Henry Moseley: Faith in the Work of the Teacher
We present below an address, delivered 20 May 1854, to the Metropolitan Association of Church Schoolmasters, and published at their request.
The address was by Henry Moseley, M.A., F.R.S.; Canon of Bristol, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. Since it was delivered by a canon of the Church to Church Schoolmasters, it is not surprising that it is a very Christian address. His message that children should spend more years at school is passionately delivered.
The address was by Henry Moseley, M.A., F.R.S.; Canon of Bristol, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. Since it was delivered by a canon of the Church to Church Schoolmasters, it is not surprising that it is a very Christian address. His message that children should spend more years at school is passionately delivered.
Faith in the Work of the Teacher
In speaking of the teacher's work, I have no doubt that I shall be understood very differently by different teachers. Each one cannot but have shaped for himself an idea of what his work is, very much according to the peculiar character of his own mind, and perhaps according to the nature of his knowledge, and the circumstances under which he has been called upon to exercise the profession of the teacher. Let me then explain the sense which, in speaking of the work of the teacher, I attach to it.
I do not mean the mere assembling of a number of children together for six hours in a day, exercising over them a stern ascendancy - keeping order, as it is called, amongst them - making of them something as like a machine as can be made up of living parts - with boys and girls for shafts, and wheels, and bobbins, and spindles - such a machine as it may be interesting to the master to work, from the sense he has of absolute and unlimited power over it, and to strangers to look at, from the order and symmetry there is in it.
This is not the sort of school which I have in my mind when I speak of the teacher's work as a mission, in the results of which he is entitled to have a confidence, and on which those who look to higher stages in human progress than this which we have reached - to be attained in another generation of men - may rest their hopes.
I know from experience that such a state of the so-called discipline of a school is consistent with a very low order of instruction, especially in those less observed portions of it where the inspector only is accustomed to carry his inquiries; and I know that it is sometimes attained by the exhibition of angry passions, of an overbearing and a selfish disposition, if not by cruelty and wrong; and sometimes by a great sacrifice (well known to the children) of truthfulness and reality. I admit, nevertheless, that in schools of this class, considerable progress in technical instruction is sometimes attained. The children may be made to read well there, and to write and spell well, and to work sums; and they may gather from the lips of the teacher much knowledge of the Word of God; but it is with evil passions, to which the school has given birth, deeply cherished in their hearts, and with the sense stubbornly infixed - that in all their relations to the teacher, at least, and in all that belongs to the school-life, none of those fruits of the Spirit are apparent for which they have been taught to pray - for these are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, and goodness.
The man who can conceive no other idea of a school than this, who believes that children can be controlled by no other expedients, and with no other or higher aims or objects, is not a man whom I can expect to have much faith himself in the results of his labours.
And if the public - now at length interested in this question - asks, What is the mere ability to read a book likely to effect for the staying of those social and political evils which are overflowing the land, and threaten to break up the foundations of society, when the press itself panders to the evil, and is, in some measure, the source of it? What is there in the sense, daily returning, of that which the child believes to be unjust control, to produce in the man - whom the institutions of this country will make a freeman, and to whom there will probably ere long be entrusted some share of political power - that respect for the laws, whose only sure basis lies in a conviction that they are just? Or looking to another destiny of these children than that which is circumscribed by the events of this our present state of being, if they ask, What is there in such a school of Christian culture? I know not what we have to answer them.
My friends, in the work of the teacher, as in so many other things, that is true which our Saviour spoke of the miraculous gifts of the Apostles - If we had faith, we could remove mountains. If the teacher really believed that the children in his school would become, in after-life, what the influences under which they were brought, the precepts addressed to them, and the example set before them in infancy and youth, made them, with what devotion would he apply himself to his work. With that future of the children entrusted to his care distinctly and fully in view, how cheerfully would he work. What a light would that be, to be shining always into his school, and to hallow his office! It is not spoken of, you will remember, as a possible or a probable thing, that children will keep, in after-life, the way in which they have been trained; but it is said positively, and without qualification, in words which admit of but one sense, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." And what I allege, and desire now strongly to impress upon your minds is, that all reason and all experience confirm this great truth of God, and tell us, day by day, that if we could but train up children in the way in which they should go, when they were old they would not depart from it.
