Page images

because, like the point of juncture in a painter's circle, they are visible only to those who have a thorough knowledge of the art, but which exercise a mighty influence upon the future of the edifice.

So is it in our Sunday school designs; the foundation may be firm, and the builders may be and are well, I trust, acquainted with that foundation, "The Gospel of Christ;" there may, indeed, be the superstructure in the fundamental principles of the institution, and yet there are ever little points (if anything in so great a work can be called little) which exercise a far deeper influence upon the structure that we are raising than we ourselves imagine. And when we consider that that structure is as much grander, loftier, and sublimer than those marble monuments of power we see around us, as things eternal are grandor, loftier, and sublimer than things material, it behoves us to leave no stone unturned for the perfecting, by God's help, of this edifice; and above all, we should ever remember that all our endeavours and actions, from the entering of a scholar's name upon the register to the more lofty one of leading that little one, by the help of God's Spirit, to flutter like the nestling bird into the bosom of One who was once a child like himself, and who is ever waiting to receive the wealth of the heart's first young affections, tend to one and the same end.

As many mountain streams,
By different courses ever,
Run oft in paths unseen
To the same broad mighty river;
So efforts great and small,
Like rivulet and river,
Run in their channels all,
To the self-same end for ever.

As many an arrow shot,
By different archers strong,
Reach to the one same spot,
Be the distance short or long;
So all our efforts tend,
By many courses sent,
To the same aim and end,
For which our bows are bent."

And the aim towards which all our bows are bent, is the happiness and salvation of all those whom Almighty God has placed within the circle of our influence—a circle never so small but that it may call forth our every power

and energy, and never so large that we need fear lest our influence should be lost, because of the area over which it has to travel.

[ocr errors]

Being, then, convinced of the fact, that there are many matters in our school organization that require a careful examination, the first I propose to touch upon is one relative to an evil existing very largely in some schools, to a greater or less extent in most, viz., "The amount of noise and confusion existing during the period of teaching;" and I purpose considering this difficulty, with a view, if possible, to show some of the causes whence this evil springs, and thereby aid in their removal.

It is of course perfectly impossible where there is an absence of separate class rooms for scholars to meet in, to conduct the lessons without a certain amount of noise; the question, therefore, is whether this may not, by a little management, be lessened, and the comfort of the school be thereby increased. I believe in many cases this is possible; but believing, also, that the work of maintaining order belongs to each individual teacher, I propose to consider this subject under two distinct heads.

Firstly. The teacher's hindrances.
Secondly. The teacher's responsibilities in this matter.

1st. The teachers' hindrances. Under this head, I do not mean those difficulties which a teacher encounters in his own class from the varied temperaments of his scholars, so much as what may be termed outward hindrances resulting from the management of the school itself, and for which the officers are responsible. There can be no effect without a cause, and when we mark the immense difference in schools with regard to this matter, we are at a loss sometimes to discover a cause adequate to the effect. The difference in the tempers of the children, or in the abilities of the teachers, is not, I think, sufficient to account for it; we must, therefore, look elsewhere. There are schools possessing an array of superintendents, secretaries, librarians, and assistant secretaries and librarians, very imposing, and almost bewildering, and yet these schools are ofttimes the worst conducted of any. A large number of officers is, as a rule, a positive hindrance to the well working of a school ; for you have some one of them continually buzzing about hither and thither, and creating no small amount of confusion, setting an example to the children in no wise beneficial. The fewer of these characters in a school the better; one secretary is amply sufficient, unless, indeed, he endeavours to perform the mere clerk's work of his office during the hours of teaching; but this, no officer who knows his duty will attempt.

But the great hindrance a teacher has to experience in some schools, I trust not in many, is occasioned by the collection of subscriptions, and the circulation of magazines during the time for

the lesson. I believe it perfectly impossible to estimate the evil influence this practice exerts, or the annoyance experienced by the teacher who, just as he has succeeded in gaining the attention of his scholars, and is leading their minds to the consideration of themes bright and heavenly, finds all his labour undone, his own and his scholars' attention diverted, by the arrival of some official with some matters of mere business.

