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Old Time Customs
Memories and Traditions and Other Essays
Letter to a Young Teacher

THE famous sculptor Michael Angelo, as he stood before a block of marble said to himself,—"There isan angel imprisoned in this stone; I have come to set it free." In vision he already saw the thing of beauty which his hands were to fashion. So let me ask you to pause a moment and picture the grand possibilities which lie hidden in the material on which you work. What may not this child become under the awakening and fashioning force of your instrumentality! Think of his future life and character as dependent on the direction or misdirection of your supervision! Have you a vision of beauty and excellence before you as an ideal of his future?

He who works with high and noble aspiration for the best perhaps only approximates to what he had hoped to attain; but he achieves far more than if he had fixed on a lower standard. Honest effort to realize a lofty purpose is not fruitless even though the aspiration fail wholly of its fulfillment. We may not talk of wasted effort to raise a human being to higher life. If such effort enrich not the life of another, in the language of the author of Evangeline it may be said:

"Its waters returning
Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshing.
That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain."

Remember your success depends as much on what you are as it does on what you do. The effectiveness of the woodman's axe is conditioned on the weight of the pole, as well as on the keenness of the edge. "Take heed to thyself and to the teaching," was Paul's advice to Timothy. It is the personality behind the teaching skill which counts. It is a mistake to suppose that it is by the doing of great things alone that the teacher reveals himself to his pupils and makes the greatest impression on their character.

Do not forget that to be a successful teacher you must be a diligent student. You need new ideas-you need them on your familiar and best known subject. Harping on the same string is monotonous; it will soon tire you—make you weary of yourself. You will lose energy and animation—become a mere machine. Without study you will gradually sink to a lower scale of being, until you will rather vegetate than live the rational life of a human being.

But it is not alone the lessons that you teach that you need to study. Take some subject apart from your regular line of work and make it a specialty. Be ambitious to know at least something about everything, and everything—or almost everything—about something. Examine this subject in all its length, breadth and depth. Do not shun the difficult phases which it may present. Grapple strenuously with their hardest and knottiest sides. When splitting a hemlock log I was told by my father to strike into the very center of the knot. Dealt with it in this fashion, it opened up as easily as an oyster when touched at the right place. Remember if you do only what you can do easily, you will never do your best. Isolate yourself from every distracting influence—almost from your own body. By patient continuance in well doing add to your knowledge of the subject day by day, year by year, here a little, there a little. A strong will and faith in one's self add greatly to one's power. Nothing is impossible to him who wills. It is difficult to measure the ability of him who tries. But remember,—nothing is got for nothing.

Thorough concentration on the matter in hand is essential to success. The gardener, by girdling and pruning, forces the say into a selected branch, hereby developing more perfectly and more rapidly the fruit of that branch. So give your best strength to your vocation. Do not try to teach and study law or medicine at the same time. The education of the young is too sacred a thing to be carried on in any such half-hearted manner. Follow Paul's motto,—"This one thing I do." Putarch says of Pericles,—"There was in the whole city but one street in which Pericles was ever seen—that which led to the market place and Council House." Your street is the one which leads to the school house.

In your reading have due regard for the living and ever changing present. Books of travel and the newspaper claim a share of your attention; otherwise you will soon be buried in the musty, dead past and be better fitted for the shelf of an antiquary than for the preparation of a child for the duties of life. You do not require to read the daily paper from beginning to end with that scrupulous care and fidelity with which you study the pages of your Bible. The reports of the police courts, the local gossip and the larger part of the personal recrimination of party politics may be wisely omitted, except, it may be, the head lines. You cannot afford to be ignorant of the great question of the day—matters which relate to civil government trade, discovery, progress of art and science, international relations and the ever recurring and ever changing conflicts between labor and capital.

Do not overlook the claims of citizenship and of society. Your business by day brings you into constant intercourse with your pupils; when off active duty you withdraw to your study. Children and books are thus alternately your companions. Have a care or you will become dwarfed,

twisted and one-sided. You will fail to form a right estimate of men and of practical life. Hence you need frequent contact with every day affairs, to mingle in society, to take your part in affairs, to be a citizen as well as a teacher. This is needful not only for the man or woman that is in you, but because you are a teacher and desire the best and fullest qualification for your work. You will thus obtain broader and more practical views of things, will know better causes and effects, rather than regard them as mere happenings, and so be better qualified to develop in your pupils more correct ideas as to the relations of events of the world in which they will soon be moving and acting.

"Let your moderation be known unto all men." You cannot afford to go to the club on Monday evening, a public lecture on Tuesday evening, the prayer meeting on Wednesday, Mrs. Jones's party on Thursday, the skating rink or the tennis club dance on Friday and the movies on Saturday.

But you require avocation as well as vocation "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." The bow which is always bent will lose its spring. Have your off times; but make them subordinate and subservient to your higher ends. After strenuous labor, amusement is recreation and gives renewed vigor for more labor. Thus "all roads lead to Rome."