In respect to knowledge, the mind of a child is like a blank, unwritten sheet of paper. Knowledge is written upon it from without. It comes from the circumstances with which the child is surrounded; and it comes especially from the relation the child stands in to the persons who surround its infancy and childhood.
Besides, however, that faculty by which the child acquires knowledge, it has a heart, and it has affections; and these have, it cannot be doubted, their natural tendencies. Like the body, the soul (understood as including these together with the intellectual faculties) has its individuality. The moral affections have their native growth and their idiosyncrasy. But these moral affections are awakened into exercise by objects and circumstances external to them; and they form themselves upon these objects and circumstances, and are trained by them. Into whosoever hands, therefore, God has placed the control of these circumstances, to him, humanly speaking, has been given the power - and to him assigned the work and the responsibility - of training the heart and the affections, as well as the understanding, of the child.
I declare, then, again, an absolute and an unqualified adhesion, in its most literal sense, to the doctrine, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it;" and my belief, that if we could train children in that path, they would not, when they were old, depart from it. But alas! we cannot. Fallen that we are, the path in which, from their very earliest years they begin to follow us, is one in which our own steps wander. And we that are parents or teachers have, in the experience of every day of our lives, cause for adoring thankfulness and praise to God, that, made His children by adoption, and engrafted into His Church, a higher guidance than ours is promised to them, and a training in which, as servants, it is our duty and our privilege to work, in faith and in hope: but of which the issues are with Him. Looking, then, at the circumstances under which every human being is placed, from infancy to old age (and which constitute in a large measure the training of that individual), as subject to the control of an Almighty hand, for reasons which are hidden in the depths of an infinite wisdom, let us not forget that as servants, an active and powerful agency is nevertheless left to us; that there are talents entrusted to us to be put out to usury, and that our Lord will come to demand an account of his servants.
For who that has experience of children, will not have observed how wonderfully they reproduce the characters of those with whom they have lived; and how they retain in manhood the impressions of their childhood and their youth. By nature they are imitative. Coming into the world more helpless than any other living beings born into it, with instincts of the lowest order, and with everything to learn, they are made imitative. They are destined to form themselves upon the models to whom God has entrusted the responsibility of their nurture, and to be shaped by the circumstances which surround them: and not more certainly does the metal take the form of the mould into which it is poured, than the child receives and retains the impressions of its early years. It can never be the same in manhood as it would have been under other circumstances, and with a different nurture. The children in your schools cannot be the same men and women as they would have been if you had not been their teachers. It is impossible that they should grow up to be the same men and women as they would have been if, in those schools, they had had other examples than yours placed before them: if they had had other guidance than yours: if they had listened to other precepts than yours.
How constantly do we thus find - nay, how invariably - of those who are pillars in the Church, whose influence and example are blessings to the community, and who are the support and stay of society, that they have been nurtured in some pious household, gathered instruction round the knees of some wise and godly parent, or formed themselves on the bright example of some earnest, dedicated, and faithful teacher; in short, that the way in which they walked when they became men and women, was the way in which they had been trained to walk as children. And what a school of Christian discipline is this to the teacher himself. To know that to whatever extent he may himself be enabled to walk in the path in which he desires that, when they grow up, the children of his school should walk, he will to that extent be training them to walk in that path: and that when they are old they will not depart from it. My friends, if there be any path of life in which a man has advantages for walking heavenward, it is that in which it is his duty to lead children. If there be any condition of life favourable to the growth of Christian graces and holy affections in the heart of man, it is that of a teacher. His life is spent amongst those of whom our Lord spake when, having called unto him a little child, and set him in the midst of His disciples, he said, "Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But who so offendeth one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." The principle for which I contend is apparent enough, and is readily admitted as it regards the instruction of children in knowledge. It is easy to see that the knowledge they will possess when they come to be men and women, will not be the same as it would have been if they had had other teachers. What I deeply feel myself, and what I desire to impress upon you is, that their characters will not be the same: that their interests, not for time only, but for eternity, will be different.
