his pocket. The teacher, who was secretly watching him, observed the
At the close of the school, when the books were laid aside, and all was
silence, he treated the affair thus:
"Do you remember the noise to which I called your attention early this
"I will explain it to you now. One of the boys tied a string to a loose
lath in the side of the room, and then, having the end of it at his
seat, he was pulling it to make a noise to disturb us."
The scholars all looked astonished, and then began to turn round toward
one another to see who the offender could be. The culprit began to
"He did it several times yesterday, and would have gone on doing it had
I not spoken about it to-day. Do you think this was wrong or not?"
"Yes, sir;" "Wrong;" "Wrong," are the replies.
"What harm does it do?"
"It interrupts the school."
"Yes. Is there any other harm?"
The boys hesitate.
"It gives me trouble and pain. Should you not suppose it would?"
"Have I ever treated any boy or girl in this school unjustly or
"No, sir;" "No, sir."
"Then why should any boy or girl wish to give me trouble or pain?"
There was a pause. The guilty individual expected that the next thing
would be to call him out for punishment.
"Now what do you think I ought to do with such a boy?"
"Perhaps I ought to punish him, but I am very unwilling to do that. I
concluded to try another plan - to treat him with kindness and
forbearance. So I called your attention to it this afternoon, to let him
know that I was observing it, and to give him an opportunity to remove
the string. And he did. He went, in the recess, and cut off the string.
I shall not tell you his name, for I do not wish to injure his
character. All I want is to have him a good boy."
"I think I shall try this plan, for he must have some feelings of honor
and gratitude, and if he has, he certainly will not try to give me pain
or trouble again after this. And now I shall say no more about it, nor
think any more about it; only, to prove that it is all as I say, if you
look there under that window after school, you will see the lath with
the end of the string round it, and, by pulling it, you can make it
Another case, a little more serious in its character, is the following:
A teacher, having had some trouble with a rude and savage-looking boy,
made some inquiry respecting him out of school, and incidentally learned
that he had once or twice before openly rebelled against the authority
of the school, and that he was now, in the recesses, actually preparing
a club, with which he was threatening to defend himself if the teacher
should attempt to punish him.
The next day, soon after the boys had gone out, he took his hat and
followed them, and, turning round a corner of the school-house, found
the boys standing around the young rebel, who was sitting upon a log,
shaving the handle of the club smooth with his pocket-knife. He was
startled at the unexpected appearance of the teacher, and the first
impulse was to hide his club behind him; but it was too late, and,
supposing that the teacher was ignorant of his designs, he went on
sullenly with his work, feeling, however, greatly embarrassed.
"Pleasant day, boys," said the teacher. "This is a fine sunny nook for
you to talk in.
"Seems to me, however, you ought to have a better seat than this old
log," continued he, taking his seat at the same time by the side of the
"Not so bad a seat, however, after all. What are you making, Joseph?"
Joseph mumbled out something inarticulate by way of reply. "I have got a
sharper knife," said he, drawing his penknife out of his pocket. And
then, "Let me try it," he continued, gently taking the club out of
The boys looked surprised, some exchanged nods and winks, others turned
away to conceal a laugh; but the teacher engaged in conversation with
them, and soon put them all at their ease except poor Joseph, who could
not tell how this strange interview was likely to end.
In the mean time, the teacher went on shaving the handle smooth and
rounding the ends. "You want," said he, "a rasp or coarse file for the
ends, and then you could finish it finely. But what are you making this
formidable club for?"
Joseph was completely at a loss what to say. He began to show evident
marks of embarrassment and confusion.
"I know what it is for; it is to defend yourself against me with. Is it
not, boys?" said he, appealing to the others.
A faint "Yes, sir" or two was the reply.
"Well, now, Joseph, it will be a great deal better for us both to be
friends than to be enemies. You had better throw this club away, and
save yourself from punishment by being a good boy. Come, now," said he,
handing him back his club, "throw it over into the field as far as you
can, and we will all forget that you ever made it."
Joseph sat the picture of shame and confusion. Better feelings were
struggling for admission, and the case was decided by a broad-faced,
good-natured-looking boy, who stood by his side, saying almost
"Better throw it, Joe."
The club flew, end over end, into the field. Joseph returned to his
allegiance, and never attempted to rise in rebellion again.
The ways by which boys engage in open, intentional disobedience are, of
course, greatly varied, and the exact treatment will depend upon the
features of the individual case; but the frankness, the openness, the
plain dealing, and the kind and friendly tone which it is the object of
the foregoing illustrations to exhibit, should characterize all.
9. We have already alluded to the importance of a delicate regard for
the _characters_ of the boys in all the measures of discipline adopted
at the commencement of a school. This is, in fact, of the highest
importance at all times, and is peculiarly so at the outset. A wound to
the feelings is sometimes inflicted by a single transaction which
produces a lasting injury to the character. Children are very sensitive
to ridicule or disgrace, and some are most acutely so. A cutting reproof
administered in public, or a punishment which exposes the individual to
the gaze of others, will often burn far more deeply into the heart than
the teacher imagines.
