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spirits will be immediately revived, and they will address themselves to their tasks with renewed energy
He has in melody also one very efficient aid, in his endeavour to reduce his school to order when their attention and their spirits have become altogether vagrant. The tones of the teacher, raised in some expressive air, will be heard above the clamour of the little multitude. One after another will unite their attempts to swell the sound, until the voices of the whole school will at length merge in that of the superintendant; and he will then, when he may please to pause, have their ear and their attention at his disposal.
I will not long detain the reader in remarking, that RHYTHMICAL ACTION may be introduced into the system of infants' schools, with similar, but perhaps more beneficial, effects than the former. If the affections of the school have been gained to the person of the master, they will be easily induced to imitate every movement which he may choose to perform. There is, in the minds of most infants, a natural inclination to a love of rhythmical measure. Proportion and succession win their ear, and act more powerfully upon them than any animal excitement. They will beat the ground with their feet, or clap their hands, immediately on hearing or observing others engaged in so doing. One united sympathy is thus dis
seminated, and the step from that point to order and silence and attention is at all times
The bodily action, moreover, which is thus promoted, tends materially to their health, and while it refreshes their languishing attention causes the animal spirits to flow more freely.
In the use of these various modes of diffusing an influence over the little multitude, some discretion will be requisite on the part of the teacher. Prudence will suggest to him, that, excepting the cases where instruction must flow directly from himself, his personal authority should be brought as seldom as possible into action. This he should endeavour rather to increase than to use; until his presence should suggest the love of order and the habit of attention. The mutual sympathy and example of the children, together with means of a more technical character, will be the most constant supports of his authority. And as his higher classes will in a short time have become devoted to his will, and have attained a comparative proficiency in the various subjects of their instruction, he may insure to himself a certain sympathy through his school, by securing their accordance with his purposes.
It may be expected that I should here introduce some remarks on the subjects of punishments and rewards. I feel it necessary, then, in entering on these subjects, to restrict myself to the peculiarities which are assumed by the question, in connexion with the system now under our consideration. It must be borne in mind, that, generally speaking, other very powerful moral excitements are within the command of the teacher; that the infants who are to be the subject of them are little, impressible beings, more influenced by that which appeals to their passions than to the reason of things; and that the system of infant instruction does not, because it cannot, include the whole of their education : as of the twenty-four hours of the day, six only are passed within the walls of the establishment. It might appear then on the face of this question, that, with the various modes of creating and of supporting a good influence which are in the hand of the superintendant, corporal punishment can very seldom if ever, be requisite. The children are supposed to have been under his direction from the earliest age; and if he has performed his duty, he has, from that period when bad habits can hardly be supposed to have fixed themselves on the mind, constantly endeavoured rather to correct the evil disposition by an opposing good influence, than to subdue it by the tyranny
of fear. Instances, however, must occur in children who are received into the establishment, after the age of three or four years,
in which incipient evil habits seriously manifest themselves. In these it is possible, that, notwithstanding the good influence of sympathy and example, some punishment may be found to be requisite; not only for the good of the child himself, but also for that of all the assembly by which he is surrounded. The choice of this punishment will offer no little, difficulty to the teacher, and require no little discrimination. To correct in the way of retribution, or especially with the slightest appearance of ungoverned anger, must produce the worst effects upon children, whose judgment is for the most part formed on impression, and who imitate that which seems to offer them a momentary gratification, without regard to the consequences which may follow. For the same reason, any exposure of the guilt of the little delinquent which is calculated to feed the pride or excite the personal dislike of those around, is by all means to be avoided. It is not
intention to suggest any particular modes of punishment, where, after much consideration, it may be found necessary. I shall satisfy myself with remarking, that the moral tendency on the child himself, and on the rest of the school, should be the
first ingredient in the determination at which we may arrive.
The following scene once occurred in an infants’ school not far from the metropolis, relating to a little boy of about five years of age, who had been repeatedly found guilty of stealing. The child was placed on the rostrum, and the attention of the school was fixed on him. The following conversation then took place between the teacher and the whole of the school.
M. Do you all see this little boy?
M. I am very sorry for him. It makes me quite unhappy to see him. Are not you
sorry for him?
S. Yes, sir.
M. I will try to make him a good boy again; will not you?
S. Yes, sir.
M. What will you do if you see him take what is not his own.