The objects, then, to be aimed at in the general arrangements of schools are twofold:
1. That the teacher may be left uninterrupted,
to attend to one thing
at a time.
2. That the individual scholars may
have constant employment, and such
an amount and such kinds of study as shall be suited to the
circumstances and capacities of each.
I shall examine each in their order.
1. The following are the principal things which, in a vast number of schools, are all the time pressing upon the teacher; or, rather, they are the things which must every where press upon the teacher, except so far as, by the skill of his arrangements, he contrives to remove them.
1. Giving leave to whisper or to leave seats. 2. Distributing and changing pens. 3. Answering questions in regard to studies. 4. Hearing recitations. 5. Watching the behavior of the scholars. 6. Administering reproof and punishment for offenses as they occur.
A pretty large number of objects of attention and care, one would say, to be pressing upon the mind of the teacher at one and the same time—and all the time too! Hundreds and hundreds of teachers in every part of our country, there is no doubt, have all these crowding upon them from morning to night, with no cessation, except perhaps some accidental and momentary respite. During the winter months, while the principal common schools in our country are in operation, it is sad to reflect how many teachers come home every evening with bewildered and aching heads, having been vainly trying all the day to do six things at a time, while He who made the human mind has determined that it shall do but one. How many become discouraged and disheartened by what they consider the unavoidable trials of a teacher’s life, and give up in despair, just because their faculties will not sustain a six-fold task. There are multitudes who, in early life, attempted teaching, and, after having been worried, almost to distraction, by the simultaneous pressure of these multifarious cares, gave up the employment in disgust, and now unceasingly wonder how any body can like teaching. I know multitudes of persons to whom the above description will exactly apply.
I once heard a teacher who had been very successful, even in large schools, say that he could hear two classes recite, mend pens, and watch his school all at the same time, and that without any distraction of mind or any unusual fatigue. Of course the recitations in such a case must be from memory. There are very few minds, however, which can thus perform triple or quadruple work, and probably none which can safely be tasked so severely. For my part, I can do but one thing at a time; and I have no question that the true policy for all is to learn not to do every thing at once, but so to classify and arrange their work that they shall have but one thing at once to do. Instead of vainly attempting to attend simultaneously to a dozen things, they should so plan their work that only one will demand attention.