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The good teacher apprehends the object in view. She has a plan and a reason for it. Like the blacksmith or carpenter, she knows the materials with which she works, and she holds steadily in view the ideals of usefulness and beauty to which she would fashion them. Which is more difficult, to build a house, or to build a character? To give shape and symmetry to a tree, or to a life? Such work is not done by chance.
How readily the apparatus of the laboratory yields the desired results to the skillful manipulator; how disappointing and perverse it seems to untrained hands. How tractable and affection
ate is a spirited horse under the power of a Rarey or a Coup; how quickly does he learn vicious tricks with a bad driver. Should not the same law hold good with a child? Will he be less capable than the horse of recognizing a skillful hand? Ah! how quickly do children make their behavior correspond with their instruction. What wonder that the teacher should have trouble with the discipline in a room where the pupils are badly taught!
Second. Definiteness of aim trains our faculties to vigorous and efficient action. The call today is for trained men. The man who knows how to do something is in demand. The unskilled laborer is a drug in the market. It is said that Napoleon could go through the manual of the common soldier better than any man who served under him. He could make or repair any article used in his armies. He would not have been the greatest general if he had not been the best soldier. The definite aim sees clearly the end in view. The calender boy in a paper mill becomes a marvel of dexterity, but his pallid face shows little intelligence. In the lace factories of Brussels may be seen women whose thought and vitality seem to have all centered in the ends of their fingers. The absence of a worthy purpose dwarfs and kills. The teacher who works with no higher aim than the salary must necessarily become a routine teacher. Each year makes her more and more narrow-gauge. Nature's penalty must be paid. The unused talent will be taken away. Most of us have seen such teachers, and the dwindling of their work year by year. But we have also seen how high aims and thoughtful adaptation of means to ends have developed and ennobled the work of certain teachers, till their desks seemed like magnets, and their presence an inspiration. We have seen how their talents multiplied by judicious use, how their work became at once easier and better done, how new and
inviting fields constantly opened before them. The minds of such teachers instead of growing small and feeble continue to expand. Their faculties, like those of Agassiz and Hopkins, act more and more vigorously till the very end of life, because constantly exercised with specific ends in view.
Third. Again, definite aims are important, because life is cumulative in every department of work. The successful men are proverbially the men who persevere. The restless spirit which is constantly demanding something new is inconsistent with growth. How often do we see the youth of talent, or even genius, outstripped by the plodder in the race of life. Why? Because the plodder steadily adheres to one fixed purpose. His progress may be slow, but it is sure. Most successful men illustrate Davy Crockett's maxim, to grasp the whole of one idea and then stick to it. How many fail here!
"With the key of the secret he marches faster,
From strength to strength, and for night brings day,
The flowing conditions of life, give way."
Nowhere is this cumulative feature of successful work more strikingly exhibited than in the teacher's calling. In this as in other occupations, there is the gradual aggregation of results. But with us there is more than this. The teacher works, not upon matter, but upon mind; and the mind of the pupil will react under the stimulus of her thought only when the influence is felt. If her aim is indefinite, if she is vague and uninterested herself, we may be sure that her pupils will not be interested. It is for her to determine whether their recitation period shall be one of delight or of weariness, whether their faculties shall be roused to vigorous exercise or grow sluggish with inattention. Would she teach a lesson so that her pupils can understand and apply it, it is first essential that she should see clearly herself both the object in view and the steps that lead to it. Why does one teacher say that the course of study is crowded and ask for a year in which to do the work of a semester, while another proposes extra studies, makes individual promotions or takes her class over the grade in half the allotted time? The difference is largely in their aims. One sees clearly the end to be accomplished and keeps it constantly in view. The other fails by the indefiniteness of her aim to make any deep or lasting impression. Efficient teachers often say that
they can bring new recruits up to the grade if they chance to be behind in certain studies. How do they do it? By first ascertaining upon just what points the pupil is deficient and then directing their instruction specifically and vigorously to those points. In other words, they work with a definite purpose and seek by each lesson to deepen the impression already made. Such instruction is not merely cumulative. Incisive and specific, it rivets attention and leaves a lasting impression. It elicits a corresponding effort on the part of the learner. He catches the spirit and the method. of the teacher, and both teacher and pupil are then at their best. The dullest child will improve under such conditions. Whenever a pupil fails to advance, it will usually be found that either he or his teacher is working in the dark. Long before the time of Froebel, Aristotle advised that the games of little children should be designed as a preparation for the work of manhood. Purposeless activity is weakness; utilized, it becomes power. The wise teacher is one who can keep her own energies and those of her pupils constantly bent to the attainment of one fixed purpose.
Fourth. Again, definite aims in our work prevent the waste and mistakes which come from foolish ventures and experiments. We live, it is said, in an age of shams. We do not think so, but, nevertheless, it is true that we see all about us men who lack the true ring of genuineness; indeed, a police magistrate committed a man the other day on the charge that he was a sham.
