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A Practical Treatise
ON ORGANIZING INFANT SCHOOLS.
As Infant Schools are increasing in number, and as there is considerable difficulty in organizing them, the author thinks that he may usefully occupy a small portion of this small work in giving such information upon this matter as his own experience has furnished him with. He wishes to help masters situated as he was when he entered upon his present situation; and he thinks that to such, an account of the difficulties he met with, and of the means by which, under God, he was enabled to surmount them, and to organize and conduct the school which he has now the happiness to superintend, may not be less interesting than useful.
He would here observe that he never saw an Infant School till he saw one well organized; and therefore knew very little about a plan, or about the means by which such organization was effecteda disadvantage common in the present day (wherein Infant Education is still only beginning) to those who are engaged in it. But having been instructed in one particular-to him a grand and delightful one-every thing else seemed to follow as a matter of course. He felt that he was called to an important duty, which, of himself, he found that he was utterly incapable of discharging; and when he saw that it was nothing less than to instruct the immortal mind, he was constrained to say-" Who is sufficient for these things?" The answer was soon discovered to be" He with whom all things are possible, and only He." Acting upon this discovery, he was shorn of his own strength; and confiding himself to that which is divine, became strong indeed. It will be perceived from this statement that his duty simply was-Prayer, and dependance upon God-nor does he think that any master or agent in an Infant School can be fit for the situation he occupies, if he does not act in the same spirit. Having distinctly stated this fundamental and all-important truth, he proceeds to the mention of minor particulars.
The day his school opened, he admitted 178 children; many of whom were under the age of two years, and some under that of eighteen months. The first thing that occurred to him when the parents were gone, and he was left entirely to himself (a thing
highly desirable at opening an Infant School) was, to get the children to sit down just where they pleased, and as they pleaseda task by no means easy. This done, he thought he would try to get them to rise together by a signal-by stamping the foot (which signal he always uses for the same purpose). To do this took some time: but as he thought it an important exercise to initiate the children into order, and into simultaneous action, he did nothing else till it was accomplished. He soon found the children very much interested in this exercise; all rising-as a well-disciplined regiment of soldiers at the word of command-fire. In a similar way he got them to sit down: his signal for which was, and continues to be-blowing the whistle.
Having taught the children to act together in these instances, his next object was to get them to speak together. To do this, he began by teaching them to count, in a sort of chant, from one to one hundred: modified by raising or lowering the voice one note every ten-that is, counting from one to ten, in one tone of voice; from ten to twenty, in the next: from twenty to thirty, in the next; and so on: which exercise, besides its intrinsic utility, will be found a very good preparatory lesson for singing. To vary this exercise, and to render it more amusing, he let them count the first ten with beating both hands upon the knees: the next ten with clapping the hands together: and other tens with twisting the fore finger of each hand, the one round the other: shooting them out alternately: clenching the fists, and moving them as in the act of ringing bells, over handed: stamping the feet: and with as many other motions as he could think of-taking great care always to keep the time and tune, without which such practices are rather injurious than otherwise. These are some of the first steps which, under the divine blessing, the writer took, to get his school into order; and to those masters who may have the same task to perform, and who may be inclined to make trial of the means here mentioned, he would offer his advice, that the few things above related should be well done before any thing more is attempted; and that care should be taken to get the children up and down very frequently with the proper signals. By persevering in his efforts to get the children to perform these simple things, or but one simple thing, correctly, the master will find that his own labour is ultimately much less, and the children's improvement decidedly more than it might otherwise have been; while, at the same time, he is laying a firm foundation for the establishment of general order in his school: whereas imperfectly teaching a number of things, is attended with endless difficulty and trouble, and is itself a source of lasting disorder. The writer will now proceed to mention, (in the first person) other practices and arrangements which he was successively led to adopt; and which, having stood the test of trial and experience, continue to form parts of the machinery of the school which he has the happiness to superintend, and which he believes is generally considered to be-in good order.
After having selected 20 children for monitors, I class the rest according to their size. This plan, however, is objectionable; inasmuch as it will be found that there are some large children who do not know even the alphabet, and some small ones who are more ́advanced. To provide for this case, I put such large children, at reading time, into two classes by themselves, called dunces' classes; cip from which they are taken as soon as they can tell their letters. This provision goes a good way towards meeting the case of disproportion between size and advancement in reading; and this case is further provided for by my arrangement for Reading, which I will presently mention, With these two provisions, I find, as far as my experience goes, that every objection to the plan of classification according to size, is removed.
My school is arranged in classes of ten children each. The boys sit on one side of the length of the room, and the girls on the other. Eleven of the monitors are boys, and eleven are girls. The monitors do not sit in the classes they teach, but form two classes by themselves; the reasons for which will be found under the headMonitors. They are seated on the lowest step of the gallery; the monitor-boys at that end of the step nearest the boys, and the monitor-girls at that end of the step nearest the girls. The gallery is at one end of the room, and crosses the breadth of it; so that the monitors sit at right angles with respect to the other children.
ON EXERCISING THE CHILDREN PREPARATORY
Having arranged the children in classes, my next object is to get them, in an orderly manner, to their lessons; which are always placed* round the room, before the classes, (the back of the lesson being towards the class) previous to reading, as mentioned under the article, Reading. To accomplish this, I begin with exercising the monitors alone, in marching to and from their classes, until they can do so to my satisfaction. But as, to render my information as serviceable as can be, to such masters as may be inclined to make a practical use of it, it is necessary that I give it with particularity; I will now, as exactly as I can, describe how I thus exercise the monitors. (and afterwards the children) in order to impart to the whole school the ability of arranging itself, day by day, at command, in reading order. And first with respect to the monitors.
Before stamping the foot, (which is my constant signal for getting
* Placed. The lessons are mounted upon boards, which are affixed to moveable stands;--but would do quite as well against the wall.