Bear with me, then, whilst I speak to you - with that humility which becomes a man taking part in the same work, and feeble and erring like yourselves - but plainly and explicitly, as becomes the greatness of the subject of which I speak.
If, in the management and control of the children committed to our care, we who are parents or teachers had been more single-minded and sincere, in our relations to them, down to the lowest, then they would have been more truthful. If those evil passions to which we were accustomed to yield had been subdued, they would not have inherited them. If, in our relations to them, more of the fruits of the Spirit had been apparent, they would have been placed in circumstances more favourable for the growth of the spiritual life. Nay, I must speak yet more plainly. If we had not been under the dominion of that sin, then it would not have held those poor children in its grasp.
And let us not suppose that, to train up children in the way they should go, all that is necessary is to seem to be what we desire them to be - to appear ourselves to walk in the path in which we desire them to walk.
I can imagine no greater self-degradation than that of the man who undertakes to act a part before children, nor any greater delusion than that of which he is the subject. A teacher may live before the world under a mask, but before his school he cannot. The eyes of the children pierce him through and through. He will only thus cause them to add to the imitation of his other sins that of his hypocrisy.
It is a fearful thing to think that the way in which children are trained they will not depart from when they are old - that the impression of our characters, and our examples, and our admonitions, they will bear with them through life, and in death (and being to them as the grave-clothes of the soul) before the tribunal of Almighty God.
"Woe unto the world because of offences. It must be that offences come, but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh."
I know that it is customary to speak slightly of education of the school in comparison with that of the home. We are told of the impossibility of making up for the deficiencies, or counteracting the evils of the home education, by anything which can be done in the school. We hear of the little support the admonitions of the schoolmaster receive at home; of the indifference, and often, alas! of the bad example of parents and associates.
All this is very true, and most formidable evils are these to contend with; but not such as to justify the teacher in deserting his post, and sitting down to weep over the evil times on which he has fallen, instead - like as Christ's faithful soldier and servant, to whom is assigned a place in the forefront of His battle - of being up and doing to amend them.
Nor is he who is called to the state in life of a teacher, left without means at his disposal for the work assigned to him. For look at the age at which the children come to his school: it is that when the heart lies near the surface and may easily be reached, and when the character remains yet to be formed. Look, too, at the time he has them in his school: it is half the waking hours of the day. Look at the remarkable moral power and ascendancy which the skilful teacher possesses over them - a power due partly to the public opinion of the school which he directs; and partly, to the fact, that the understanding of the child receives from the hand of the teacher its daily food - that the first steps, uncertain and unstable, of the feebler and the more inexperienced mind, are guided and stayed up by the stronger and the experienced and that the will, yet immature, of the one, is absorbed into the mature will of the other. And all this at the age when thus to be fed with the first elements of knowledge - thus to subordinate the will - thus to receive with an implicit faith - is natural to the child, and in accordance with the order of Providence and the will of God.
Be, however, the reason what it may, the fact of the great ascendancy of the teacher over the mind of the child, even when compared with that of the parent, is unquestionable. Every parent feels that it will be better for his child to be placed under other control than his - that another would have more weight with his child than he possesses that, in short, the teacher has a power over his child, which he, as a parent, lacks.
I am not arguing for an inherent necessity in this, or for a natural disqualification in the parent for the education of his child. Against the argument of the teacher, that nothing can be done without the parent, I am only alleging the testimony of the parent that nothing can be done without the teacher. I place before you the testimony of the parent in favour of the teacher, and of the teacher in favour of the parent, not to justify either in shifting the responsibility to the other, but to show how great a power God has given to each, and that you may rightly appreciate how great the results would be if their labours for the welfare of the child were united, and if each laboured as he would if he had a faith in his work.
