Hiram Orcutt.

Gleanings from school-life experience, or, hints to common school teachers, parents and pupils online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryHiram OrcuttGleanings from school-life experience, or, hints to common school teachers, parents and pupils → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


2SM flflO






















THIS little book had its origin in EXPERIENCE.
It was not, originally, written with a view of publi-
cation but for the benefit of the Author's Normal
Classes. The substance of these chapters has been
recently published in the form of newspaper articles
for the benefit of those employed in Teaching Dis-
trict Schools in this vicinity. It is now republished
in a more permanent form, by the solicitation of
Teachers and friends, and with the hope of aiding
the less experienced in the arduous and noble work
of school-keeping. The Author does not aim to
discuss, at length, the subjects here treated, but to
present to the reader just what the title page indi-
cates, some " Gleanings " from twenty years experi-
ence, or practical " Hints " as to the management
and instruction of " Common Schools," and the duties
of Teachers, Parents and Pupils.
NORTH GKANVILLB, N. Y., Aug. 15, 1858.












THE Teacher and the Artist have their own
peculiar fields of labor, but how insignificant the
work of the Artist when compared with that of
the true Teacher. The one works upon the
stone or the canvas, the other upon the undying
spirit ; the one creates an imitation of the form
and figure of the lifeless body, the other moulds
the living and renowned character of the hero,
the statesman and the sage. The Artist may
attract attention as a man of genius, and his
works may be admired as evidence of inimitable
skill ; but the true teacher will be remembered
with gratitude and admiration by the hundreds
who have profited by his instructions, long after
he is dead.

The great sculptor, Hiram Powers, has re-
cently completed the bust of the distinguished


Edward Everett, which is said to be unsurpassed
by any artist, either in ancient or modern times.
Yet, how much greater the work, and more dis-
tinguished the artist, who aided in forming the
mind of that same Everett, now acknowledged
to be the greatest living orator. When but ten
years old, young Everett sat before Daniel Web-
ster and received from him, as his teacher, the
rudiments of education. More than half a cen-
tury afterwards, when both teacher and pupil
had attained the most distinguished honors and
the highest position among their fellow men
the one having passed off the stage of life, leav-
ing the other without a living superior the pupil
sat for his bust before the artist, Powers.

Now, to whom shall we award the praise ? to
the Artist, or the Teacher ? to the distinguished
Powers, or the immortal Webster and his co-
laborers in this work of education ? But the
occupation of the Teacher is not only honorable,
but of great importance. He is a patron of
society. To him is committed the work of train-
ing mind and forming character, and at a period


when the most susceptible of durable impressions.
The future citizens and rulers of this great na-
tion are now under his care and instruction. It
is his to mould their moral and intellectual char-
acter, and fit them for the responsible duties of
life. To our common schools we must look for
those who will soon be called upon to manage the
affairs of families, to transact the business of
town and state, to fill the vacated Bench of Jus-
tice, to sit in the Halls of Legislation, and to
direct and control the Church of God. Upon
the character of our schools, therefore, depends
the weal or woe of unborn millions ; the perpe-
tuity or downfall of our boasted Republic.

Nor can we stop here in estimating the import-
ance of the Teacher's work. He exerts an in-
fluence upon immortal minds. From that canvas
no impression can be erased ; good or evil, truth
or error, virtue or vice, it may remain forever.

How fearfully responsible, then, the business

of giving instruction. Yet how few there are

who realize the nature and importance of this

work. Many enter upon it with less interest



and preparation than the man of business goes to
his farm, his shop, or his merchandise. Some
dare tread the Teacher's Sanctuary, who have
never learned the first lessons of science or mo-
rality; who are ignorant, vulgar and profane.
How long will such things be tolerated in our
enlightened community? How long shall our
Common Schools, at once the peculiarity and
glory of our nation, receive so small a share of
public care and patronage ? They are the inher-
itance bequeathed to us by our Pilgrim Fathers,
and shall we, through neglect, allow that inheri-
tance to waste away ? We can have no hope of
the elevation of our schools except in the im-
provement of their teachers. Hence no effort,
no sacrifice, is too great, on the part of all inter-
ested, to secure so desirable a result.




MORE depends upon what the teacher is, than
upon what he does. Like the poet, he is en-
dowed by nature with the most important qualifi-
cations for his work. This natural talent may
be cultivated, but cannot be created, by educa-

The true Teacher has a large share of com-
mon sense.

This is practical wisdom ; a sort of instinct as
to the fitness and propriety of things. It teaches
its possessor to do the right thing, at the right
time. It acts in the real and not in the roman-
tic world, and adapts one to circumstances, to
society and to duty.