And it is often the cause of great and lasting injury, too. By
destroying the character of a pupil, you make him feel that he has
nothing more to lose or gain, and destroy that kind of interest in his
own moral condition which alone will allure him to virtuous conduct. To
expose children to public ridicule or contempt tends either to make them
sullen and despondent, or else to arouse their resentment and to make
them reckless and desperate. Most persons remember through life some
instances in their early childhood in which they were disgraced or
ridiculed at school, and the permanence of the recollection is a test of
the violence of the effect.
Be very careful, then, to avoid, especially at the commencement of the
school, publicly exposing those who do wrong. Sometimes you may make the
offense public, as in the case of the snapping of the lath, described
under a former head, while you kindly conceal the name of the offender.
Even if the school generally understand who he is, the injury of public
exposure is almost altogether avoided, for the sense of disgrace does
not come nearly so vividly home to the mind of a child from hearing
occasional allusions to his offense by individuals among his playmates,
as when he feels himself, at a particular time, the object of universal
attention and dishonor. And then, besides, if the pupil perceives that
the teacher is tender of his reputation, he will, by a feeling somewhere
between imitation and sympathy, begin to feel a little tender of it too.
Every exertion should be made, therefore, to lead children to value
their character, and to help them to preserve it, and especially to
avoid, at the beginning, every unnecessary sacrifice of it.
And yet there are cases where shame is the very best possible remedy for
juvenile faults. If a boy, for example, is self-conceited, bold, and
mischievous, with feelings somewhat callous, and an influence extensive
and bad, an opportunity will sometimes occur to hold up his conduct to
the just reprobation of the school with great advantage. By this means,
if it is done in such a way as to _secure_ the influence of the school
on the right side, many good effects are sometimes attained. His pride
and self-conceit are humbled, his bad influence receives a very decided
check, and he is forced to draw back at once from the prominent stand he
Richard Jones, for example, is a rude, coarse, self-conceited boy, often
doing wrong both in school and out, and yet possessed of that peculiar
influence which a bad boy often contrives to exert in school. The
teacher, after watching some time for an opportunity to humble him, one
day overhears a difficulty among the boys, and, looking out of the
window, observes that he is taking away a sled from one of the little
boys to slide down hill upon, having none of his own. The little boy
resists as well as he can, and complains bitterly, but it is of no
At the close of the school that day, the teacher commences conversation
on the subject as follows:
"Boys, do you know what the difference is between stealing and robbery?"
The boys hesitate, and look at one another.
"Suppose a thief were to go into a man's store in the daytime, and take
away something secretly, would it be stealing or robbery?"
"Suppose he should meet him in the road, and take it away by force?"
"Then it would be robbery."
"Yes; when that which belongs to another is taken secretly, it is called
stealing; when it is taken openly or with violence, it is called
robbery. Which, now, do you think is the worst?"
"Yes, for it is more barefaced and determined - then it gives a great
deal more pain to the one who is injured. To-day I saw one of the boys
in this school taking away another boy's sled, openly and with
The boys all look round toward Richard.
"Was that of the nature of stealing or robbery?
"Robbery," say the boys.
"Was it real robbery?"
"If any of you think of any reason why it was not real robbery, you may
"He gave the sled back to him," says one of the boys.
"Yes; and therefore, to describe the action correctly, we should not say
Richard robbed a boy of his sled, but that he robbed him of his sled
_for a time_, or he robbed him of the _use_ of his sled. Still, in
respect to the nature and the guilt of it, it was robbery.
"There is another thing which ought to be observed about it. Whose sled
was it that Richard took away?"
"James, you may stand up.
"Notice his size, boys. I should like to have Richard Jones stand up
too, so that you might compare them; but I presume he feels very much
ashamed of what he has done, and it would be very unpleasant for him to
stand up. You will remember, however, how large he is. Now when I was a
boy, it used to be considered dishonorable and cowardly for a large,
strong boy to abuse a little one who can not defend himself. Is it
considered so now?"
"It ought to be, certainly; though, were it not for such a case as this,
we should not have thought of considering Richard Jones a coward. It
seems he did not dare to try to take away a sled from a boy who was as
big as himself, but attacked little James, for he knew he was not strong
enough to defend himself."
Now, in some such cases as this, great good may be done, both in
respect to the individual and to the state of public sentiment in
school, by openly exposing a boy's misconduct. The teacher must always
take care, however, that the state of mind and character in the guilty
individual is such that public exposure is adapted to work well as a
remedy, and also that, in managing it, he carries the sympathies of the
other boys with him. To secure this, he must avoid all harsh and
exaggerated expressions or direct reproaches, and while he is mild, and
gentle, and forbearing himself, lead the boys to understand and feel the
nature of the sin which he exposes. The opportunities for doing this to
advantage will, however, be rare. Generally it will be best to manage
cases of discipline more privately, so as to protect the characters of
those that offend.
The teacher should thus, in accordance with the directions we have
given, commence his labors with careful circumspection, patience,
frankness, and honest good-will toward every individual of his charge.
He will find less difficulty at the outset than he would have expected,
and soon have the satisfaction of perceiving that a mild but most
efficient government is quietly and firmly established in the little
kingdom over which he is called to reign.