The Teacher's Qualifications
( Originally Published 1897 )
Physical Attainments.-A teacher should have good health. A person with a sickly constitution will break down under the mental strain of the school-room. That cheerful spirit, so valuable to the disciplinarian, is not often possessed by one whose frame is weak or whose body is racked with pain. The careful study that must be made of the disposition and progress of each child requires the utmost life and vigor on the part of the teacher. That indomitable energy which compensates for many faults, and almost compels success, is not to be found . when the health is feeble and the body weak. Other callings should be sought by " the lame, the halt and the blind."
It is the duty of the teacher to take care of his health. Close confinement, disregard of hygienic laws in the heating, lighting and ventilation of school buildings, the nervous strain in preserving order, and the worry which wears faster than work, often undermine the constitutions of fairly robust teachers. Exercise, food, sleep, air, bathing, and dress will all need proper attention, or the energy will soon begin to flag. To govern well it is necessary for the teacher to exhibit that physical development and vigor which will furnish him with a ready supply of bodily strength for each day's work. The school has no place for the indolent, sleepy, lethargic teacher. There is no reason why good health should give way under the duties of the school-room if proper care is taken of the body. An energetic teacher, if prudence is exercised, has no need of becoming lifeless, irritable, or " behind the times."
Scholarship.-The teacher should be a good scholar and a logical thinker. His knowledge should be far in advance of what he teaches. It should be systematized, broad and thorough. High scholarship commands respect, but ignorance is despised even by children. The teacher must know his subject, not simply from the point of view of the college student, but from the many sides that it is presented to the various pupils of his class. Good scholar-ship has often enabled a teacher, otherwise lacking in governing power, to control large classes by the clearness, accuracy, definiteness and fulness of his illustrations. It is probable, more than three-fourths of those teachers who are weak disciplinarians are weak as a result of inadequate academic knowledge, or as a result of having their scholar-ship arranged only after the manner of an ordinary university student. The good teacher knows his subject well. This implies that he also knows the difficulties which each part of it presents to each pupil.
The teacher must possess fresh knowledge-he must be a constant student-his scholarship must improve year by year. When he ceases to learn, his mind will become stagnant, his methods will become fixed and mechanical, sympathy with the pupils' efforts will cease, his discipline will become harsh, and any love he once had for teaching will grow cold. The reply of Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, when asked why he spent several hours daily in his study pre-paring what he had taught for years, is significant. His answer, " I wish my boys to drink from a running stream, and not from a stagnant pool," shows a deep insight into the conditions of all true teaching. " Dead " teachers are a great hindrance to educational progress. NO good teacher should become an "old fogy."
Professional Attainments-The teacher needs special training. Academic study and professional study are very different. The former gives power to apply knowledge, the latter power to present knowledge. The teacher must not only understand a subject in relation to its principles and applications, but also in its relation to the mind of the learner. He must understand child nature and the principles and methods by which physical, intellectual and moral development may be secured. No person should be allowed to teach who has not attended a training school:
The maxim, nascitur non fit is misleading. Natural gifts are valuable to any one who follows a high calling. Teachers of the highest genius are rare. Skill to teach, to govern, to form character, is not generally acquired without industry. Inborn gifts alone never made a good teacher. There is a science of education which must be mastered under expert guidance by every person who is born fit to become a teacher. The well-known facts of applied psychology and the most approved methods of instruction are essential requirements of professional attainments. The development of the child, and not the subject of study, should be the guide to the teacher's efforts. The teacher needs to observe, read, think and practise, if he is to become successful in his calling. A lack of power, method and skill will make the most brilliant scholar a failure in the school-room. A knowledge of school programmes of study and principles of teaching may be acquired. The elements of governing power, the conditions of favorable control and the devices of discipline may be ascertained.
The teacher should be a constant student of pedagogy, watching the progress of education, reading school journals, and taking an active part in the discussion of educational questions. His experience should make him progressive without becoming radical, fanatic, or an advocate of " fads." Every year in active work should make the teacher more valuable as an educationist.
"It is in a way perfectly true that only by teaching can one become a teacher. But not any and every sort of thing which passes for teaching or for ` experience' will make a teacher any more than sawing a bow across violin strings will make a violinist. It is a certain quality of practice which produces the expert and the artist. Unless the practice is based upon rational principles, upon insight into facts and their meaning, ` experience ' simply fixes incorrect acts into wrong habits. Non-scientific practice, even if it finally reaches sane and reasonable results-which is very unlikely--does so by unnecessarily long and circuitous routes ; time and energy are wasted that might easily be saved by wise insight and direction at the outset."-McLellan and Dewey.
" If college graduates are put directly into teaching without special study and training, they will teach as they have been taught. The methods of college professors are not in all cases the best, and; if they were, High School pupils are not to be taught and disciplined as College students are. High School teaching and discipline can be that neither of the Grammar School nor of the College, but is sui generic. To recognize this truth and the special differenees is vital to success. This recognition comes only from much experience at great loss and partial failure, or by happy intuition not usually to be expected, or by definite instruction and directed practice. Success in teaching depends upon conformity to principles, and these principles are not a part of the mental equipment of every educated person."-Report of the Committee of Fifteen.
