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After the pupil has completed his recitation, the teacher and pupils may make criticisms, for the purpose of correcting mistakes, and for calling attention to new truth. The pupil should be permitted, and even required, to use his active powers in obtaining knowledge, as well as his passive powers in receiving it. The teacher should be constantly aware of the nature of his work, and of the end to be secured, and of the relation the means he employs holds to that end. Successful teaching implies the existence of a course of study that is adapted to the wants of the mind as its powers are developed. It requires the employment of the right method in applying this course, and the presence of a teacher who understands the philosophy of his work. The teacher must be supplied with all external means necessary for his teaching, and with the cordial sympathy of all in authority over him, and then he can so apply his philosophical method as to obtain a better and higher result than the schools have yet known.
We introduce the following as specimens of Mr. Page's method of illustrating different processes of teaching. PouriNG-IN PRocess.
This consists in lecturing to a class of children upon every subject which occurs to the teacher, it being his chief aim to bring before them as many facts in a limited time as possible. It is as if he should provide himself with a basket of sweetmeats, and every time he should come within reach of a child, should seize him, and compel him to swallow—regardless of the condition of his stomach— whatever trash he should happen first to force into his mouth. Children are indeed fond of sweetmeats, but they do not like to have them administered—and every physiologist knows there is such a thing as eating enough, even of an agreeable thing, to make one sick, and thus produce loathing forever after. Now many teachers are just such misguided caterers for the mind. They are ready to seize upon the victims of their kindness, force open their mental gullets, and pour in, without mercy and without discretion, whatever sweet thing they may have at hand, even though they surfeit and nauseate the poor sufferer. The mind, by th’s process, becomes a mere passive recipient, taking in without much resistance whatever is presented, till it is full. “A passive recipient!” said one to his friend, “what is a passive recipient 7” “A passive recipient,” replied his friend, “is a two-gallon jug. It holds just two gallons, and, as it is made of potters' ware, it can never hold but just two gallons.” This is not an unfit illustration of what I mean by making the mind a passive recipient. Whenever the teacher does not first excite inquiry, first prepare the mind by waking it up to a desire to know, and, if possible, to find out by itself, but proceeds to think for the child, and to give him the results, before they are desired, or before they have been sought for—he makes the mind of the child a two-gallon jug, into which he may pour just two gallons, but no more. And if, day after day, he should continue to pour in, day after day he may expect that what he pours in will all run over. The mind, so far as retention is concerned, will act like the jug; that is, a part of what is poured in to-day will be diluted by a part of that which is forced in to-morrow, and that again will be partially displaced and partially mingled with the next day's pouring, till, at length, there will be nothing characteristic left. But, aside from retention, there is a great difference between the jug and the mind. The former is inert material, and may be as good a jug, after such use, as before. But the mind suffers by every unsuccessful effort to retain. This process of lecturing children into imbecility is altogether too frequently praeticed ; and it is to be hoped that intelligent teachers will pause and inquire, before they pursue it further. The other process to which I wish to call attention, is that which, for the sake of distinguishing it from the first, I shall denominate the
DRAW in G-out PRocess.
This consists in asking what the lawyers call leading questions. It is practiced, usually, whenever the teacher desires to help along the pupil. “John,” says the teacher, when conducting a recitation in Long Division, “John, what is the number to be divided called t” John hesitates. “Is it the dividend ?” says the teacher. “Yes, sir; the dividend.” “Well, John, what is that which is left, after dividing, called 1–the remainder—is it?” “Yes, sir.” A visitor now enters the room, and the teacher desires to show off John's talents. “Well, John, of what denomination is the remainder 7”
John looks upon the floor.
“ss n’t it always the same as the dividend, John ”
“Very well, John,” says the teacher, soothingly, “what denomination is this dividend ?” pointing to the work on the board. “Dollars, is it not?”
“Yes, sir; dollars.”
“Very well; now what is this remainder?”
“Why, dollars too, is n’t it 7” says the teacher.
“Oh yes, sir, dollars ” says John, energetically, while the teacher compla* at the visitor, to see if he has noticed how correctly John has answered
A class is called, to be examined in history. They have committed the textbook to memory; that is, they have learned the words. They go on finely for a time. At length one hesitates. The teacher adroitly asks a question in the language of the text. Thus: “Early in the morning, on the 11th of September, what did the whole British army do?” The pupil, thus timely reassured, proceeds: “Early in the morning, on the 11th of September, the whole British army, drawn up in two divisions, commenced the expected assault.” Here again she pauses. The teacher proceeds to inquire: “Well—‘Agreeably to the plan of Howe, the right wing' did what?”
Pupil. “Agreeably to the plan of Howe, the right wing ”—
Teacher. “The right wing, commanded by whom 7”
Pupil. “Oh “Agreeably to the plan of Howe, the right wing, commanded by Knyphausen, made a feint of crossing the Brandywine, at Chad's Ford,” &c.