There are many opportunities for its exercise
in the school room; many instances when the



want of it imperils the teacher, or proves his
ruin. A question of political or judicial economy-
is about to be settled in his little empire. He
has no time for consultation with older and more
experienced teachers ; no time to read books on
the " Theory and Practice of Teaching." The
question must be settled without delay. The ex-
istence of his authority, and his destiny as a
teacher, depends upon prompt and judicious ac-
tion. Under such circumstances, sound common
sense is the teacher's only security.

Aptness to teach is also a gift of nature, still
it may be improved by culture. The most brill-
iant scholar is not, usually, the best teacher.
Quickness of perception and accurate knowledge
are important, but the power to communicate
and instruct, so as to secure the attention and
wake up the mind of the pupil, and lead him to
successful self-application, is indispensable. Apt-
ness to teach implies also skill in the selection
and use of illustrations. It enables the teacher
to adapt his influence and instruction to the
peculiarities of his pupils. Some need encour-


agement, others caution, and still others rebuke,
as they are timid, ambitious, or self-sufficient.

It guides him as to the amount of instruction
to be given, that he may not make the task of
the pupil too easy, but simply possible. In a
word, it instructs him when to teach, how much
to teach, and how to teach.

Earnestness and perseverance are also among
the necessary qualifications of the teacher.

These qualities are indispensable to success in
any department of labor. Look where we will
for examples, the same truth is illustrated. The
earnest man succeeds ; the indolent, though pos-
sessed of more talents and greater attainments,
often fails. The earnest and determined teacher
not only performs much more labor in the same
time, but inspires all around him with his own
spirit. He infuses life and animation into the
minds of his pupils, awakens new interest in
study, and exerts a commanding influence in the
school-room, which is felt also in the district and
town where he resides. He is a living, breath-
ing, acting spirit. Such a teacher has power by



his presence to create order out of confusion,
and to make the school attractive and profitable.
Success must attend his efforts.

The teacher should have, also, a sound and
well-cultivated mind. A sound mind is not only
the foundation of true manhood, but of all suc-
cessful efforts. It is conceded that respectable
talents are necessary to fit the young man for
successful business, or efficiency in any one of
the mechanical arts or professions. For the fac-
tory, the work-shop, the counting-room, we de-
mand young persons of talent, and can less be
required of those who are to occupy the import-
ant position of Teachers ? Arid this mind must
be cultivated ; must acquire the power to think,
to analyze and reason. An undisciplined mind is
unfit to educate other minds. It cannot appre-
ciate the importance of systematic culture, or
employ the means necessary to secure it.

Without the power and habit of patient and
well-regulated thought, the teacher can himself
have no available knowledge ; and if he had,
could have no power to impart it to others.


Hence, every teacher should be thoroughly dis-
ciplined by mathematical and classical study.
These furnish the most direct means of securing
mental discipline.

Nor is discipline the only advantage derived
from such studies. The study of Latin is indis-
pensable to a thorough knowledge of the Eng-
lish language and the most successful way to
learn that language. For instance, allow any
two individuals, of equal age and equal capacity,
to commence the study of grammar, with a view
to make the greatest possible attainments in the
English language in two years. The one may
study English grammar during the whole time,
and under proper instruction ; the other shall-
spend his first year (one-half the time allowed)
in the study of Latin, the second year he may
spend in the study of the English language, -
and the latter shall be the best English gram-
marian, when the two years have expired.

The study of the higher mathematics is of
great service to the Common School Teacher.


It adds strength and vigor to his mental powers,
and affords him a knowledge of the principles
necessary to explain arithmetic and the practical
natural sciences.

The facts and principles of the branches to
be taught must be thoroughly understood. And,
if the teacher would do himself full justice, he
must extend his knowledge far beyond his pres-
ent necessity and requisitions.

He cannot teach clearly in the twilight of his
own knowledge, nor communicate more definite
information than he himself possesses. All
branches of science are connected. No one
branch can be properly taught and illustrated
without the aid of others. With a knowledge of
the lesson to be taught, merely, the teacher may
be able to throw some light upon the subject
before him, but it is like the light of the sun
where there is no atmosphere to diffuse and
reflect it all in one direction, and total dark-
ness everywhere else. The range of the teach-
er's studies should, therefore, be extensive, and


his knowledge liberal. He should be familiar
with all the principles that can aid in the expla-
nation of the subjects to be taught. He should
gather up and preserve all attainable facts and
incidents to be found in the wide field of science
and history. All passing events should be pre-
served for use in the school-room. In a word,
the teacher should be constantly reading, observ-
ing and thinking for the benefit of his pupils and
the honor of his profession.

Self-control is also essential to success in
school-keeping. Without it, the master is like a
ship without a pilot or helm. In calm weather
he may experience no serious difficulty, but when
the storm comes and the winds blow, as surely
they will, he has no security from wreck and
ruin but in his own self-possession.