I have spoken to you of faith in the work of the teacher chiefly in its influence on himself. I have spoken to you of that work not as a craft - as the process by which children are made to read and to spell, to write and to keep accounts. If this had been my meaning when I spoke of your work, I could have had little hope of leading you to have a faith in it, and to work as men who have that faith. I have spoken of it to you as a mission: the most responsible, that He who sends us forth into His vineyard has assigned to any of His servants. I know well how difficult it is for a man to rise to the dignity of his mission - how unworthy are his motives, how poor and how feeble are his efforts, as they appear when placed side by side with the greatness of his work. But I know, too, that in looking upwards towards that which is beautiful and which is true, and good, and holy, - and in following with the eye of the mind (in a dream, if you will, as Jacob beheld that ladder which reached from earth to heaven, and on the steps of which angels ascended and descended), the gradations by which that which is of the earth, earthy, passes - the pillar of cloud changing itself into the pillar of fire - into that which is heavenly, there is a tendency to lift us - even us - upwards and homewards; for "with open face beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
I desire, then, to encourage you to seek for higher things, and to work for them as men do who have a faith in their work; and those men only.
It is not without reason that I have made these higher aims and objects of the teacher the subject of my address to you. I am convinced that our schools are not, generally, what, in this respect, they ought to be - what they might, and, I trust, will become. I do not deny that their function of teaching is discharged according to the best ability of the teacher, or that it is often well discharged, and sometimes excellently; but, that the children will not be, in after life, so much what you teach them to be in your schools, as what your schools are, and what you are: that they are being educated far more by your example, and by the tone of your schools (which is but your example, reflected in the individual children as in so many broken pieces of a mirror) than by the precepts you address to them; that, in short, they will be what you are rather than what you would have them to be; this idea of a school, as a place where children are to be trained, not as by the teacher's craft, or the teacher's art - for that implies unreality, and some contravention of the natural development of a child's mind - but naturally, as God meant children to be trained, by circumstances, by association, by imitation and example - the example of sincerity, of truthfulness, of meekness, of gentleness, of humility, of self-denial, of frugality, of providence, and of industry - which the school, in all its relations, offers to them; this idea, I repeat it, of a school, although obvious enough in itself, is, in some measure, new to our popular discourses and theories of the art of teaching, and to our training of the teacher.
I come now to speak of faith in the work of the teacher, in its influence, not upon himself, but upon others.
The early age at which children are taken away from school, and the small measure of public support which is given to the cause of elementary education, are proofs sufficiently obvious to us all of the little faith the public has in the teacher's mission. Another proof often alleged, is the inferior social position said to be assigned to him. Of the early age at which children are taken away from school, we are all conscious enough; it is our chief discouragement. Every other impediment to the progress of education, there seems to us to be some chance of surmounting except this. It is the hopeless side of the question. We thought that by improving our schools, the poor would be led so to value them, as to give to their children longer the advantage of them. The very opposite has, I fear, been the result. The parents, finding that the children learn all that the school teaches, which they consider it necessary for them to learn, sooner than they formerly did, send them to work earlier. The returns made annually to the Committee of Council on Education, from those schools especially in which pupil teachers are apprenticed, show this to be the case in purely agricultural districts; and if in towns and manufacturing districts the ages of the children in these schools appear, by the same returns, to be stationary, or in some cases slightly to advance, there is reason to believe that it is because another class of children are beginning to attend them - the children of people better off in the world, and who are accustomed to keep them longer at school.
More children leave school between the ages of ten and eleven than at any other ages; and more than one-third of the children in our schools leave them finally and go to work before they are eleven years of age; whilst not much more than one child out of four remains beyond the age of thirteen, which fourth child is not, in all probability, the child of a labouring man, but of some small tradesman or farmer. It is painful to follow with the imagination these poor children from the school to the employments which their parents have at this tender age sought out for them.