Personal Magnetism.-The great teachers of the past had an element in their character which gave them power to influence and control children. They had that porsonal magnetism which brings a man friends and surrounds him with associates, though he may have neither wealth nor position to bestow. The teacher who possesses this magnetic character will not fail in discipline. He will be obeyed by pupils, sustained by trustees, and defended by parents. His presence in the school will be an incentive to right action. His bright and cheerful disposition, his apt and ready power of presenting knowledge, and his ability to inspire and direct, will draw pupils to him. He will not obtrude unnecessarily the forces of discipline. His authority will be recognized, his courage will be ready for any crisis, his sympathy, patience and toleration will be apparent in every decision, and though felt by the pupils to be simply their helper, he will be their director and commander.
Doubtless this is one of the highest qualifications of the teacher. It is largely an accumulation of the noblest features of human nature. It is natural to some persons, and its value has tended too much to exalt natural aptitudes at the expense of characteristics that are the result of scholarship and of professional training. The person who is devoid of sympathy, wanting in energy, repulsive in manner, erratic in ability, ungovernable in temper, or burdened with some other idiosyncrasy of character, should be advised by the Principal of the Training School to undertake some other calling. There are plenty of persons who will, by necessary application, become good teachers, without granting certificates to those who will never be successful in managing children.
Executive Ability.-Much of the success of a teacher depends upon his administrative ability. Good classification, well-constructed time-tables, skill in making promotions, prudence in dealing with trustees, and judgment in his relations with parents, will do much towards inspiring confidence in his ability. The best teachers are leaders.
Their counsel can be relied upon, and their judgment is cool and deliberate. They understand human character and are able to meet prejudices, and even hostility, with courage, fairness and discretion.
Executive ability calls for system in all that relates to teaching and governing. Order, regularity and promptitude are pillars of discipline. Pupils must be kept interested and busy. Pupils trained to habits of order in school will have orderly habits through life. The teacher who manages well has method in all his arrangements. The work goes on with a sort of military precision, but in such a way as to strengthen self-activity, self-control and indepdndence on the part of the pupils.
Executive ability requires boundless energy. Energy keeps the requisite machinery in motion, infuses life and vigor into each recitation, overcomes difficulties, and evokes and directs every power of each pupil. Dulness or disorder, or mischief, or meanness, is not found under an administration of this kind. The teacher needs the qualities of a statesman and a diplomatist. The principal of a large school will require that insight into human nature which makes the successful ruler. Often the duty will devolve upon him of smoothing asperities, allaying antagonisms, enlisting educational forces, and maturing plans for important changes in the management of his school.
Tact.-No teacher ever governed a school well who had not tact. Tact is the power of meeting difficulties with promptness and discretion. Quickness of perception in taking into account all the bearings of a case and the ulterior consequences of any line of action, and a readiness of resource in appropriately adjusting means to ends, are constantly required in school discipline. Tact enables a teacher to have his wits about him in case of a crisis.
Like a general on the field of battle, he is frequently confronted with unforeseen difficulties. Without a moment's notice he has often to decide whether a stern rebuke, or the "soft answer that turneth away wrath," is to be employed. The teacher with tact is prepared for emergencies. If he makes a mistake, he retraces his steps with dignity and without humiliation. He is never restless or fussy. He checks impending danger before opposition has time to make headway. He is fertile in resource. He does not needlessly irritate or jar the feelings of children. He allays any indications towards rebellion by removing any real grievance. Disturbing elements become aids ,in promoting order. An angry parent is met in such a way as to become a friend, and the people of the entire community regard him with confidence and respect.
Common Sense.-Common-sense has to do with matters of everyday occurrence. The teacher's work is in a sense mainly made up of little things. Common-sense is needed by every person who hopes to succeed. A lack of this qualification on the part of the teacher is fatal to good discipline. Without it blunders are continually made. A lack of common-sense will cause a teacher to give lessons far too difficult, to put an absurd question to a pupil, to make uncalled-for remarks, to discourage a timid child, to whip a boy for a trifle, to keep the school-room uncomfortably warm or cold, and to do many other senseless things, where only a little judgment is needed. Some teachers have ne presence of mind. They are continually doing the things they ought not to do, and leaving undone the things they ought to do. They are hopelessly "at sea" in the simple matters of discipline. They make mountains out of mole-hills, and fail to prevent mole-hills from becoming mountains. Tact may be necessary to meet the; breeze that has grown to the magnitude of a whirlwind. A little commonSense will often enable a teacher to see the gathering cloud when it is not larger than a man's hand, and will furnish him with means of meeting the storm successfully or of dispersing it.
Vigilance.-Good work in the school requires the teacher to be constantly watchful. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom from trouble. The teacher needs good eyes and ears. A teacher who is so mentally blind or deaf that he does not know what is going on in his class, will fail as a disciplinarian. In some schools pupils may constantly whisper, pass papers from one to another, copy at examinations, or become quite inattentive, without being detected. The teacher goes on with his demonstrations regardless of noise, interruptions, or the general indifference of the pupils. If order reigns, it is only when the confusion has become so great as to call forth a storm of wrath from an angry teacher.
