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Aptness to teach.-Not an instinct.-It can be acquired.
RIGHT MODES OF TEACHING.
From what has been said of Education, it is very obvious that it is no small thing to be a successful teacher. It is admitted by all that the teacher should be APT TO TEACH. He cannot be useful without this. He may have an unimpeachable character; he may have the most liberal and thorough literary acquirements; he may deeply feel his responsibility, and yet after all he may fail to teach successfully.
Aptness to teach has been said to be a native endowment, a sort of instinct, and therefore incapable of being improved by experience or instruction,-an instinct such as that which guides the robin, though hatched in an oven, to build a perfect nest like that of its parent, without ever having seen one. I am of opinion that such instincts in men are rare ; but that aptness to teach, like aptness to do any thing else, is usually an acquired power, based upon a correct knowledge of what is to be done, and some accurate estimate of the fitness of the means used for the end. If there are exceptions to this, they are very uncommon; and the safer way, therefore, for the majority of teachers, is, to study carefully the rationale of their processes, and to
A mistake.- The way literary nurselings are made.
rely rather upon sound and philosophical principles in their teaching, than upon a very doubtful intuition.
One of the most common errors into which young teachers fall, (and some old ones too,) is that of misjudging of the degree of assistance which the
young scholar needs in the pursuit of learning. There are a few who forget the difficulties which impeded their own perception of new truths when learners, and therefore have no sympathy with the perplexities which surround the children under their charge when they encounter like difficulties. They refuse to lend a helping hand, even where it is needed, and by making light of the child's doubts, perhaps sneering at his unsuccessful struggles, they dishearten him so far that imaginary obstacles become insurmountable, and he gives up in despair. But a far more numerous class tend toward the other extreme. From a mistaken kindness, or a mistaken estimate of the child's ability, or both, they are disposed to do quite too much for him, and thus they diminish his power to help himself. The child that is constantly dandled upon the lap of its nurse, and borne in her arms to whatever point it may desire to go, does not soon learn to walk; and when it at length makes the attempt, it moves not with the firm tread of him who was early taught to use his own limbs. There is a great deal of literary dandling practised in our schools; and as a consequence, a great many of our children are mere sickly nurselings, relying upon leading-strings while in the school, and falling, for very weakness, just as soon as the supporting hand is withdrawn. This
Anecdote of folly.- Pouring-in.-The “oral hobby.”
evil is so common, and in some instances so monstrous," that I shall be pardoned if I dwell upon it a little more fully.
In illustrating this subject, I must mention two processes of teaching, not indeed exactly opposite to each other, though widely different,-into one or both of which many of our teachers are very liable to fall. I shall, for the sake of a name, designate the former as the
SECTION 1.- 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
Not long since I visited a school, where the teacher with much selfcomplacency requested me to examine the writing of the children. It was indeed very fair. But when I drew from him the fact that he first wrote each page himself with a lead pencil, and only required his scholars to black his marks over with ink; and that with unremitting labor he did this week after week for all the writers in his school, I knew not which most to wonder at, the docility of the children or the weakness of the teacher. The writing ceased to be wonderful.
Victims of kindness.- Passive recipient.-A jug.
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 this 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 ?” “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 .tomorrow, and that again will be partially displaced and
Mind weakened.—Drawing-out.-Leading questions.
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 practised; 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
SECTION II.- DRAWING-OUT PROCESS.
This consists in asking what the lawyers call leading questions. It is practised, 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 ?" John hesitates. “Is it the dividend ?" says the teacher. “Yes, sir—the dividend.” “Well, John, what is that which is left after dividing called ?—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 ?”