The teacher whose mind is thoroughly disci-
plined and well-balanced, can command his knowl-
edge ; can apply himself to any subject, whether
literary or judicial. His understanding, reason
and judgment are ready for any emergency.
Hence his efficiency.


Self-control also gives authority. To be qual-
ified to govern others, the master must govern
himself, his temper and his tongue. His power
to quell a raging tumult or crush a rebellion lies
in his coolness. Authority is undoubtedly a gift
of nature ; but it is, in a measure, the result of
other cardinal and cultivated qualities. Princi-
ple, decision, independence, dignity, disinterest-
edness and refinement are all commanding.
They give power and impression to the whole
man ; they speak out in his eye, his steps, his
voice, and in all his movements and expressions.
Such qualities and such self-control gain for the
teacher his true position as instructor and gov-
ernor of his school.

Last but not least, among the necessary quali-
fications of the school-teacher here to be enu-
merated, is moral and Christian character. Every
teacher should be a model of excellence. No
position in life demands higher attainments, as
none commands *a more important influence.
Children are fine copyists. They receive their
earliest and most durable impressions by imita-


tion. Their teacher is always sitting or standing
before them, for his likeness. The impressions
of his feelings, principles and character, and
especially the defects in his character, are left,
in the amb retype of the school-room, upon the
imperishable tablets of the immortal mind. The
pupil may be expected to exhibit his teacher
before the world. He often assumes his airs,
imitates his tones, habits, and almost his very
looks. He copies his roughness, stereotypes his
oddities, and perpetuates his errors and blunders.
The results of these early impressions and of
this influence will be felt upon future generations.
The teacher is doing his most important work,
then, when he seems to be idle.

And let it not be forgotten, that education does
not begin with the alphabet, nor end when the
scholar takes his diploma. It consists not mainly
in tasks and recitations. Character teaches ; in-
telligence, politeness, kindness, moral and Chris-
tian integrity, all have an important, plastic
power in the school-room.


No person, therefore, should presume to enter
upon the responsibilities of the teacher, who has
not, in active exercise, every principle of true
manhood, every element of a noble character
mental, moral and religious.




BY school management we mean much more
than is expressed by school government. The
former includes the latter. If a school is prop-
erly managed, it is of course, well-governed.
Strict government may sometimes be found in
connection with bad management. Our whole
object will be best accomplished, therefore, by
alluding to some particulars in the management
of schools.

The teacher's success in the government of
his pupils, depends upon a thousand little things ;
indeed, it depends upon all things that he says
or does. He begins to operate for himself, for
good or evil, as soon as he enters the district.
First impressions of him and his management in
school, are usually permanent, and hence very


important. These often determine his success or

It is of the first importance to gain the confi-
dence and respect of the pupils and parents in
the district over which he presides. To this end,
he should seek an early and familiar acquaint-
ance with all. In the school-room and by the
way, his first object should be to gain the confi-
dence of his pupils. It is through them that he
must first act upon the parents. Every expe-
rienced teacher knows, that if he would gain the
confidence of the father, he must first gain the
respect of the mother ; and, to secure this
object, he must gain the love of the child.
Hence he spares no pains to win the affections
of the children, in the school and in the family.
He improves the earliest opportunity to visit
them at their homes ; is social and familiar with
all ; adapts himself to the circumstances and
peculiarities of each family, and manifests a
deep interest in everything that interests them.
He freely explains to parents his plans and ope-
rations for the improvement of their children,


and thus gains their esteem and co-operation.

In the government of the school, the teacher
should not rely so much upon moral suasion or
legal suasion, as upon the influence of a well-
regulated school, and judicious management in
the district and school-room.

In a steam-engine we expect harmonious ac-
tion only when all parts of the machine are in
perfect order. A watch will keep correct time
only when all the wheels and springs are in their
places, and every part properly lubricated. So
a school must be completely organized, systema-
tized and fully employed, or disorder and confu-
sion will be the result. When so regulated its
machinery is self-adjusting order reigns, and
the teacher is known as a good disciplinarian.
The organization of the school, then, is the first
business of the teacher. Nothing else should
have his attention, until this is accomplished.

The pupils should be properly classified as to
the seats they are to occupy, and the studies to
which they attend. The object in view is to pre-
vent disorder and save time. Each pupil should


be so located in the school-room, that he may
quietly attend to his own duties and not disturb
his fellows. All should be so classified, as to
have the least possible number of classes and
each pupil in classes adapted to his standing.

Every arrangement in the school should be
systematic. There should be a time for every-
thing, and everything in its time ; a time to open
the school, which should never vary ; a definite
time for every school exercise ; a time for study
and a time for recess ; a time to whisper and a
time to keep silent. In a word, everything that
is desirable or that cannot be prevented, should
be provided for and have its own time and place.

