When subjects for written composition are thus assigned, they should be so presented to the pupils as to lead their minds to a very practical mode of regarding them. For example, instead of simply assigning the subject Truth as the theme of an abstract moral essay, bring up definite points of a practical character, such especially as are connected with the trials and temptations of early life. “I wish you would all give me your opinions,” the teacher might say in such a case, “on the question, What is the most frequent inducement that leads children to tell falsehoods? Also, do you think it is right to tell untruths to very little children, as many persons do, or to people who are sick? Also, whether it would be right to tell a falsehood to an insane man in order to manage him?”
Sometimes, instead of assigning a subject of composition verbally, the superintendent exhibits an engraving, and the several members of the class then write any thing they please which is suggested to them by the engraving. For example, suppose the picture thus exhibited were to represent a girl sewing in an attic. The compositions to which it would give rise might be very various. One pupil would perhaps simply give an account of the picture itself, describing the arrangements of the room, and specifying the particular articles of furniture contained in it. Another would give a soliloquy supposed to be spoken by the sewing-girl as she sits at her work. Another would narrate the history of her life, of course an imaginary one. Another would write an essay on the advantages of industry and independence.
This is a very good way of assigning subjects of composition, and, if well managed, it may be the means of awakening a great interest in writing among almost all the pupils of a school.
5. Though the superintendents, as such, have, necessarily speaking, no teaching to do, still they ought particularly to secure the progress of every pupil in what may be called the essential studies, such as reading, writing, and spelling. For this purpose, they either see that their pupils are going on successfully in classes in school in these branches, or they may attend to them in the section, provided that they never allow such instruction to interfere with their more appropriate and important duties.
In a word, the superintendents are to consider the members of their sections as pupils confided to their care, and they are not merely to discharge mechanically any mere routine of duty, such as can be here pointed out, but to exert all their powers, their ingenuity, their knowledge of human character, their judgment and discretion, in every way, to secure for each of those committed to their care the highest benefits which the institution to which they belong can afford. They are to keep a careful and faithful record of their plans and of the history of their respective sections, and to endeavor as faithfully and as diligently to advance the interests of the members of them as if the sections were separate and independent schools of their own.