4. Hearing recitations. I am aware that many attempt to do something else at the same time that they are hearing a recitation, and there may perhaps be some individuals who can succeed in this. If the exercise to which the teacher is attending consists merely in listening to the reciting word for word some passage committed to memory, it can be done. I hope, however, to show in a future chapter that there are other and far higher objects which every teacher ought to have in view in his recitations, and he who understands these objects, and aims at accomplishing them—who endeavors to instruct his class, to enlarge and elevate their ideas, to awaken a deep and paramount interest in the subject which they are examining, will find that his time must be his own, and his attention uninterrupted while he is presiding at a class. All the other exercises and arrangements of the school are, in fact, preparatory and subsidiary to this. Here, that is, in the classes, the real business of teaching is to be done. Here the teacher comes in contact with his scholars mind with mind, and here, consequently, he must be uninterrupted and undisturbed. I shall speak more particularly on this subject hereafter under the head of instruction; all I wish to secure in this place is that the teacher should make such arrangements that he can devote his exclusive attention to his classes while he is actually engaged with them.
Each recitation, too, should have its specified time, which should be adhered to with rigid accuracy. If any thing like the plan I have suggested for allowing rests of a minute or two every half hour should be adopted, it will mark off the forenoon into parts which ought to be precisely and carefully observed. I was formerly accustomed to think that I could not limit the time for my recitations without great inconvenience, and occasionally allowed one exercise to encroach upon the succeeding, and this upon the next, and thus sometimes the last was excluded altogether. But such a lax and irregular method of procedure is ruinous to the discipline of a school. On perceiving it at last, I put the bell into the hands of a pupil, commissioning her to ring regularly, having myself fixed the times, saying that I would show my pupils that I could be confined myself to system as well as they. At first I experienced a little inconvenience; but this soon disappeared, and at last the hours and half hours of our artificial division entirely superseded, in the school-room, the divisions of the clock face. I found, too, that it exerted an extremely favorable influence upon the scholars in respect to their willingness to submit readily to the necessary restrictions imposed upon them in school, to show them that the teacher was subject to law as well as they.
But, in order that I may be specific and definite, I will draw up a plan for the regular division of time, for a common school, not to be adopted, but to be imitated; that is, I do not recommend exactly this plan, but that some plan, precise and specific, should be determined upon, and exhibited to the school by a diagram like the following: