« EdellinenJatka »
of each other. If they do an act of mutual kindness, he will show his decided approbation of it: and, on the other hand, he will openly disapprove of the slightest appearance of dislike or anger. The encouragement of this mutual sympathy appears, indeed, naturally to attend on the system. Personal emulation is avoided, because it is unnecessary to success. The lessons are, for the most part, communicated at once to the whole school assembled ; and are learned in the same tone of voice, with one simultaneous clap of the hand, to the same foot-fall, or to the same beat of the tambarine. The consequence of this is, unity, not division; sympathy, not aversion. The children are very frequently seen, when, in the hours of play, they meet in their rambles, to fall into the order of their school, and commence their little song together.
If, farther, the force of EXAMPLE, in the character of the teacher, bé great, it is abundantly more effectual in the infants on each other. In the former instance they admire and cheerfully acknowledge the good influence. In the latter they attempt imitation.
It is not, indeed, to be supposed, that, in an infant under six years of age, any very confirmed moral habits can be impressed. The tender thought
has begun only to germinate, and it requires constant example, and the unceasing presence of favourable circumstances, to encourage the growth of the rising principle, and to give it the force of an habitual determination. But, while such considerations throw some doubt over the permanent effect of this system, unless followed up by subsequent education, they seem to set before us a more reasonable hope of preparing the mind of infants for the best future habits : as an acquired evil is much-more easily removed at this early age, than when the mind has approached nearer to maturity; and the example and sympathy, of which we now speak, make that cure for the present almost inevitable, as well as rapid. In an infants' school, the eye never wanders over that which is depraved, nor is the ear assailed by the language of impiety. The universal pleasure which appears on every hand, is connected with the practice of that which is excellent; and if one be introduced to the little flock, who has previously indulged some bad habit, he almost insensibly loses the evil, in assimilating himself to the character of those around him.
The means of influence in an infants' school, within the power of the teacher, which remain to be considered, are of a more technical character.
The first of these is, THE FORM OF THE SCHOOL-ROOM, AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH HE THERE MAY INTRODUCE. Concerning the former, some remarks will be offered hereafter. I shall for the present satisfy myself in saying, that the children should be so placed in the room that attention may be accompanied with the smallest possible bodily exertion; and that the position of the instructor should be equally distant from the greatest part of his little flock; in order that he may appear to address them without pain to himself, and without the tones of anger to them. The room should be spacious, freely aired and lighted, and the walls frequently and well whitewashed. It should have every appearance of simplicity, and cleanliness, and health. The effect of this arrangement is irresistible. The infants leave, it is presumed, small and crowded, and too often dirty, rooms, for one which is cleanly and cheerful. The feeling which is connected with such a change is almost necessarily pleasurable, and they look forward to the hours when they are to be assembled as to a scene of real amusement and comfort.
If the teacher be judicious, many different modes, by which to increase the efficiency of this source of influence, will suggest themselves to him. He will regard his charge as a party
of intelligent and eminently observant beings. Their attention he will perceive, is always on the point of excitement. When they are engaged in no direct occupation, their eye is wandering over the room, or over the assembly in which they find themselves, for some interesting object. Let that object, he will say, be, without exception, good. If the child observe his teacher, let him see there an incessant flow of affection and kindness. If he fix his attention on his school-fellows, let his eye contemplate their diligence, and their mutual sympathy. Let the very walls of the school speak to him. Scripture pictures, especially those which tend to illustrate the life of the Saviour, may be placed there with the best effect : for, although they may, at present, communicate to the mind of the child no connected history, they may prepare him for that course of thought which will aid his conceptions when the narrative may be hereafter laid before him. The same remarks may be made concerning subjects of natural history. They will impress insensibly on the mind correct ideas of form, and figure, and colour, in connection with the names of the various animals which
to his eyes.
Nor would I omit short and expressive passages from the scriptures ; bearing on the first and most simple principles of our religion, and the earliest duties of human life. * These should be printed in very large characters, and meet the eye of the little pupils on every hand. To be very particular on these topics is hardly desirable, as this mode of influencing the little infants may manifestly be varied according to the taste of the superintendant of the school. How possible is it thus to cast a sort of moral atmosphere around their minds, and to elicit their first energies on those things which are both pleasing and salutary!
Among the subordinate means for throwing an influence over an assembly of infants, we may next adduce. MELODY. The effect of music, howsoever simple, on the minds of children, is one of those things which nature herself has taught us. Pain and sickness and anxiety are often forgotten by the babe whose ear has been gained by some trivial air flowing from the lips of a mother. Melody may be used by a superintendant of an infants' school for a twofold purpose. When he perceives the little company, whilst engaged in their lessons, to grow weary, he may, without previous notice, commence some cheerful air, in which the whole of the school will almost involuntarily join. Their
* See note A. at the end of the Volume.