I would have you remember that your work as a teacher is not exclusively to impart knowledge of certain prescribed subjects. Indeed, in dealing thoroughly with these subjects, owing to their relations with other subjects, you cannot limit yourself thus if you would. Again, while giving instruction you should aim to awaken such interest and thought on the part of the pupil as will awaken self-activity. When the teacher trains a pupil to overcome difficulties and surmount obstacles by independent effort and skillful ingenuity, he is doing something vastly better for him than securing to him the knowledge which is the direct outcome of that effort. It is said that certain savages have a sort of belief that the courage and strength of a vanquished foe pass over to the victor and become to him so much added power for subsequent contest. In intellectual and moral victories this is literally true. The benefits of successful struggle through a problem are not to be measured by the amount of new knowledge gained; nor is the victory over temptation to be estimated by the amount of evil avoided. Over and above all this, every triumph of effort gives added fibre to character as well as increased courage and strength for new conflict. One may rise by stepping stones of one's own achievements to higher things. Success along this line depends largely on method in teaching which cannot be here discussed.

A few words on the matter of discipline. The teacher should not punish as a means of balancing the scales of justice, or for the purpose of inflicting a certain amount of pain as a sort of equivalent for violation of law. Punishment in the school, as in the home, should be remedial and reformatory rather than retributive. Its object should not be to pay off the transgressor, but to correct and restore him to the right way.

Philip of Macedon is said to have told Aristotle when he placed Alexander under his tutelage that he wished him so to train his son as to make himself useless to him—train the boy to depend on himself. This is the true principle both for intellectual and moral training. Awaken self-activity so that the pupil shall desire knowledge and shall know how to learn, that is, he is led to become an independent investigator; and on the moral side he is trained to become self-regulative—to govern himself.

The moral teaching and influence of the school arise rather out of the teacher's personality and the regular work of the school than from didactic instruction. Awaken interest and so pre-occupy the mind of the learner that there shall be no room for evil thought or action. Remember the "Busy Bee":

"In works of labor and of skill
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do."

Exercise is the law of development. An evil passion is strengthened by indulgence and weakened by repression.

Study the idiosyncracies of each pupil. The human mind is not machine-made. Like the leaves of the forest and the blades of grass no two are precisely alike. Study the peculiarity of each individual and adapt method and management to each pupil. As the sailor by tacking this way and that, uses the force of a head wind to carry his ship forward along a course directly opposite to that of the wind, so by skilful management, the teacher may use the opposing will of the pupil in leading him to obedience. Do not try to drive a stubborn boy. You perhaps ask him to do something and he declines. Then, unfortunately, you say to him,—"You shall;" he replies,—"I won't." You insist and he persists. What then?

Had you known your boy and acted on what you knew, you would have taken a more excellent way. Professor William James in dealing with this question speaks of a method which he calls substitution. It implies the awakening of a new emotion which takes the place of the opposing feeling. Dr. Chalmers describes it as "The expulsive power of a new affection."

This royal road to success is well illustrated in the following incident of real life, described by a kindergartner:

"A strong-willed boy came in to make me a neighborly call one Sunday afternoon. He was followed a few minutes later by his sister who said that he was to go home. This he refused to do; whereupon she left, returning soon, however, with a direct cornmand from his mother to come home. To my surprise he still refused most decidedly to obey. She threatened to send an older sister to take him by force. "Well, I don't care, she may come; but she can't get me, for I won't go, so there."

I had said little during all this, listening to the conversation with mixed feelings. I will confess that I felt flattered by the child's impulse to come and his desire to stay, and I could not willingly insist on his leaving, lest he should misunderstand my motive. On the other hand I dared not uphold him in an act of direct disobedience. Weighing the matter carefully I decided to work indirectly. Calling him to a seat near by, I suggested telling him a story about a giant.

Then followed the tale of Goliath of Gath, and I pictured to him the brave shepherd boy who came out so fearlessly with sling and stones, boldly asserting his belief in the near presence of God as his Helper in subduing a foe. I could note by the flashing eye and the deep breathing that the soldier spirit was fully aroused in my little hero. His imagination began to play in a most lively manner, and several times the story was interrupted by such exclamations as—'I can fight a giant!' or `Yes, there was a big giant came on our back platform once, and I just pulled out my sword and killed him this way,' suiting the action to the word.

"In finishing my story I answered in reply to one of his remarks,—'There are some giants you are not able to fight. There's one strong giant we cannot see who can make himself very small. He slips into our hearts and makes us do what he tells us. I am afraid you are not strong enough to drive him out.' `Yes, I am', he answered indignantly. `I can drive him right out.' I said, `he's a strong fellow, and I notice he has been at you this afternoon. I shall be sorry if you are not able to fight him.' Then presently he added,—`I can feel him; he is giving me a pain in my stomach now.' Then, getting up he marched off home with the air of a conquerer which indeed he was."

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