A group of five of them will, in a school of one hundred, leave school every year under eleven years of age. One (nearly) of the five will be under nine years of age; more than one will be between nine and ten; and the remainder will be between ten and eleven. Twelve hours a day of toil, with only the usual intervals, are probably assigned to this group of infants, in the close atmosphere of some factory (for by far the greater number of factories are exempted from the operation of the half-time factory bill), associated perhaps with men and women of dissolute habits, under the rule of little masters, the more greedy of the labour of these children as they are less brought under those humanizing influences which accompany education, and as they are the poorer. Or, it may be, sent out on some hill-side, or some distant field or waste, to tend cattle or to scare away birds, from sunrise to sunset, but ill protected from the inclement weather, and often, it is to be feared, but ill fed.
It is impossible, I repeat it, to follow with the imagination this little group of infant labourers, all under eleven years of age, without feeling that a cruel wrong is done to them; and that while these things are allowed, it is vain to look to education for the remedy of those great social evils which, in despair of any other remedy, it is the custom now to hand over to it. That much is given to the schoolmaster to accomplish for the public welfare, even under circumstances so unfavourable as these, I do not doubt. Nay, I doubt not that he has, under circumstances far more unfavourable than now surround him, accomplished much. But when it is asked why the prisons are not emptied, and the poors-rates abolished by the spread of education and the progress of knowledge, it is sufficient to say, that a system has been allowed to grow up in the country, by which nearly all the children of the labouring classes are removed from under the influence of moral and religious culture and useful instruction, before they are twelve years of age, before the character can be expected in any degree to be established or the understanding developed. I say nothing here of the physical results of claiming labour from a child, whilst the limbs, given for the man to labour with, are as yet unformed; whilst the material of the bones and sinews is as yet assimilating; and whilst the tax which an anxious day's work imposes upon the carefulness, the attention, and sometimes the skill and judgment of a child, is more than the young brain can healthfully endure, and tends, by too early a development, to a premature old age.
I have spoken strongly on this point, as I feel and as I am convinced you feel with me - notwithstanding this great discouragement, your task is however far from hopeless for the impressions of these very early years are, after all, the most durable. For who that reflects will not admit how much he owes of that in him on which he feels God's blessing chiefly to rest, to influences of that early time? And if our elementary schools are rapidly passing into infant schools, let us be cheered by the thought, that even there religious culture may begin; that children are, even at that early age, open to godly reproof; and that the seed of the Word then sown, survives often the dreary season which follows, and yields, after many days, its fruit.
If the first light which penetrates the mind be from heaven, it is difficult to conceive that it should ever be given over to utter darkness again, and wholly forsaken.
The early age at which children are taken from school is, however, a certain evidence of the little faith the labouring classes have in the work of the teacher. Never having enjoyed the benefits of education themselves, they cannot be expected, from their own experience, to appreciate them. Nor are their children likely, from the little education they allow them to receive, to be much in advance of them in this respect. The only chance which is, I think, left to us of creating among the labouring classes a public opinion so far favourable to the work of the teacher as to induce them to make a weekly sacrifice of the wages of their children, that they may attend the school, is to connect the school-learning of the children with the earning of their daily bread, when they come to be men; so that their ability to provide for themselves hereafter may be the greater for what they have learned at school, and that they may the more easily get employment, and better wages. This is the only form under which the question can be expected to shape itself to the mind of a workman, so as practically to influence him. If he be a religious-minded man, he will add to this the consideration whether his child will be a better man as well as a better workman, for going longer to school.
I believe that if these questions were answered in the affirmative, by a general concurrence of public opinion among the poor, and by experience, then the natural affection of the parent would plead successfully in behalf of the child. It must be a mistake to suppose that these men are without natural affection for their children. We may with certainty calculate upon it. God has not denied them this, the greatest happiness which he has bestowed on our race, and its greatest blessing. It is this principle, and this alone, on which it has always seemed to me that we may securely build; and it is with this view that I have been accustomed for many years to advocate (as many of you probably know ) that kind of instruction for the labouring classes in secular knowledge which connects itself directly with their condition in life and the earning of their daily bread.