This is a very common way of helping a dull pupil out of a difficulty; and I have seen it done so adroitly, that a company of visitors would agree that it was wonderful to see how thoroughly the children had been instructed .
I may further illustrate this drawing-out process, by describing an occurrence, which, in company with a friend and fellow-laborer, I once witnessed. A teacher, whose school we visited, called upon the class in Colburn's First Lessons. They rose, and in single file marched to the usual place, with their books in hand, and stood erect. It was a very good-looking class.
“Where do you begin 7” said the teacher, taking the book.
Pupils. On the 80th page, third question.
Teacher. Read it, Charles.
Charles. (Reads.) “A man, being asked how many sheep he had, said that he had them in two pastures; in one pasture he had eight; that three-fourths of these were just one-third of what he had in the other. How many were there in the other ?”
Teacher. Well, Charles, you must first get one-fourth of eight, must you not?
Charles. Yes, sir.
Teacher. Well, one-fourth of eight is two, is n't it?
Charles. Yes, sir; one-fourth of eight is two.
Teacher. Well, then, three-fourths will be three times two, won't it?
Charles. Yes, sir.
Teacher. Well, three times two are six, eh?
Charles. Yes, sir.
Teacher. Very well. (A pause.) Now the book says that this six is just one-third of what he had in the other pasture, don't it?
Charles. Yes, sir.
Teacher. Then, if six is one-third, three-thirds will be—three times six, won’t it 2
Charles. Yes, sir.
Teacher. And three times six are—eighteen, ain't it?
Charles. Yes. sir.
Teacher. Then he had eighteen sheep in the other pasture, had he?
Charles. Yes, sir.
Teacher. Next; take the next one.
At this point I interposed, and asked the teacher if he would request Charles to go through it alone. “Oh, yes,” said the teacher, “Charles, you may do it again.” Charles again read the question, and—looked up. “Well,” said the teacher, “You must first get one-fourth of eight, must n’t you?” “Yes, sir.” “And one-fourth of eight is two, is n't it?” “Yes, sir.” And so the process went on as before, till the final eighteen sheep were drawn out as before. The teacher now looked round, with an air which seemed to say, “Now, I suppose you are satisfied.”
“Shall I ask Charles to do it again?” said I. The teacher assented. Charles again read the question, and again—looked up. I waited, and he waited;—but the teacher could not wait. “Why, Charles,” said he, impatiently; “you want one-fourth of eight, don't you?” “Yes, sir,” said Charles, promptly; and I thought best not to insist further at this time upon a repetition of “yes, sir,” and the class were allowed to proceed in their own way.
This is, indeed, an extreme case; and yet it is but a fair sample of that teacher's method of stupefying mind. This habit of assisting the pupil, to some extent, is, however, a very common one, and as deleterious to mind as it is common. The teacher should at once abandon this practice, and require the scholar to do the talking at recitation. I need hardly suggest that such a course of extraction at recitation, aside from the waste of time by both parties, and the waste of strength by the teacher, has a direct tendency to make the scholar miserably superficial. For why should he study, if he knows from constant experience that the teacher, by a leading question, will relieve him from all embarrassment? It has often been remarked, that “the teacher makes the school.” Perhaps in no way can he more effectually make an inefficient school, than by this drawing-out process.
I look upon the two processes just described, as very prominent and prevalent faults in our modern teaching; and if, by describing them thus fully, I shall induce any to set a guard upon their practice in this particular, I shall feel amply rewarded.
The MoRE Excellent way.
It is always a very difficult question for the teacher to settle, “How far shall I help the pupil, and how far shall the pupil be required to help himself?” The teaching of nature would seem to indicate that the pupil should be taught mainly to depend on his own resources. This, too, I think is the teaching of common sense. Whatever is learned, should be so thoroughly learned, that the next and higher step may be comparatively easy. And the teacher should always inquire, when he is about to dismiss one subject, whether the class understand it so well that they can go on to the next. He may, indeed, sometimes give a word of suggestion during the preparation of a lesson, and, by a seasonable hint, save the scholar the needless loss of much time. But it is a very great evil, if the pupils acquire the habit of running to the teacher, as soon as a slight difficulty presents itself, to request him to remove it. Some teachers, when this happens, will send the scholar to his seat with a reproof perhaps; while others, with a mistaken kindness, will answer the question, or solve the problem themselves, as the shortest way to get rid of it. Both these courses are, in general, wrong. The inquirer should never be frowned upon; this may discourage him. He should not be relieved from labor, as this will diminish his self-reliance without enlightening him; for whatever is done for a scholar, without his having studied closely upon it himself, makes but a feeble impression upon him, and is soon forgotten. The true way is, neither to discourage inquiry nor answer the question. Converse with the scholar a little as to the principles involved in the question; refer him to principles which he has before learned, or has now lost sight of; perhaps call his attention to some rule or explanation before given to the class; go just so far as to enlighten him a little, and put him on the scent, then leave him to achieve the victory himself. There is a great satisfaction in discovering a difficult thing for one's self—and the teacher does the scholar a lasting injury, who takes this pleasure from him. The teacher should be simply suggestive, but should never take the glory of a victory from the scholar, by doing his work for him; at least, not until he has given it a thorough trial himself.