It is my impression, that so soon as the opening prayer and hymn is over, the scholars generally, pretty much as a matter of habit, turn to their lessons; but let that lesson be once begun, let the attention once be gained, the mind once directed into the right channel, and then let an interruption occur, and the consequence is a reaction, the absence of the restraint which had scarcely been felt while present, is taken advantage of when the teacher's attention is diverted, and the minds which were a moment before listening to a scripture narrative, find a thousand other objects to engage their attention. And though, perchance, when the teacher again retraces his steps, the bulk of the class may go back quietly enough to its work, yet there is ever a restless spirit, who, having got some idea into his head, is bent upon communicating the source of his enjoyment to his neighbour, who, as a rule, is nothing loth to receive it; or it may be, a conversation or a slight quarrel has been begun, which is certain to continue long after the resumption of the lesson. But there may be those ready to think that I have mag. nified this evil, who will be ready to say, “I do not think the momentary interruption tends to create such noise and confusion as you imagine.” To such an one I would reply: My dear friend, many littles make a whole, and though the difference in your class may be even so slight as to be scarcely visible to you, yet many fractions, especially where those fractions are scattered over a large room, produce an effect that would startle you, could you but ascertain the result.

And I cannot help for a moment, deviating from my immediate question, to put the solemn thought to you, of how much evil this interruption may be to some child under your instruction. We know that when God's Spirit is at work in the heart, no circumstance may frustrate the work; but still we think that, perchance, a teacher has been for some moments earnestly pleading with that loving yearning one,—that a converted teacher, and a converted teacher alone could exercise the influence, has been pointing to a risen Saviour and a crucified Jesus, and already is the little heart thrilled with emotions of love toward that friend and Saviour, and is anxiously, really anxiously, listening to hear the way by which that Jesus may become her friend, and then, just as these thoughts hold sway upon the mind, some official undoes the work by his interruption, and the impression which was being made deeper, and yet more deep, is lost because incomplete. This, after all, is a far more serious objection to the practice to which we have referred, than even the confusion created by it could be.

These, then, are evils that must be done away with. I say must, because, firstly, I do believe it is quite possible to remove them; and secondly, because if it were impossible, I should solemnly urge the giving up of those things that cause them altogether. But I do think, that with a little management these evils might be avoided, save in a few very exceptional cases, and even then I should say at least it might be done by giving up ten minutes even before or after the lesson for the

purpose. It has been urged upon me, that the lesson hour is too short to admit of its being thus curtailed, but I feel assured that the interruption is far worse than a shorter lesson, and that half-an-hour's teaching, without interruption, is far better than three quarters thus disturbed. While these and some other evils exist in school government, teachers can never be held answerable for their scholars; but let them once be removed, then it is the teachers, and the teachers almost exclusively, that are accountable for the order of the school.

And this brings me to my second division-The teacher's responsibilities. Some classes may be a little better than others, but take a school generally, and I think the work is pretty equally divided, there are few classes without a single restless child, and I imagine that

any teacher will find all his powers taxed oftentimes to keep his class as quiet as it should be. I shall, in the first instance, endeavour to throw out a few hints that have often struck me when watching the classes at their work, and which will make the teacher's work much lighter and easier. And firstly, after he has once taken his position in his class, he should never leave it until the school is over. If a teacher contract the habit of leaving his class under any pretence, or for any object whatever, the scholars are sure to indulge in a greater excess of noise than if they had been left alone from their first entering the school, while the teacher himself helps to add to any confusion that may exist, and is of course altogether unable to quell any prevailing in his own class. Secondly, a teacher should exercise discretion in the manner of placing his scholars ; he should never allow two boys of restless habits to sit side by side, but should generally have them as near

himself as possible. I have seen instances, where a boy of notoriously noisy temperament has been allowed to push his way past a whole class, until he reached a companion as restless and mischievous as himself. One thing only in passing would I guard the teacher against, that of unnecessarily separating close friendships; he might on the contrary rather make them a means of maintaining order and quietness, at least between those concerned.

Above all things, a teacher should ever maintain his own authority. In one sense, there should never be a feeling of equality between the teacher and his scholars, or his authority is lost at once. Not that he should be dreaded, but there should ever be a firmness so combined with love, that its influence should be felt and yet never be seen-like some machine whose motive power is concealed, but the effect of which is clearly visible in the revolving wheel or roller. He should never issue a useless order, or one he does not see carried into effect; and in his every action he should keep before him the one great fact, that of all observers of character, there are none so keen as children, and none so likely to be influenced by the impressions formed from that observation.

Finally, I would say to every teacher, you are responsible for the order of the school; and you should be able so to interest your class as, to keep it both silent and orderly. I have long been convinced of the utter futility of a superintendent calling for order from the desk. Yea more, of the evil resulting from it, for in some cases it causes the authority of the teacher to clash in the scholar's mind with that of the superintendent; while, to use an expression of Joseph Parker, in his work upon school reform, a superintendent may call to the dear boys till he is hoarse, without the least effect. This work, then, belongs to the teacher, as I have said and I repeat, and it is one that will call forth all his efforts, and unless they succeed I have little hope of improvement, for I have no faith in forced rules of order and routine to effect what a teacher's authority and love fail to accomplish.

E. L. D.

« PreviousContinue »