This idea of the teaching of the poor - which is, after all, only the common-sense notion of it was realized by the Dean of Hereford in the King's Somborne School, and it has recently received a great sanction and development at the hands of Lord Ashburton, whose adhesion to the cause of elementary education its friends have so much cause to rejoice in, and who, by the way in which he has studied the work of the teacher, shows his interest in it, and the faith he has in it. Of this kind of knowledge of which I have written much in my published Reports - I will here say no more than this: that it has reference to the economy of the daily life of the labourer's child, and to the things which will surround him when he becomes a man, and that teaching him to reason and understand about these things, it commences a course of education which the after-life cannot fail to carry out, with which subsequent experience cannot fail to refresh the mind, and which will make the child thereby a reasoning and understanding man as to the things about which it is most important to him to reason and understand.
Even when his school-knowledge passes - as it is necessary that it should, in some respects, do from the region of things immediately present to him in time and space to those more remote, the same principle rules in the adaptation of it to his use. The things taught him of other times should be things of like kind to those familiar to him in the time in which he lives. This is the poor man's history. And so of other places and people, he should be taught things of like kind to those familiar to him in the place where he lives, and of the people among whom he lives. This is the poor man's geography.
Let me not, however, be misunderstood. It is far from my intention to recommend you at once to adopt the teaching of these subjects, or the teaching of them on this plan. To be taught to any useful purpose, they must be well taught; and there are none more difficult to be taught well. A careful and systematic course of instruction in the principles on which they depend is, I am convinced, necessary to success in teaching them. There must be a special training for them. Of all the lessons that I have heard (and nobody has, I believe, heard more), the most unsuccessful have, I think, been those in which teaching of what is called the science of common things has been attempted; and that, not by any defect of skill in the art of teaching (for these subjects are frequently selected by good teachers), but simply for the want of a real knowledge of the subject. If the teachers had known more of it, they would have selected from it things better adapted to the teaching of children. If they had understood its principles better, they would have explained them better.
If, as a general rule, I were asked what it was well for a master to teach in his school, I should say, what he knew well. And if I were asked what it was best for him to teach, I should say, what he knew the best. There are moral considerations concerned in this, which, to my mind, outweigh every other.
He is at least truthful and real when he stands before a class teaching to them what he himself knows; and they will have a chance to gather from such a man, at any rate, truthfulness and reality, if nothing else.
There is said to be no other civilized country which pays so little, in proportion to its population, for the support of public education, as England; nor any, where so small a proportion of the population is under instruction. "The State of New York, with one-sixth of our population, has one-fourth of our schools; and with one-third of our scholars, expends nearly half of our expenditure. The State of Massachusetts, with one-eighteenth of our population, has one-eleventh of our schools; and with one-twelfth of our scholars, expends more than one-sixth of our expenditure. More than half the children now at work in Manchester (in 1852) were not at school." [Advocate of National Instruction, May, 1854.]
I will not, however, further advert to these facts, which connect themselves with the question of Education as one of public policy. Your association was not formed for the discussion of questions such as these; but for that, which specially belongs to you in this matter, and has a direct relation to your work. And it is this, permit me to say, which gives to such associations as yours their true value, and secures to them the active sympathy of all the friends of education.
In the association of a body of men, to whom is entrusted a great interest, and who are charged with a great responsibility - to whom many talents are committed, and who are bidden to occupy until their Lord shall come and reckon with his servants - in their co-operation and union, the better to promote their Master's work, I see, not a combination of men for selfish ends, and personal interests, and worldly aggrandizement, but a brotherhood united by a bond stronger than that which holds men together for secular purposes; - a brotherhood, such as that which in the early Church, before abuses crept into it, was accustomed to unite men into religious orders, not that they might "lay up much goods for many years,"(Luke xii.18,) but as companions and fellow labourers in some work of holy charity or mercy, or for devotional exercises; that so, "where their treasure was laid up, their hearts might be there also." Nay, it is a brotherhood whose type is to be sought yet further back, and which has a yet higher sanction: for what was the primitive Church but a fraternity which had all things common, and was united, not for a secular, but a religious purpose: and what were the Apostles but an association of which Christ was the head, and who forsook all and followed him.
