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tion of stated school terms, of fixed length, and regular and well known times of opening and closing each year. It might also have a tendency to increase the regularity of attendance, since it would naturally inspire each pupil with the desire to complete the course in the appointed time. At any rate, the irregularity in daily attendance, now so deleterious to our schools, would prove no more embarrassing under a regular course, since the interruption of classes is equally disastrous to order and progress, however the classes are organized.
PRINCIPLES AND METHODS OF TEACHING.
Next to the introduction of a fixed course of studies, and perhaps of even greater importance, a radical reform in the methods of teaching, is needed in the great majority of the schools Much is being accomplished in the improvement of the teachers by the State Normal School, and by the State Teachers' Institutes. But a statement of the true methods and principles of teaching, is necessary for the school officers of the State, that they may exercise over the schools the intelli. gent supervision required of them, and may afford to teachers the wise co-operation and support that their work demands.
If the studies of the Common Schools have been introduced by chance, and without due reflection, the methods of teaching are equally the results of accident and distorted tradition Young persons without experience and without special preparation for the work, have found themselves suddenly ushered into the responsible place of the teacher; and knowing no better, have repeated upon their pupils the process of teaching which had been prácticed upon themselves. Thus, for generation after generation, the little learners of the mysteries of written language, have repeated, in endless iterations, the A, B, Cs, and the abs, till reading came; and then read “round and round,” till they have wheeled their dim and dizzy way through all the successive reading books.
The pupils of the spelling art, juvenile knights of La Man. cha, duing battle on the wiud mills, still continue as of old to charge on the large columns of windy words; and the little disciples of Daboll & Davis still cipher for “ the answer.” What wonder that the mechanical so often supplants the mental, and that the pupils become mere reciting machines, moving as the “master” turns the crank. Nothing so painfully strikes the mind of the thoughtful visitor, in entering many of our Dis. trict Schools, as the almost entire absence of active thought, and the pitiful and helpless dependance on text books, shown by both teachers and scholars.
It is evident that the three main aims of instruction, language, culture and knowledge, already desribed as giving law to the selection of studies, must also largely determine the processes of teaching. No teaching is true that does not aug. ment the intelligence, enlarge the power of thought, and in. crease the facility of expression; and no topic is rightly studied, if, in addition to the acquisition of its facts and truths, the student does not also acquire a mastery of its modes of thought and investigation, and of the language in which it fittingly clothes its reasonings and ideas.
But if now we resolve language into its elements—a power and a knowledge—the power of speech, and the knowledge of the forins of speech—then he work of educating will be two-fold -training and teaching; or the cultivation of the faculties, and the communication of knowledge. Before the teacher stands childhood. It is his to train and nurture it to the stature and strength of manhood. Childhood is ignorant; it is his to fill it with intelligence. These two constitute his work as teacher. To accomplish this two-fuld work, he has these two agencies -the class roon and the text book ; the one the place of training; the other the instrument of teaching.
I. The great law of training is this : alternate action and re. pose ; action exerting, but not exhausting, all the strength; and repose, fully resting from all fatigue. From this comes the plain and single rule for class exercises, viz: make each exercise, recitation or drill, active, spirited, earnest, even to enthusiasm, and pause before the strength is gone or the interest exhausted. How sadly, and often fatally, do our schools suffer from the violations of this rule. In some, the exercises are dull, lifeless, and wearisome, from very lack of any hearty effort. The teacher sits in his chair, and the pupils sit or recline, rather, upon the benches; and the work drags on, scarcely enlisting a single interested thought, and leaving the pupils enervated for the lack of the exercise it failed to afford them, There is no sudden and strong grappling with the sudden and startling questions ; no quick rallying of all the resources to meet the rapidly given problems; no sharp but generous emulation with classmates, to get the answer first ; no grand struggle of the whole intellect to master the difficulties in its way; and no fine glow of triumph, filling the soul with the glad and glorious consciousness of power ; but the mind comes as a galley slave, scourged to his task, and wearily watches for the hour to end. Horace Mann relates that he never saw a teacher in the German schools sitting down. All was life, energy, activity, progress. How rapidly must the powers of the mind develop under such a drill I Like the skillfully trained pugilist, the soul would come each day to its work with aug. mented might, and would leap joyously forward to its daily encounters in the class room.
