I have said that this endless multiplicity and variety can not be reduced and simplified by classification. I mean, of course, that this can be done only to a very limited extent compared with what may be effected in the other pursuits of mankind. Were it not for the art of classification and system, no school could have more than ten scholars, as I intend hereafter to show. The great reliance of the teacher is upon this art, to reduce to some tolerable order what would otherwise be the inextricable confusion of his business. He must be systematic. He must classify and arrange; but, after he has done all that he can, he must still expect that his daily business will continue to consist of a vast multitude of minute particulars, from one to another of which the mind must turn with a rapidity which few of the other employments of life ever demand.
These are the essential sources of difficulty with which the teacher has to contend; but, as I shall endeavor to show in succeeding chapters, though they can not be entirely removed, they can be so far mitigated by the appropriate means as to render the employment a happy one. I have thought it best, however, as this work will doubtless be read by many who, when they read it, are yet to begin their labors, to describe frankly and fully to them the difficulties which beset the path they are about to enter. “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.” It is often wisdom to understand it beforehand.
The distraction and perplexity of the teacher’s life are, as was explained in the last chapter, almost proverbial. There are other pressing and exhausting pursuits, which wear away the spirit by the ceaseless care which they impose, or perplex and bewilder the intellect by the multiplicity and intricacy of their details; but the business of teaching, by a pre-eminence not very enviable, stands, almost by common consent, at the head of the catalogue.
I have already alluded to this subject in the preceding chapter, and probably the majority of actual teachers will admit the truth of the view there presented. Some will, however, doubtless say that they do not find the business of teaching so perplexing and exhausting an employment. They take things calmly. They do one thing at a time, and that without useless solicitude and anxiety. So that teaching, with them, though it has, indeed, its solicitudes and cares, as every other responsible employment must necessarily have, is, after all, a calm and quiet pursuit, which they follow from month to month, and from year to year, without any extraordinary agitations, or any unusual burdens of anxiety and care.
There are, indeed, such cases, but they are exceptions, and unquestionably a considerable majority, especially of those who are beginners in the work, find it such as I have described. I think it need not be so, or, rather, I think the evil may be avoided to a very great degree. In this chapter I shall endeavor to show how order may be produced out of that almost inextricable mass of confusion into which so many teachers, on commencing their labors, find themselves plunged.