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CLASSIFICATION AND PROMOTION OF SCHOLARS.
THE following is an outline of the opinions expressed at a recent Superintendents' Meeting, connected with the Church of England Sunday School Institute.
THE CLASSIFICATION OF SCHOLARS on their first admittance into the school requires much care and discrimination on the part of the superintendent; he must take into consideration their age, knowledge, intelligence, and disposition, so that he may allot them to the class and to the teacher most suitable to them. This can be ascertained in a great measure by a personal interview with and examination of each scholar, after which they could be placed conditionally in the class apparently the most suitable, and at the expiration of three or four Sundays the superintendent, from his own observation, and the report of the teacher will decide either to confirm the appointment, or to enter them permanently into another class. It is necessary that the superintendent should be well acquainted with the relative standard and attainments of each class, and the ability and disposition of the respective teachers, to enable him to classify his scholars properly.
In some schools it is the practice to retain all the new scholars in a separate class for a few Sundays, to test them, and then appoint them to a regular class; but the previous plan is better, as the new scholars differ so much in knowledge and ability.
It is not desirable to give new scholars lesson books on their first entrance into school, because in many instances theyattend for two or three Sundays only, and then leave: it is better to wait a few Sundays, to see if they are likely to continue.
In the case of elder scholars, who cannot read, it is the practice in some schools, in which they have many such, to keep them in a distinct class, taught by an able and suitable teacher, until they are sufficiently advanced to be drafted into the regular classes: but generally it is the custom to place them at once with children of about the same age and mental powers, taking care first to secure the consent of the teacher, and the good-will of the class in favor of the new comer. It is highly detrimental to place such elder children, although ignorant, amongst the little or junior classes, as calculated to disgust them and drive them from the school. Week-evening instruction should be provided for such scholars, whenever practicable.
With regard to precocious children, it is not advisable to put young children, though forward, into the elder classes, as it is likely to incense the elder ones against them, or to disgust them, rather than to incite them to greater efforts; moreover, the mental powers of the young are generally inferior to those of the elder scholars.
Some schools have also separate classes and teachers for those scholars who attend only in the afternoon; but it is more advantageous to place them amongst the other classes, from their being of various attainments and capacities.
THE PROMOTION OF CHILDREN from one class to another above it, is surrounded with many difficulties: for example,-Teachers are often un
willing to part with their best scholars, and oftentimes scholars would rather leave the school than be parted from a favorite teacher; whilst always the bond of love between the particular teacher and scholar is severed. Teachers and scholars should be taught to take a mutual interest in each other throughout the school; there should be more of the family spirit in it, whereby particular likings would be to some extent avoided. Every child in the school should be led to look forward to pass through the school to the senior class, and after that to become themselves teachers. If rewards are given only to the one or two best scholars in each class, the promotion of a child would also endanger its reward; but this is wrong in principle, rewards should always be so given that every child in the school may have equal chance of obtaining one if it will entitle itself to it.
The first object to be considered in the promotion of children is the welfare of each particular child. Promotion is necessary throughout the school, at stated seasons, as some scholars will advance more rapidly than others; and when one gets to be much beyond the rest, it is necessary to promote him to a higher class, or the others will be discouraged by his answering everything; though if the scholars are well classified, promotion need take place but seldom, say once in each year; but in many schools it is done half-yearly, and in some even quarterly; but this is an evil. Yet, on the other hand, it is disadvantageous for a scholar to remain many years under the same teacher, as it is likely there would be a great sameness in the teaching. Sometimes dislike and ill-feeling will spring up betwixt a teacher and scholar through a want of sympathy between them, and it will become necessary to appoint the scholar to another class; whilst it will be found that a scholar, unruly with one teacher, will be submissive with another, because he can exercise more influence over him ; but in promoting such scholars, care must be taken not to give to them the appearance of a victory; better lose scholars than permit them to gain the ascendancy.
