, would you really try?"
"Yes, sir," "Yes, sir, we will," are the replies.
"And if I should find that you still continue to play, and should have
to separate you, will you move into your new seats pleasantly, and with
good-humor, feeling that I have done right about if?"
"Yes, sir, we will."
Thus it will be seen that there may be cases where the teacher may make
arrangements for separating his scholars, on an open and distinct
understanding with them in respect to the cause of it. We have given
these cases, not that exactly such ones will be very likely to occur, or
that, when they do, the teacher is to manage them in exactly the way
here described, but to exhibit more clearly to the reader than could be
done by any general description, the spirit and tone which a teacher
ought to assume toward his pupils. We wished to exhibit this in contrast
with the harsh and impatient manner which teachers too often assume in
such a case, as follows:
"John Williams and Samuel Smith, come here to me!" exclaims the master,
in a harsh, impatient tone, in the midst of the exercises of the
The scholars all look up from their work. The culprits slowly rise from
their seats, and with a sullen air come down to the floor.
"You are playing, boys, all the time, and I will not have it. John, do
you take your books, and go and sit out there by the window; and,
Samuel, you come and sit here on this front seat; and if I catch you
playing again, I shall certainly punish you severely."
The boys make the move with as much rattling and distention to make a
noise; and when they get their new seats, and the teacher is again
engaged upon his work, they exchange winks and nods, and in ten minutes
are slyly cannonading each other with paper balls.
In regard to all the directions that have been given under this head, I
ought to say again, before concluding it, that they are mainly
applicable to the case of beginners and of small schools. The general
principles are, it is true, of universal application, but it is only
where a school is of moderate size that the details of position, in
respect to individual scholars, can be minutely studied. More summary
processes are necessary, I am aware, when the school is very large, and
the time of the teacher is incessantly engaged.
8. In some districts in New England the young teacher will find one or
more boys, generally among the larger ones, who will come to the school
with the express determination to make a difficulty if they can. The
best way is generally to face these individuals at once in the most
direct and open manner, and, at the same time, with perfect good-humor
and kindness of feeling and deportment toward them personally. An
example or two will best illustrate what I mean.
A teacher heard a rapping noise repeatedly one day, just after he had
commenced his labors, under such circumstances as to lead him to suppose
it was designed. He did not appear to notice it, but remained after
school until the scholars had all gone, and then made a thorough
examination. He found, at length, a broken place in the plastering,
where a _lath_ was loose, and a string was tied to the end of it, and
thence carried along the wall, under the benches, to the seat of a
mischievous boy, and fastened to a nail. By pulling the string he could
spring the lath, and then let it snap back to its place. He left every
thing as it was, and the next day, while engaged in a lesson, he heard
the noise again.
He rose from his seat.
The scholars all looked up from their books.
"Did you hear that noise?" said he.
"Do you know what it is?"
"Very well; I only wished to call your attention to it. I may perhaps
speak of it again by-and-by."
He then resumed his exercise as if nothing had happened. The guilty boy
was agitated and confused, and was utterly at a loss to know what to do.
What could the teacher mean? Had he discovered the trick? and, if so,
what was he going to do?
He grew more and more uneasy, and resolved that, at all events, it was
best for him to retreat. Accordingly, at the next recess, as the teacher
had anticipated, he went slyly to the lath, cut the string, then
returned to his seat, and drew the line in, rolled it up, and put it in