Imágenes de página

school-time, eighteen minutes of personal instruction, and the members of the subdivisions under the care of monitors will receive (being reduced in numbers, by the deduction of the monitors, to one hundred and ten), sixty-five minutes and a half of monitorial teaching, equivalent perhaps, in point of value, to the eighteen minutes of teaching given by the presiding monitor, the master, to his division. On this supposition, which will show fairly enough the usual routine of a monitorial school, each scholar receives nine times as much instruction as he would do in an ordinary case. Nor are the monitors, when actually employed in teaching, losing or wasting time; for we are undoubtedly all well aware that there is no better method of learning and securing the knowledge of any particular branch of study, than, after acquiring some little acquaintance with it, to be diligently engaged in teaching it. So that it has been rightly said, that the best way to learn is to teach. It is a most lamentable fact, that in all our common schools there is (not because of any fault of the teacher, but from the very defects of the common school system) a most profuse and shameful waste of time. This lavishness of the best and most precious of Heaven's gifts, and doubly precious to the growing mind, exists mostly in that part of the scholars who are at their desks apart froin the teacher, and who ought to be employed in preparing an assigned exercise for recitation. Yet they, from that unfortunate peculiarity of human nature which tempts us to prefer ease to labour, suffer themselves to be employed only so long as will suffice for the preparation of, in most instances, a defective and miserable recitation. There they sit, as even the most unobserving spectator of our ordinary schools cannot but notice,

wasting the priceless energies of mind and of body, and acquiring habits of inattention and of idleness, the most miserable influence of which not the lapse of years nor the utmost labour of maturer days can ever wholly eradicate. To so unfortunate a profuseness of time we contend that any employment, even the most unsatisfactory, is preferable. Let it not be said that we require too much of the youny, that we would keep them too constantly employed, that we would unwisely strain their youthful powers in the accomplishment of impossibilities. The time apportioned to school exercises is sparing enough; and the residue of the day, and the frequent recurrence of vacations and of holidays, give them the most ample opportunities for relaxation. But it


be said- Arcum nec semper tendit Apollo. True. But he never unbent it when in the fury of the chase. He never relaxed the keenness of his aim till the prey was prostrate at his feet.

3. A third advantage is, that in a school where this system is adopted every individual is kept in constant employment.

No one, as we have already observed, who is even but partially acquainted with the state of our schools under the ordinary management, can avoid observing how very great a portion of the customary school hours is wasted in absolute idleness. Let us suppose an instance of a teacher having the supervision and instruction of a school of forty members, who are divided into four classes. These four classes, we will suppose, are to recite in regular rotation, commencing with the lowest. While this class is employed with the teacher, the other three classes are, or ought to be, engaged in the preparation of a lesson. Now it is usually the case that the

lessons assigned to lads do not, or, from their fault, will not, occupy them more than three-quarters of an hour, or, at the most, an entire hour. The class reciting will perhaps occupy about the same amount of time; and when the teacher shall have finished with them, there are the three other classes, each and all prepared to recite at the same time. Now but a single one can be attended to, and the other two inust and do sit absolutely unoccupied. Nay, so far as the discipline of the school and their own benefit is concerned, they are worse than idle, since they will be sure to resort to some mischievous expedients to kill the monster Time, till their turn for recitation comes round. But where the monitorial system, or something equivalent or better is adopted, no such difficulties can occur, because, as it in truth always ought to be the case, recitation occupies more of school time than study. We have supposed what we believe to be a favourable instance in the selection of a school of forty members. And if so much time be there worse than wasted, what shall we say of one which contains from one hundred and fifty to two hundred scholars? These last numbers give the usual amount committed to the charge of a single teacher in all our large towns; and we hazard nothing in making the assertion, that of this large number one half are unemployed, so far as the acquisition of knowledge is concerned, more than one half of their time. Nay, even in the very best regulated schools, where but a single master is employed in the instruction of any considerable number of pupils, and without any assistance from them, this evil exists in a most alarming measure.

We conceive this difficulty to be the grand and most discouraging obstacle to the advancement of our com

mon schools. We believe that they will never awake from the sluggishness under which so many of them lie buried, until this palsying incubus, which broods over and withers their best energies, be shaken from them. We believe that they will never take and maintain that rank which their numberless friends most earnestly desire them to do, until the constant employment of every individual, and the unsparing occupation of every mo. ment of time, be universally prevalent. In our opinion, this feature of the monitorial system is above all praise ; and the sooner it is found to exist in some shape or other in every school in the country, the sooner will their best interests be promoted. What teacher is there among us all who has not felt a glow of satisfaction and even of delight, when, on surveying his little kingdom, he has found every individual sedulously and profitably and constantly employed? Who is there among us all who does not esteem such moments among the very proudest of his professional career?

There is another point gained by the use of monitors, which we mention here because connected with the subject of frequent recitation. There can scarcely be found a parent who is not only willing, but even desirous, that his children should have some employment connected with school-exercises out of the ordinary limits of school-hours. This is particularly the case in the winter season, when the days are short, and school-time is contracted into the narrow bounds of five hours, and the evenings are of protracted length, and, on the part of children, mostly unoccupied. Lessons prepared out of school can, where the monitorial system is adopted, be recited as soon as school commences, and can all be recited, and simultaneously, and the whole work may

be accomplished in less than an hour. But where the old method prevails, the more lessons there are learned the worse it is for the learner, so far as recitation, which is the very life-blood and soul of school-time, is concerned.

4. The fourth advantage which we would mention, although they all seem to be so intimately connected that they might be easily enumerated under a single division, is, that the influence of this constant employment fairly and effectually removes the disrelish and irksomeness on the part of scholars and of teachers attendant upon the ordinary method of instruction.

We all know that when we are constantly and busily employed, time flies as upon noiseless and unheeded wings. There is no instructor from whom the fleeting hours do not pass away too rapidly; and many a one is there, if his school be exclusively conducted on the ordinary system, who has many a time found that his narrow portion of time is all elapsed, and his work is but half done. How readily and how heartily might such an one exclaim, were his dactyls handy,

“ Hei mihi ! nunc quid agam? Nimium celeri pede fugit


Now, by this constant employment, which is a characteristic feature of the system of mutual instruction, the same effects are produced in the removal of fatigue and irksomeness from the bodies and minds of scholars. And it is from them that we should be particularly anxious to remove every feeling and every impression that may be, in the least degree, unfavorable to the employments of the school-room. Make that a spot to which they will delight to resort; make it, in deed and

« AnteriorContinuar »