The teacher should be able to " take in " the situation at any moment. Any signs of indifference or disorder should not escape his notice. A mere glance of the eye should bring the idle to a sense of duty. The timid child should receive the needed look of sympathy. The vigilant teacher discovers merit not less readily than he detects wrong. His vigilance should be that of a kind, sympathetic friend, rather than that of a lynx-eyed detective. Watchful government anticipates and prevents crime, dissuades from wrong-doing, and encourages honest self-effort. The vigilant teacher is not calling for " order " ; he is not a fault-finder ; he passes over unintentional errors ; he gives serious reproof for serious faults ; and meets wrong-doing with suitable punishment. The pupils know that every deviation from right, every instance of idleness or frivolity, and every careless action, is recognized. They know, at the same time, that every effort to study, every attempt to answer a question, and every inclination of theirs to prevent trouble, is observed by a vigilant and loving teacher.
Heart Power. -Heart power means the ability to win and retain the confidence and the love of children. The loving teacher is ever affable, kind and considerate. He easily induces children to study and to preserve order. The cold, repulsive teacher may have forced quiet, and may compel pupils to study, but he creates an atmosphere in which had habits grow and evil passions are fostered. To win the confidence of bad pupils shows high skill. Successful teachers are men and women of deep sympathy with children. They are patient with the dull, the idle and the troublesome. Their cheerfulness and enthusiasm render school-life enjoyable. Sympathy is the crowning grace of the teacher. Its possession is usually a guarantee of success. The lack of it means failure.
Love does not need to be proclaimed. It shows itself in the eye, the face, the voice, and in every movement. Children are not easily deceived in this matter. In the presence of his pupils it is impossible for the teacher to wear a veil over his heart. Children read character. They know who loves them, and he alone can lead them. True affection takes hold of the idle and wayward. The possibility of a noble man or woman is recognized. It is love that lights up the fallen, gives help to the depraved, and sends glad tidings to the heathen and the outcast. It was love that stirred Pestalozzi, and gave him abiding faith in the possibilities of child nature. It was love that made Arnold the sympathizing friend and companion to the boys of Rugby. It was love that made the founder of the kindergarten study the games and plays of little children to know how best to lead them to the highest state of development. It was love which was the great motive power in the life of Him who said, " Suffer little children to come unto me," and it is safe to say no successful teacher ever lived who was not guided by the same spirit.
Will Power.-Will power is essential to the man who leads or governs. Decision of character, persistency of purpose, and unflinching determination, are signs of a strong personality. Firm convictions are an essential of governing power. A vacillating, fickle or temporizing policy is fatal to good management. The teacher of strong will holds the reins firmly, while he trains his pupils to habits of spontaneous attention and cheerful obedience. He teaches his pupils to give earnest attention, to study diligently, to move quietly and promptly, to speak becomingly, and to act gracefully. A teacher who is capricious in his requirements, lacking in definiteness of aim, weak in manner, will fail to command the respect of his pupils. One who is subject to spasms of discipline, bursts of passion, or fits of coaxing, will have a bad disciplined school.
A sign of strong will on the part of the teacher is his ability to control himself. Hasty words, petulance, sudden flashes of anger, or chronic sullenness, will destroy any teacher's chances of success. To have an iron will, with an impulsive or nagging manner, is sure to blast all the finer feelings of children and to make them discontented, deceitful and quarrelsome. Pupils cannot make progress under any system of petting, begging or scolding. To train children is not the sphere of one who has no patience, no self-control, no will power.
Moral Character.-As already stated (Chapter V.). the example of the teacher is an essential element in moral training. It is also a requisite qualification in promoting intellectual progress. A teacher who is untruthful, dishonest, or addicted to any bad habits, will be weak in his powers of discipline. Children are not inspired with high intellectual aims by one who shows by his conduct that he has not sufficient judgment or self-control to abstain from what is immoral. The best incentives to study fail when exercised by one who does not command the respect of his pupils. That sunny, cheerful, happy disposition, which is the outcome of a good life, wins. The sweet, assuring smile which comes from a pure-minded person secures confidence and promotes industry, while the frown or sneer of one whose heart is not right repels pupils and fosters in them a dislike for study. A censorious, irascible spirit, sharp criticism, sarcasm or ridicule, are not exhibited by the teacher whose nature is built up by an adherence to high moral principle.
" The physical qualities of the teacher are not themselves to be despised as an instrument of discipline. Form, physiognomy and voice play their part in well conducted schools. It is useless to insist on those qualities which depend wholly on nature ; but what an earnest purpose can control are : the general bearing of the body, the appearance of the face, and gestures. But physical qualities are of little account compared with `moral qualities, which are the principal element of authority. . . . External and, in some sort, mechanical means of discipline are worth nothing, unless they are seconded by the moral force which only good teachers possess ; and in schools where this moral authority is well established they become almost useless. "-Compayre.