The child is increasingly independent and outspoken, but easily won by love and confidence. He responds to responsibility, craves recognition, glories in show and regalia, wants to know the truth about things. He is a hero worshipper, abounds with energy and considers it his inalienable right to have fun with his chums. He devours books and magazines, retains what he reads and memorizes as never before. He is forming habits of life. He ought to be a sincere child Christian before he leaves the Junior department.
Manifestly, in dealing with this period, the problem of nurture must find a large part of its solution in the teacher himself. Three things must be vitally true of the one holding this responsible office: first, an abiding touch with God that shall mean Divine wisdom, moment by moment, for the exegencies of Junior work far outnumber the tread mill experiences; second, an understanding of and genuine sympathy with the life of the children; third, a personality that shall meet the conditions of hero worship. Some day the church will give to every boys’ class, in this and succeeding periods, a trained Christian man to be hero first, and then teacher, for no boy aspires to be like a woman, no matter how much he may love her. But, though a woman may not reach up to a boy’s ideals along physical lines, nor should she attempt it, there is abundant opportunity through outings, tramps, picnics and genuine interest in their sports to touch even that side of the life of both boys and girls.
The social needs must be met through frequent class and department gatherings, preferably in the homes, for the habit of reverence in God’s house will receive almost fatal counteraction in the average social gathering of this age held in the church. Organizations like the “Knights of King Arthur,” for boys, and the “Sunshine Club,” for girls, are to be highly commended because of their social features, their appeal to the love of uniform, password and secrets, to hero worship and to activity through the ideals of life and service they make concrete and alluring.
Discipline of these independent, outspoken boys and girls is easy if the teacher will only lay hold of the heart instead of the coat collar, but, alas, the latter method takes less time. The world holds nothing truer and sweeter than the love of a child at this age, free as it is from all affectation and policy, and it is there in every heart, awaiting the touch of the teacher who can find the hidden spring. The contact on Sunday is not sufficient, however, to reveal it. The child must know through the letter, the call, the invitation to the teacher’s home, the loving sympathy in his life and interests that the teacher wants him, not his Golden Text and offering, and in this knowledge the magic spring is found.
Besides the social life, the teacher should feel a responsibility in regard to what the children are reading. Papers like the Youth’s Companion circulated among the members, suggestions as to books in the Sunday School or public library, books loaned to the children and questions as to their reading may save many a soul from the slimy trail of the serpent coiled in the dime novel.