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EDUCATIONAL PRINCIPLES OF MOMENT
THE powers of the human soul are all pres
ent at birth. They are given with the soul. No new power is subsequently created. But these powers do not all reach their maximum development at the same time. Some develop rapidly, some slowly. Those that develop most rapidly provide by their activities the materials upon which the more slowly developing ones must act for their fullest growth. One does not become active, and then another; like boys in a foot race, they all begin to move at the same time, but they do not travel at the same rate. Thus they reach their culmination at different periods in the life of the child.
Law of Soul
There is an educational law that grows out of this order of growth of soul powers. Direct your teaching activities to the nutrition of those powers that are at the time most active. The or
der of their culmination is the
Two Vital Laws Order followed in this discussion. Knowledge must be adapted to the capacity of the learner. This law, like the former one, is worth much more than a passing
notice. It is not enough to have good material with which to teach; we must also know how to adapt this material to the stage of development attained by the learner. Teachers too often forget this fact. Sometimes they remember it, but are helpless to conform to it. A few may be wholly ignorant of its significance.
Sometimes we think that adapting the materials of instruction to the learner is accomplished by the length of the exercise. For young pupils we give short lessons. For older ones we increase the dose; as if in some way our teaching materials were to be administered as we give a medicine, increasing the dose with the age of the pupil. This is not the sort of adaptation the true teacher has in mind. It is a difference in quality, not in quantity. This change in quality is not, again, to be thought of as a thing to be secured by diluting the lesson with irrelevant and useless things. It is a change in the quality of thought in which the material of the lesson is cast in the mind of the teacher, and in the language with which it is conveyed to the mind of the learner. Both in thought and in expression it must be adapted to the mind. of the pupil. The fact that one can teach is not proof that one can teach in every grade of the Sunday-school. There are many details of method that make the
A Third Law
problem for each grade a specific and somewhat distinct one. Some are most successful in primary work; some in the advanced work. In general, it is increasingly difficult to secure good teaching as one moves downward through the grades. It is also true that many teachers prefer the younger groups under the mistaken notion that here their mistakes are not so easily detected. It is not a question of being found out; it is a question of doing genuinely effective teaching. Thoughtful persons, realizing the greater difficulty in securing good primary teachers and knowing also the great importance of right beginnings, have claimed, with much show of reason, that the teacher of a primary grade has the most responsible position. I do not wish to deny this statement, but I do wish to plead for fine teaching in every grade.
We are prayerfully asking how to keep the large boys and girls in the Sunday-school. Let one answer be this: put them in charge of superior teachers. These older pupils know good teaching. They grow weary in its absence. For these we must make vastly better provision than heretofore, or continue to deplore their all too frequent withdrawal from the Sunday-school. A superintendent should see to it that each teacher is at work in the grade in which that one is most likely to do the best work.
The primary teacher is not to assume that his pupils know nothing when they enter his class. The teacher never begins the education of
the child. Much has already
A Fourth Law been learned. The home and the environment of the child, save in exceptional cases, give the child much valuable experience long before constructive processes under competent guidance begin. Thus the teacher is not the initial teaching agency. He may be, often is, the first to comprehend what the home and the environment have given, and organize it into its highest utility in the soul. For reasons here given, I wish to guard the primary teacher against a rather common misconception of his function. To adapt the subjectmatter of the lesson to his youthful learners, he may make his instruction silly. Concrete teaching at this stage is, of course, vital. But there is no valid reason for introducing long and tedious and foolish stories about common objects until the whole purpose of the illustration is lost in its own over-wrought details. There is nothing quite so pitiful as a teacher who has underestimated the capacity of his pupils, and who flounders around in a desperate effort to accomplish something with nothing.
Some primary teachers have the idea that they need only some objects like woolly sheep, dolls,
rotten potatoes, and penny candles, in order to be sure of a successful exercise. They push the woolly sheep around on the table, they exhibit the dolls, they cut open the potatoes, they light the candles, and they talk, talk, talk, and lo! it is a lesson. The pupil follows this strange exhibition and is pleased. So is the teacher. But not one sane lesson, not one clear idea, is fixed in consciousness. The teacher has evidently proceeded upon the theory that the more remote and mysterious the connection between the object and the moral to be drawn the better, evidently forgetting that the child gets only the play side of the game and not at all the moral. As a play it is not even justifiable, since the child should handle the objects of the game to make it worth while to him. When will we learn to use objects like these as educational agencies, and not merely as things with which to tickle the fancy and catch the interest of the child? It would add nothing to the constructive value of these remarks to describe some such lessons that I have witnessed. I have only sympathy for the teacher and for the pupils. Let us not censure. Let us rather aid in pointing the better way. I believe, with Dr. Schaeffer, that "to a faithful teacher a tenth of a grain of helpful suggestion is worth many tons of destructive criticism."