The skill of the teacher, then, will be best manifested, if he can contrive to awaken such a spirit in the pupil, that he shall be very unwilling to be assisted ; if he can kindle up such a zeal, that the pupil will prefer to try again and again before he will consent that the teacher shall interpose. I shall never forget a class of boys, some fourteen or fifteen years of age, who, in the study of algebra, had imbibed this spirit. A difficult question had been before the class a day or two, when I suggested giving them some assistance. “Not to-day, sir,” was the spontaneous exclamation of nearly every one. Nor shall I forget the expression that beamed from the countenance of one of them, when, elated with his success, he forgot the proprieties of the school, and audibly exclaimed, “I’ve got it ! I've got it?” It was a great day for him; he felt, as he never before had felt, his own might. Nor was it less gratifying to me, to find that his fellows were still unwilling to know his method of solution. The next day a large number brought a solution of their own, each showing evidence of originality. A class that has once attained to a feeling like this, will go on to educate themselves, when they shall have left the school and the living teacher. As to the communication of knowledge, aside from that immediately connected with school-studies, there is a more excellent way than that of pouring it in by the process already described. It is but just that I should give a specimen of the method of doing this. I shall now proceed to do so, under the head of
waking up mind.
The teacher of any experience knows that, if he will excite a deep and profitable interest in his school, he must teach many things besides book-studies. In our common schools, there will always be a company of small children, who, not yet having learned to read understandingly, will have no means of interesting themselves, and must depend mainly upon the teacher for the interest they take in the school. This, to them, is perhaps the most critical period of their lives. Whatever impression is now made upon them will be enduring. If there they become disgusted with the dullness and confinement of school, and associate the idea of pain and repulsiveness with that of learning, who can describe the injury done to their minds? If, on the other hand, the teacher is really skillful, and excites in them a spirit of inquiry, and leads them in suitable ways to observe, to think, and to feel, that the school is a happy place even for children, it is one great point gained. I may suggest here, then, that it would be well to set apart a few minutes once a day, for a general exercise in the school; when it should be required of all to lay by their studies, assume an erect attitude, and give their undivided attention to whatever the teacher may bring before them. Such a course would have its physiological advantages. It would relieve the minds of all for a few minutes. The erect attitude is a healthful one. It would also serve as a short respite from duty, and thus refresh the older scholars from study. I may further add, that, for the benefit of these small children, every general exercise should be conducted with reference to them, and such topics should be introduced as they can understand. It is the purpose of the following remarks to give a specimen of the manner of conducting such exercises, for a few days, with reference to waking up mind in the school, and also in the district. Let us suppose that the teacher has promised that, on the next day, at ten minutes past ten o'clock, he shall request the whole school to give their attention five minutes, while he shall bring something there to which he shall call the attention, especially of the little boys and girls under seven years of age. This very announcement will excite an interest both in school and at home; and when the children come in the morning, they will be more wakeful than usual till the fixed time arrives. It is very important that this time should be fixed, and that the utmost punctuality should be observed, both as to the beginning and ending of the exercise at the precise time. The teacher, it should be supposed, has not made such an announcement without considering what he can do when the time arrives. He should have a welldigested plan of operation, and one, which he knows beforehand, that he can successfully execute. Let us suppose that, in preparing for this exercise, he looks about him to find some object which he can make his text; and that he finds upon his study-table an ear of corn. He thinks carefully what he can do with it, and then, with a smile of satisfaction, he puts it in his pocket for the “general exercise.” In the morning he goes through the accustomed duties of the first hour, perhaps more cheerfully than usual, because he finds there is more of animation and wakefulness in the school. At the precise time, he gives the signal agreed upon, and all the pupils drop their studies and sit erect. When there is perfect silence and strict attention by all, he takes from his pocket the ear of corn, and in silence holds it up before the school. The children smile, for it is a familiar object; and they probably did not suspect they were to be fed with corn. Teacher. “Now, children,” addressing himself to the youngest, “I am going to ask you only one question to-day about this ear of corn. If you can answer it, I shall be very glad ; if the little boys an girls upon the front seat can not give the answer, I will let those in the next seat try; and so on, till all have tried, unless our time should expire before the right answer is given. I shall not be sur