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FEW OF THE "HOWS"
SCHOOL-K E E PIN G.
BY ROGER S. HOWARD,
nobody reads prefaces,” and I very well know that long exordiums are equally tedious and unwelcome. I will therefore enter at once upon my subject, simply repeating what Robert Burns has said in the beginning of a poetic epistle written to a friend :
“ Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon ;'?—
or rather expressing the fear, that what I shall be able to say to you on the present occasion, will not afford you the amusement of a song nor the instruction of a sermon. But if I am dull, I will endeavor not to detain you long.
To begin, then :
" Honor is not the subject of my story."
his work, will make almost any system work well. If then you would make the most of yourself and would succeed as a teacher, keep your eyes and ears constantly open' and task your invention continually. In our profession more than any other, men are apt to become rusty—to follow on like a horse in a mill, in one beaten track, never seeking for improvements and better methods of discharging their duties. Be ever therefore on the alert, and learn all you can from others in relation to your profession ; but, at the same time, imitate no man servilely, and never think it glory. enough to follow implicitly in the footsteps of some illustrious predecessor. And I will add, let no man copy even himself too closely and constantly ; that is, let him vary his plan and mode of teaching a little, from time to time, if he wishes to have it work well and continue to interest himself and his scholars. Variety is the spice of life-and surely a little of it is necessary in the too often monotonous and humdrum business of teaching. A horse, it is said, will travel faster and farther in a day, over hill and valley, than over a dead level plain ; and we all know which would be the more interesting and attractive ride. So in schoolkeeping, a little variety in the modus operandi will contribute greatly to the interest of both teacher and pupils. Therefore be not afraid to deviate a little from the beaten track, and, I repeat it, imitate no man servilely. For I don't believe that there is any one system of government and instruction, which is absolutely the best for every individual teacher. I believe that every man's own system is the best for him ; though in forming his plan and carrying it into execution, he may derive important assistance from the experience and suggestions of others. Still, to be a good system for him, it must be essentially his own. I hold 10 originality in teaching as well as in every thing else ; and do not believe that in the affair of education there is but one orthodox creed and no other, and that all who dissent are to be regarded as heretics. There has been quite too much of this kind of dogmatism in stating and advocating the best modes of managing schools. I must confess that I belong to the liberal party in these matters, and am quite in favor of every man's having his own way. But I have said enough on the topic, and must come to some of the “hows” of school-keeping of a more definite and practical character.
And first, “how" to secure punctual attendance.
Let no time be allowed for tardiness; that is, when the hour for opening the school arrives, let the exercises forthwith commence, and let any, scholar coming in afterward, though but a single moment behind the time, be marked as tardy, and let some penalty be attached, which shall make such a delinquency a losing affair. If you can make any fault bring its punishment along with it, you will prevent its frequent recurrence.
Perhaps I shall be best understood by concisely stating “how” we work it in the Newburyport Latin and English High School, in one department of which I have been engaged most of the time for the last twelve years. Formerly ten, and sometimes fifteen minutes, were allowed for tardiness, but always with bad effect. Of late years, however, no time has been allowed. Our bell now begins to ring fifteen minutes and ceases five minutes before 9 and 2 o'clock. At 9 and 2, the scholars are required to be in their places, and the exercises of
the school immediately commence. Any scholar coming in after this time, loses what we call the “clean-bill hour” (which I will presently explain,) and, in addition, if he brings no good excuse for tardiness, is liable to be detained after school at the discretion of the teacher. The “ clean-bill hour” is an hour allowed on Saturday to all scholars who have not been punished, tardy or absent, (except for sickness) during the week; so that by being tardy but for a single minute, the scholar loses, at any rate, the clean-bill hour,” and, if he comes without an excuse, may be kept an additional half hour after school, which he soon learns to regard as a bad speculation. The result is that we have very little tardiness.
A short extract from the school committee's annual report to the town in March, 1842, will show how we attempt to secure constant attendance and with what success. " At a meeting of the Board,” says the report; “ held October 8th, 1841, the following regulations for the Male High School were unanimously adopted.
1st. “Pupils belonging to this school shall be required to attend punctually and constantly ; and every boy absent, for whatever cause, shall be restored to his former standing in school, only on condition that he shall. bring a written excuse for his absence, from his parent or guardian, and also within a reasonable time prepare himself to recite, to the satisfaction of his teacher, all lessons recited by his class during his absence.
2d. “Also, any boy absent from school more than one half day during any month, unless his absence be occasioned by his own sickness, or by sickness or death in the family to which he belongs, shall not be allowed