It is no favourable comparison which these times bear with other times in this respect. Men now associate more, probably, than ever: this is an age of fraternities. Men link themselves hand to hand, and they unite shoulder to shoulder, and they devote themselves for a common object, with an enterprise, a perseverance, and an industry, that no other age has probably seen equalled: but it is to promote their secular interests. Selfishness is the spirit of the age - unselfishness is the spirit of the Gospel: and in no other respect is the world now so entirely condemned by the Gospel. Your association, my friends, will be useful, and will be blessed, in the proportion in which you place your work first in it and yourselves last.
If ever it should pass, as I trust it never will, into a society to defend the so-called rights of the schoolmaster, and to battle for his interests, those objects will not be promoted, but rather hindered by it; and that will be to give to yourselves, and not to your work, the first place in it. The favourable opinion of all good men will then desert you, and God's blessing will not rest upon you. So associated together, you will, indeed, show yourself unworthy of your mission. It will be as though those whom Christ called from the lake of Gennesaret to be fishers of men, instead of forsaking all and following Him, had thought it better to form themselves into accompany for the success of their trade.
From the meetings of an association like this, where he meets dedicated and faithful men, pledged to the same work as himself, and where he speaks to them of what concerns its advancement, I can imagine the teacher returning to his school, strengthened and encouraged, with his eye brighter, and his step quicker, and his resolution strengthened. But from one where his rights have been discussed, and his social position asserted, and his pay debated, it is not easy to conceive him to return to his school otherwise than a prouder, a more discontented, and a more discouraged, but not a wiser man. These are the qualities which constitute a bad teacher, and, allow me to add, an unsuccessful man.
I do not tell you that each one has not a duty which he owes to himself and to his family. You will not accuse me of underrating that duty, or of undervaluing the services of the schoolmaster, or, I trust, of being careless altogether of his interests. But it is not in associations like this, that they can best be promoted, nor here that they can with advantage be discussed. Nor should they, in fact, occupy the first place in the thoughts of the teacher anywhere. In whatever state of life God places us, he claims of us, first, that we do our duty in that state of life, and then He provides. I believe that there are few thoughtful and observant men, who have lived to my age, who cannot speak of this as the result of their own observation and experience.
In respect to men to whom public functions are assigned, I myself have observed two classes - one class of men put themselves in the first place, and their work in the second; and the other put their work in the first place, and themselves in the second. Now I have remarked that the first class of men are commonly defeated in their object, and that it is the latter class who, by God's blessing, are not only the most successful in their work, but for whom God provides.
As to social position, there is one, I believe, within the reach of the schoolmaster which any man might envy. It is that of the man who, having duly prepared himself for his work, seeks the place which God has assigned for it - some crowded parish, it may be, of a populous town, or some remote village; and seeing how great a work is there to be done; considering how much is placed in his power, how many talents are entrusted to him by his Lord communes thus with himself: Here is the place in Christ's vineyard allotted to me - here will I strike my roots - here will I wait until my Master shall come to take an account of his servant - and, by his blessing, I will hope to see of the fruit of my labours.
Year after year he toils and strives on, hopefully and cheerfully, his eye directed always upwards for higher and yet higher things. All that is lovely and of good report is around him, so that "the ear which hears blesses him, and the eye which sees gives witness to him," (Job xxix. 11); and the results of that man's labours are such, that generations yet unborn shall bless his name. And when, at last, with him the teacher's work is done, I can, in imagination, see assembled, to render him the last tribute of respect, the children - now grey-headed men - who were in his school on the first morning that he taught it - and their children, and their children's children - and good men's tears falling into his grave.
And was it not of such that the Lord spake when he said, "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things"?
Last Updated March 2021