In the business world, goods are adulterated, misrepresented, and called by fictitious names. Customers are allured by appeals to unworthy motives, and tricks, and crooked deals are elaborately planned to catch the unwary.
We might hope that the schoolroom would escape this inundation of shams. This surely is no field for schemes or schemers. But, alas! not even innocent childhood is secure from false and misleading devices. Not all school boards have the firmness to say no to the advocates of sweeping changes and the agents of expensive claptrap. But if these dangers are safely passed, if schools are wisely selected and their work well planned, it is still possible that our children may be experimented upon, both in body and mind in a way that would have shocked even Bob Sawyer and Mr. Benjamin Allen. Many teachers are foolishly experimenting with novelties. They are restless for a change for the sake of a change. If they would thoroughly study and understand
the alleged improvements, less harm would result. But the teacher who is most eager for a change is least likely to study its conditions. She hears, for example, of a new method of teaching some process in fractions or language. Without stopping to reflect that its author probably spent much time upon it, understood it perfectly and threw special enthusiasm into its use, without reflecting that what is adapted to one teacher may not be to another, she proceeds at once to try it for a change! Of course, she fails, but often the obscurity of her purpose keeps her ignorant of the fact, till a test-exercise reveals the deficiency. A few unsuccessful experiments will effectually demoralize any teacher. Trusting to chance is no less disastrous in teaching than in business. We cannot be mere imitators. Life, like dress-goods, must be all of the same piece.
Fifth. Once more, a definite purpose inspires its possessor with the power of enthusiasm. When Agassiz in his youth refused ease and comfort at Neufchatel that he might devote his life to the problems of science, he not only gained thereby the courage to endure opposition, ridicule, and want, but he also grandly increased his powers of accomplishment. His marvellous researches were the fruit of an indomitable purpose. When Sherman made his memorable march to the sea, every soldier in his army was inspired with fresh enthusiasm by the grandeur of the undertaking. No one is likely to achieve success of any very high order till he faces his lifework with a resolute and definite purpose.
Man acts from motives. Before you can call forth his energies, you must arouse them. Without inducement, he will never stir. Offer high incentives, and he will make great efforts. Money is. the ordinary inducement for ordinary work. Promise great pay and you will move most men to great exertion. But some work cannot be bought with money. All that is grandest and most beautiful in life is inspired by higher motives. Men often live on and continue to work, not by reason of any physical fitness, but because of an o'ermastering enthusiasm for some end to be attained. Nothing in the compensations of life is more beautiful than the animating power of a worthy purpose. Sir Walter Scott, feeble and exhausted with nervous prostration, begins the composition of Ivanhoe, and lo! the exhilarating glow and consciousness of success brings the joyful return of health. Edison, sick and dis
appointed, begins his experiments at Menlo Park, and finds in his enthusiasm for science a remedy which no medicine could afford. A purpose, clearly conceived and steadily held, strengthens and inspires a man. It made Demosthenes the world's most famous orator. It made Beaconsfield England's most brilliant diplomatist. It enabled Doctor Kane to cheer his men and preserve them alive throughout the long night of an Arctic winter. Women, delicate and refined, graduates of Oberlin and Mt. Holyoke, have kept up courage and good cheer, while the hardy frontiersman, and the Indian with whom they labored, have yielded to hardship and died.
Perhaps no class of workers are in greater need of this animating force of a steadfast purpose than teachers. Much of their work is discouraging. They feel the nervous strain. Routine tendencies come over them unawares. What will better enable them to resist depression and to surmount obstacles than a clear and exalted purpose? Such a purpose made Emma Willard and Mary Lyon pioneers in the higher education of woman, has enshrined Mary A. Brigham and Alice Freeman in the hearts of thousands whose lives they have enriched, and made David A. Page and Horace Mann an inspiration to teachers all over the land. Seized by its power, Pestalozzi, thriftless and visionary, becomes the greatest worker in all Europe, while nobles and philosophers wonder at the revelations of child nature which he unfolds. Such
a purpose multiplies a man. It becomes motive power. It gives dexterity to his hand; it gives fleetness to his feet: it invigorates every faculty; it dissipates fatigue. It opens the eyes of a teacher to see the possibilities that slumber in the child: it enables her heart to perceive his limitations. It guides her instruction to his present needs, rouses his dormant powers, and with marvellous. intuition draws him to the love of truth and beauty.
Children quickly recognize such a spirit in a teacher and are captured by it. They delight to follow where she leads. They cannot rest till they have solved the problems or accomplished the tasks which she proposes. Even when, as sometimes happens, the ideal is inferior or unworthy, the pupils catch the teacher's enthusiasm. Many of the successful teachers of the olden time were hobby-riders, and the same is still true. The Principal of one of our best Normal schools, quoted all over the land as a good teacher, but a poor philosopher, owes his popularity with his