There is another scarcely less injurious violation of the law of training, seen in the too protracted drills and recitations of the teacher whose zeal is greater than bis skill; and who, anx. ious to make long strides over the field of study, urges his pupils beyond their powers of endurance, and exhausts the faculties he wishes to cultivate. He who works too little, pines through inaction. He who works too much, wastes by over action.
II. The fundamental laws of teaching, or communicating knowledge, are more numerous. They spring partly from the constitution of the mind, and partly from the logical relations of truth. The chief of them are the following:
1st. The roused and fixed attention of the pupil.
3d. His ripeness in age and previous acquirements, to fully receive the desired knowledge.
4th. The logical arrangement of the steps of progress.
5th. The thorough mastery of each step before another is taken.
6th. A final and comprehensive review.
In addition to these, there are also some conditions precedent to all true teaching, one of the most obvious and important of which is, a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the subject to be taught, on the part of the teacher. The importance of these rules is too evident to need illustration. The violations of them all in our schools are frequent and glaring.
Many teachers fail habitually to fix and hold the attention of their classes, and some even seem to regard it as of little consequence whether the remainder of the class pay attention, if only the one who chances to be reciting gives heed. The lack of interest in studies is even more prevalent. Teachers, wholly ignorant of the philosophy of the mind, seem to count it as the business of the pupil to learn lessons, independent of all interest he may find or feel in these lessons. It is a matter of duty, not of pleasure. They do not reflect that the mind never works easily, nor up to its highest point of power, except when inspired with a strong and natural interest in its subject; and, especially, that no healthful development can go on under exercises that are a drudgery and a dread.
The third rule is not unfrequently violated by putting children to studies greatly beyond their capacity, and unsuited to their age. Years are wasted in the foolish and often futile attempt to teach the child what can only be learned successfully by the man. Thus, arithmetic begun at eight, is often not completed till twelve or fourteen years of age. Commenced at twelve or fourteen, it would usually be mastered in a single year.
But there is another grand law of teaching which is, in some sort, comprehensive of all the rest. It is the stimulation of the self-activities of the pupil-exciting the powers to action which, while natural and free, shall also be strenuous and persevering. Under this law, each pupil is left to the bent of his natural genius, and his acquisitions will follow the great principle of natural selection which rules everywhere through the realms of living growth. His intellect will choose the very food it needs at each successive period of its progress, and the knowledge he gains will be the product of his own thoughtwork, rather than the borrowed ideas of other men. Working with his highest power, because working under his native choice, the knowledge won will enter into the very fiber and fabric of his intellectual being, and become an added power of his mind, rather than an additional burden of his memory.
But the theory of teaching will appear in a more practical, if in a less philosophical, light, by a consideration of the methods of teaching particular branches. Wishing to urge this subject of reform in the methods of teaching more emphatically upon the attention of school officers and teachers, I ven'ture to propose plans for teaching some of the more important branches.
OBJECT LESSONS AND ORAL TEACHING.
I present this branch first, both because it is the earliest in any proper course of instruction, and because the preparation it affords is presupposed in the methods of teaching the other branches. Its novelty induces me to offer a brief additional argument for its use, before discussing the methods in teach'ing it.
I am aware that while some teachers are giving object lessons with great enthusiasm, as a new and great improvement in teaching, others are looking down upon it with ignorant contempt, as a puerile and new-tangled notion, without respecta. ble precedent or authority. It may moderate, to a due tem. perance, the enthusiasm of the one class, and abate the groundless distrust and contempt of the other, to repeat what I have already asserted, that it is not new; that it is the oldest and the universal mode of teaching little children. It is true that its formal recognition, as a mode of teaching to be systemati