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The Importance of Order in Teaching

Brought to you by Adapted from "The Art of Teaching," copyright 1900, by David Salmon Original Artwork by Cheryl Seslar Designs

Order is to the life of a school what food is to the life of the body. We take food not for its own sake, but that it may enable the body to perform its functions; and we strive to get and to keep order not for its own sake, but that it may enable the school to perform its functions. It is a common antecedent to all good work.

The teacher, however educated or skillful, who has not the power of command is but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Fortunately, that is a power which every person of intelligence who is willing to pay the price may obtain. The price is diligent cultivation of the teacher's own character, and untiring attention to details.

Order Depends on the Teacher

The first, second, third, and final cause of order is the teacher, and his success as a disciplinarian will depend largely on his success in cultivating certain moral qualities in himself.

Essential Qualities in the Teacher

1. Love of Children

The person who does not feel deep and abiding love for children as children, who does not watch with interest the unfolding of their minds, who is not ready to share in their games as well as their tasks, who does not sympathize with the most troublesome, who does not recognize the infinite possibilities of their natures, has no right to be a teacher.

An unloving teacher is a burden to himself and a trial to his students. The relation between them is, at best, an armed neutrality; his attitude is a threat,

their passive resistance. The obedience rendered to him (if he has the ability to command any) is unwilling and secured with a needless expenditure of energy. There may be in the class of the most loving teacher a few children who do not delight to please him; but in the class of the unloving teacher there will be only a few who do not delight to annoy him. He creates his own difficulties.

2. Hope

Hope furnishes the motive for continued exertion. The mistakes and faults which were corrected yesterday recur today, and will recur again tomorrow. Faithful labor seems to result in nothing but fatigue and disappointment; so the teacher is sometimes disposed to give p the unavailing struggle, till the thought that, where he sows in sorrow others may reap in joy, gives him fresh courage, and nerves him for renewed efforts.

3. Patience

Patience is as necessary for the teacher as love and hope, and his profession gives him ample opportunity for the practice of it. Some children are difficult, careless, inattentive, or slow to learn. But, in spite of every excuse for irritability and anger, he must resolutely determine to keep an even temper. If he cannot rule himself, he certainly will not be able to rule others. When his students discover that they can ruffle him, his influence is lost forever.

4. Decision

Another essential quality is decision. The will-power is weak in children; if it is strong in the teacher, he can easily control them. making up his mind clearly what he wants goes a long way towards getting it. If he has definite purpose, his commands will be definite; and definite commands are much harder to disobey than the vague requests.

Decision produces firmness, consistency, and promptitude. When it is absent, weakness, vacillation, and hesitation, each fatal to discipline, take its place. Before resolving on a general course of conduct due care and thought must be exercised, but in the daily routine of school work there will be many situations calling for instant action. The experienced teacher seems to do the right thing by instinct, but his instant apprehension of the right thing is really the product of a trained decision of character applying broad principles to a particular case.

5. Dignity

Another essential quality is dignity, consistently maintained in school and out. Teachers who are sloppy in their dress; who slouch at their desks; who at one moment joke with a child as if he were their equal, and the next minute resent his treating them on the same footing; who shout, stamp, and fly into angry outbursts; who exhibit petty vanity and petty spite, who frequent unsuitable places and associate with unsuitable companions cannot win the respect of their students. And when there is no respect there is no willing obedience.

On the other hand, where there is true dignity in a superior, inferiors do not take, do not think of taking, a liberty. Dignity does not mean stiffness or affectation, and it can afford to unbend. The teacher who has it can be familiar with children without tempting them to be familiar with him; can joke without tempting them to joke back; and it will be all the better for him if he can see the humorous side of things.

6. Tact

Tact is another quality to be cultivated. If difficulties lie in the path of duty we must face them boldly and overcome them, but by a little management we can avoid many a difficulty without losing our own respect, or that of others. Tact is to life what oil is to machinery - it destroys friction.

For example, a student comes in the classroom obviously in a bad mood. Something may have happened at home or on the way to school. One teacher sees it and says, "So, Tom, you better get rid of the attitude or I'll get rid of it for you." Then, in an imperious tone, the teacher gives him a command. This command is either disobeyed or obeyed with evident reluctance. A needless conflict ensues, weakening the teacher's hold over the whole class even if he wins the battle, and doubling weakening it if he fails.

A tactful teacher equally sees the bad mood, but graciously decides to ignore it. He carefully refrains from singling the boy out, and gives his temper time to cool. In so doing, the second teacher allows the electricity to dissipate harmlessly which the first teacher brings down in lightning on his own head.

7. Study of the Child's Nature

Tact in the treatment of children presupposes a study of their nature. To sit still doing nothing, which is easy to adults, is nearly impossible to them. If, therefore, the teacher leaves any minute of their time not filled with useful activity, they will fill it with disorder or with mischief.

Again, it is annoying to children to do on thing for a long time, and the wise teacher will anticipate restlessness by having a variety of activities and changing them often.

The nature of every individual child should be studied as well as the nature of children in general. In a classroom, what is "sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander." In other words, with one child a look of mild surprise is effective in correcting behavior. Another may require a more sharp reproof.

One may be led but not driven, another may need a certain amount of driving. One is excited to diligence by a desire to get to the top of the class; another merely by a desire to get to the end of the lesson or the end of the day.

In short, the teacher who wishes to make his job easy on himself and effective for his students will learn their common characteristics and their personal qualities, and adapt his methods accordingly.

The Importance of Order in Teaching  

Order is to the life of a school what food is to the life of the body. We take food not for its own sake, but that it may enable the body t...

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