In case of a class getting over full, it is often necessary to promote some of the scholars; but in some schools this is partly avoided by making two or more divisions to the same class, all equal in rank, so that new scholars or those promoted from a lower class can be placed in whichever division of the class there is most room, thus preventing any one from getting overcrowded. But in case of a class losing very many of its scholars, it is better to disperse the remaining ones amongst other classes, and place the teacher somewhere else, rather than to disturb many other classes to fill up that one.
As in the classification, so in the promotion of children, the mutual adaptation to each other of the teacher and the scholar must never be lost sight of; the chief object being, not maintaining the classes of a uniform size, but the highest good of each individual scholar.
An examination of each class by the superintendent very often precedes the half-yearly or annnal promotion, but the report of each teacher, and the marks in the register, should also be taken into consideration.
FRIENDLY CAUTION FOR THE BENEFIT OF SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
IT is not surprising that the friends of Sunday schools should feel some distrust of the tendency of many recent measures to turn them into moneymills. Such a use of them is of late years. Twenty or thirty years ago the great aim of all Sunday schools was to instruct children and youth (who would otherwise be uninstructed) in the great truths of our Protestant faith. Teachers of years and experience-many of them the honored and noble of the land-were accustomed to prepare with diligence for their class duties, and the two sessions a day, (which were then held in a large majority of schools,) afforded them none too much time to accomplish their sacred task.
After a while the library assumed an undue share of attention in the machinery of the school; and then came children's newspapers with rattling consequence; and at last feasts, fairs, pic-nics, and public processions and celebrations claimed a wide berth, and the humdrum work of Scripture teaching was pushed into the background, and the enthusiasm of those who had given themselves heartily to this divine office was sensibly cooled.
But nothing has been engrafted on our Sunday school stock which threatens so seriously to divert the institution from its original purpose, if not fatally to overlay it, as the multiplied schemes which are in vogue to make money out of them. In some schools not less than seven or eight general objects of benevolence are submitted to the children every year, to say nothing of special calls by strangers, who being courteously asked to make an address, often adroitly insinuate an appeal for the pennies.
Were these calls of such a character that children could readily comprehend them, the objection to them would be less formidable; but it is not 80. As a sample of the way in which they are presented, the following case may serve: A Missionary Society desired to raise funds for the support of a new mission in Japan. One of the persons connected with that mission married the half-sister of our minister's wife. When our last monthly concert was observed, a letter was read from this gentleman (which by the way, had been previously published in the -Magazine,) appealing for help. It was proposed to make a special collection in this behalf on the next Sunday in the church. The minister suggested that perhaps the Sunday school children would like to help. No sooner said than done. The superintendent proposed the subject, expressing at the same time the pleasure it would give him to see their liberality. Finally, the proposition is distinctly made to try and raise a sufficient sum to make the pastor a life-member of the Missionary Society-thus killing two birds with one stone; i. e. sending the Gospel to the heathen and paying a compliment to the minister. The next Sunday, "Please give me a penny for the Sunday school collection!" rings through the homes of the children, and half a pound of coined copper is the result.
Now it is quite clear that such a process does not necessarily strengthen the benevolent principle in the children. It might be difficult for one in twenty of them to tell on the next Sabbath what the collection was for, and still more difficult to tell what self-denial their share of it had cost them.
Another case we can mention still more to our purpose, as an example of the practice we are considering: A stranger comes to town, bringing with him a blind child and a deaf mute. He has taken them in charge to educate. The regular and appropriate exercises of the school are suspended, (much to the joy of the restless children and unprepared teachers,) while he tells a sorrowful tale in their behalf. Then the blind girl entertains them by reading from raised letters, and the deaf mute follows with a sentence or two in signs; and then an appeal is made for aid in educating this unfortunate couple. No one asks if there is not a public institution which would offer much greater advantages, with much more certainty; but some twenty dollars are promptly put into the stranger's pocket. This may be all right and proper in this case, but how easy it would be to carry on a system of gross imposition under such a guise! Would our public schools be allowed to open their doors to such appeals? Is the spirit of intelligent benevolence increased by them? Latterly, efforts have been made to enlist the sympathies of Sunday school children in denominational enterprises. Their minds are to be distracted with the claims of contending sects or theological schools. They are told of the efforts made by other denominations to build churches, educate ministers, and establish missions. And if they have caught from their parents, or teacher, or minister, or newspaper, a little of the spirit of denominational rivalry, they will soon bristle up against Arminianism here and Calvinism there, some going in for immersion and others for effusion, while little Puseyites give Low.. Church boys and girls the cold shoulder. And so, our schools, which should be the nurseries of simple piety, are turned into the battle-ground to which little children are summoned at the beat of the "drum ecclesiastic."'
