It is so with all the other employments in life. They do, indeed, often bring men into collision with other men. But, though sometimes vexed and irritated by the conduct of a neighbor, a client, or a patient, they feel not half the bitterness of the solicitude and anxiety which come to the teacher through the criminality of his pupil. In ordinary cases he not only feels responsible for efforts, but for their results; and when, notwithstanding all his efforts, his pupils will do wrong, his spirit sinks with an intensity of anxious despondency which none but a teacher can understand.
This feeling of something very like moral accountability for the guilt of other persons is a continual burden. The teacher in the presence of the pupil never is free from it. It links him to them by a bond which perhaps he ought not to sunder, and which he can not sunder if he would. And sometimes, when those committed to his charge are idle, or faithless, or unprincipled, it wears away his spirits and his health together. I think there is nothing analogous to this moral connection between teacher and pupil unless it be in the case of a parent and child. And here, on account of the comparative smallness of the number under the parent’s care, the evil is so much diminished that it is easily borne.
2. The second great difficulty of the teacher’s employments is the immense multiplicity of the objects of his attention and care during the time he is employed in his business. His scholars are individuals, and notwithstanding all that the most systematic can do in the way of classification, they must be attended to in a great measure as individuals. A merchant keeps his commodities together, and looks upon a cargo composed of ten thousand articles, and worth a hundred thousand dollars, as one; he speaks of it as one; and there is, in many cases, no more perplexity in planning its destination than if it were a single box of raisins. A lawyer may have a great many important cases, but he has only one at a time; that is, he attends to but one at a time. The one may be intricate, involving many facts, and requiring to be examined in many aspects and relations. But he looks at but few of these facts and regards but few of these relations at a time. The points which demand his attention come one after another in regular succession. His mind may thus be kept calm. He avoids confusion and perplexity. But no skill or classification will turn the poor teacher’s hundred scholars into one, or enable him, except to a very limited extent, and for a very limited purpose, to regard them as one. He has a distinct and, in many respects, a different work to do for every one of the crowd before him. Difficulties must be explained in detail, questions must be answered one by one, and each scholar’s own conduct must be considered by itself. His work is thus made up of a thousand minute particulars, which are all crowding upon his attention at once, and which he can not group together, or combine, or simplify. He must, by some means or other, attend to them in all their distracting individuality. And, in a large and complicated school, the endless multiplicity and variety of objects of attention and care impose a task under which few intellects can long stand.