Those irregularities that are necessary, should
be provided for as really as the regular exercises
of the school. Whispering and leaving of seats,
should not be allowed in study hours, nor pro-
miscuous questions when hearing recitations.
Hence the importance of having a definite time
for whispering, leaving seats, and asking ques-
tions. This will tend to remove temptation and
leave no apology for disorder at other times.


It is important, also, that the pupils have full
employment and feel a deep interest in their
studies. The old proverb, that " An idle brain
is the devil's workshop," has more truth in it
than poetry. Each pupil should have just such
lessons assigned as can be well learned by indus-
try and earnest application, and should be made
to feel that study is the business and the only
business of school-hours.

The teacher's success in exciting an interest
in the minds of his pupils, depends both upon
what he is and what he does. In this his skill
and efficiency will be tested. If he can divert
^the attention from sport and mischief, rouse from
indolence, and fix the mind upon the duties and
exercises of the school, his work is half done
his success is certain. Those pupils who have
become interested, will be punctual and constant
in their attendance, and earnest in their appli-

If they are to be deeply interested in their
lessons, these must be neither too difficult nor
too easy. The mind cannot be interested in


what it cannot understand, nor in what is so sin>
pie as to cost no effort. Children are never
indolent by nature, but are often made so by bad
instruction. Familiar and apt illustrations tend
to awaken an interest in classes. Every thought
and principle should be clearly explained, and the
class recitation thus made interesting. Then
pupils will be prompt and earnest. They should
be encouraged to investigate and think for them-
selves to look beyond their text-books for infor-

Special efforts should be made to render the
school-room and its exercises, attractive and
pleasant. To this end the teacher must feel and^
manifest a deep interest in all he does, and by
his presence and animation, infuse life and en-
ergy into those around him. He should seek
variety for the same purpose. Does he desire
punctuality at the opening of his school ? Then
let him have some exercise at that time which
will interest. Brief and appropriate religious
exercises, with vocal music, will secure this ob-
fect and greatly profit the schools. Let such


exercises be followed by some interesting inquiry,
story or illustration of some familiar scientific
fact. The pupils will not be tardy, if there is
suitable inducement for them to be punctual.
Let the teacher lay hold of every incident that
occurs in the community, district or schoolroom,
calculated to awaken an interest, and he will not
fail to " wake up mind,"




THE hints upon the preceding pages are de-
signed to aid the teacher in his efforts to prevent
evil and secure the improvement of his pupils.
The question now arises, if wrong has been
committed and wholesome laws and regulations
violated, what shall be done ?

In answering this question, we would say, some-
thing must be done something that will show,
without a doubt, that a MASTER has charge of
the school.

The teacher's position gives him a right to
rule without a rival. It is his duty, at all
hazards, to hold the supremacy over his scholars.
His will must be law, and that law must be
obeyed. The injured pupils may appeal to the
Trustees, from whom the teacher derived his


authority, but they may never disobey, however
much they dislike his requirements. If, then,
obedience has been refused, something must be
done to correct the evil, and prevent a repeti-

The object of all punishment is two-fold : first,
the good of the school, and secondly, the good
of the offender. If the good of both the school
and the individual cannot be secured by the pun-
ishment, the scholar must be sacrificed and not
the school.

The murderer is not usually hung for his own
benefit, but for the benefit of society for the
protection of the innocent, and the vindication of
law. In most cases, however, in school govern-
ment, the crime may be so punished as to save
and benefit both the school and the offender.
How shall this be done ? We answer, in general,
in a manner adapted to the nature of the offense,
and the disposition and character of the "offender.
It would be folly in the extreme to act by rule in
the discipline of a school.

That physician is a quack, who prescribes the


same remedy for every disease. Some patients
need only encouragement; others need stimu-
lants, and still others soothing remedies, to allay
inflammation or a fever. And there are some
diseases that nothing but calomel can cure. The
physician, then, must study the constitution of
his patient and the nature of the disease, and
administer accordingly.

So the school teacher must study the disposi-
tion and character of his pupils and learn the
circumstances and purpose of the crime, before
he can prescribe a remedy that will cure.

Allow us here to suggest, the teacher should
distinguish between the " light of the glow-worm
and a spark of fire about to fall into a magazine
of powder." If a slight offense has been com-
mitted, which threatens no evil result to the
school, it were better to take no notice of it. If,
on the other hand, the offense is public, and to
pass it over would give license to a repetition,

1 3

Online LibraryHiram OrcuttGleanings from school-life experience, or, hints to common school teachers, parents and pupils → online text (page 1 of 3)