May the inquiry be pardoned, whether it would not be better, all things considered, to go back to the old way, and confine the work of the Sunday school to the business of teaching the Holy Scriptures in methods adapted to the condition of the children? For many years, and when other means teachers of instruction were quite as abundant and efficient as they are now, felt that two sessions a day, of an hour and a half each, afforded no more time than they needed for the important duty they had in hand. And, moreover, the legitimate means of making Sunday school teaching interestCan it be wise to divert any ing and profitable were far less than now, portion of the little time to which most of our Sunday school work has come to be limited, to any object other than that of the plain teaching of divine truth?
For one, I am yet to see a single substantial advantage we have gained by any of the uses made of the Sunday school beyond or aside from that of inculcating the simple doctrines and precepts of the Gospel.
I am favourable to efforts by each denomination to propagate its own views of truth and duty. I do my share in this way, at a proper time and in my proper relations; but I humbly conceive that the Sunday school, as such, should be excused from being considered any part of the financial machinery of any church. It has other and better services to render, AN OLD TEACHER.
FRUITS OF SUNDAY SCHOOL LABOUR.
The following memoranda concerning a Sunday school in Philadelphia shows in what form the legitimate results of the institution are expected to appear. Hundreds and thousands of our schools could doubtless furnish a similar record.
A., was one of our scholars for some years. He is now a respectable Physician in Philadelphia, having an extensive practice, is a member of the Church and exerting a holy influence around him.
B., was connected with the Sunday school for four years, after which he became a member of the Bible class, then a teacher, in which station he was very useful, joined the church, established family worship in his mother's house after the death of his father, and is now preparing for the ministry. His sister has since become a teacher in the same school.
C., was a member of the Sunday school for six years, and is now a respectable Attorney in Philadelphia.
D., was taken from the very dirt as it were, from the midst of intemperance and filth. In the Sunday school she received her first serious impressions. After some years she became a teacher, opened a Sunday school in the suburbs herself and conducted it. In that school her husband was a scholar. They are both communicants of the church, have family worship, live consistent lives, and are endeavoring to train their children for God.
E., entered as a scholar, remained for some time, and left the school. The teacher observed nothing remarkable in this boy. He returned to the school not long since and told the superintendent that he received his first serious impressions in the school. He made an address to the teachers and scholars. This man is a devoted minister of the gospel.
F., was a member of the Sunday school for three years. This boy had an ungodly example set before him at home, his father being a drunkard. The brothers of F., are worldly men, one a butcher, and the other a carter, and his sisters, (who sit in the market to sell fruit,) are careless women. Neither brothers or sisters ever went to Sunday school. F., is now proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. He is a man of a surprising intellect, and has been the means of doing much good.
G., was a scholar in the Sunday school and come from a family where misery was to be seen. After being a scholar for some years he became a member of the church, and entered the school as a teacher, after which he became a superintendent. G's. father was an intemperate man and is yet. His brother who never attended Snnday school, is indifferent in regard to his eternal salvation.
H., became connected with the Sunday school shortly after it began. He is now directing a large Sunday school, is a member of the church, has a family, and conducts family worship.
I., was a scholar, and is now a faithful minister of the gospel, settled over a respectable congregation.
J., K., and L., three other scholars, became teachers, all made a profession of religion, and one became a missionary to the heathen.
M., was from a poor family, the father a drunkard, and the mother not