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among the great number easily called together in the centre of a large and densely populated village, out of amusements innocent in themselves, grew a boisterous, reckless spirit,-an impatient, excitable state of mind incapable of listening to, or regarding rational requirements that conflicted in the least with their views and feelings,-a habit of disputation, rough contradiction, and general ill manners,-coarse language, profanity, deception and falsehood, and not unfrequently angry contention among themselves, accompanied with foul epithets and bloody blows.
Nor was this all. Within the school-room, the duties of the place were of secondary consequence to the objects uppermost in the minds of the pupils. Patient, persevering study and mental discipline were out of the question. An uneasy restlessness,—an incipient spirit of insubordination, seemed to be breathed out, and to pervade the very atmosphere of the school-room. A Vandal spirit was exercised on the school building, within and without; upon the fences, and whatever else of a destructible nature came in their way, -as if the school-room and its appurtenances were provided at the public expense, as a sort of safety-valve for the neighborhood, where they might lawfully exercise their destructive and disorganizing propensity with the least danger and inconvenienee to their friends and the public.
Now, had an attempt been made to correct all these evils by the infliction of punishments, by vigilance, persuasion and reasoning, it would doubtless have required more than the united virtues of a Job, a Solomon and a
Samson, to have accomplished it. But a different course was taken.
A regulation was adopted by the teachers and sanctioned by the committee, forbidding any scholar to come on the school grounds till fifteen minutes before the opening of the school, or to remain a moment after its close without express permission. The result was, the immediate disappearance of almost the whole catalogue of crimes and misdemeanors which had before so severely tasked the teachers and degraded the school into a Bedlam. It was the first grand step towards renovating, elevating the whole mass of pupils, and giving them a conception of what a school ought to be. Their minds were diverted from a most disastrous course of action, and directed into a channel calculated to lead them to an entirely different result.
In order to illustrate more fully and particularly the point in question, I shall venture to describe a practice which I have pursued for some two years; and with the utmost confidence, derived from actual experience, can assure teachers that many and great benefits may be derived from it, without any concomitant evils.
A manuscript book, very plainly written, lies upon my desk in the school-room, containing an embodiment of all those principles and practices relating to an honest and faithful attendance on school duties, which tend to show the pupil who may need such aid, what he ought to do, and what he ought to avoid doing. Its precepts are arranged under appropriate heads, expressed as concisely and clearly as possible, that no opportunity may be left for perversion or misunderstanding.
It is not entitled a “ Book of Laws,"—for in all it contains, no penalties are annexed. It is not called a “ Book of Rules and Regulations,”—for that would be too formal for our purpose. It bears the simple title of "A manual of School Duties for the use and benefit of the pupils of the Springfield High School.”
In order to convey a clearer idea of the character of this little manual, and with the humble hope that some of the younger members of our fraternity may derive from it some useful hints, with less toil and care than it has cost its author, a considerable portion of the manuscript is here presented.
" TO A NEW PUPIL ON ENTERING THE SCHOOL. Most pupils enter school with the expectation of obtaining a knowledge of the studies they pursue ; also, of conducting so as to gain the general approbation of their teachers in school, and of their friends at home.
Sometimes, however, scholars fail of learning as much as they expected ; and often are reproved, or punished for misconduct because they were ignorant of what they should have done, or was expected of them.
In order to save the pupils of our school from being mortified through ignorance of duties that may be required of them; also, if there should happen to be any among our number who wilfully do wrong, and plead that they never knew they must not do so, these pages are prepared ; - to guide those who
are willing to do right, and to leave no excuse to those who may be disposed to do wrong.
It is taken for granted, that your special object in becoming a member of this school is, to obtain such benefits as it
may be able to afford, for the improvement of the mind, that you may be more useful :- for the cultivation of your manners, that you may be better able to render yourself agreeable to those around you; - for the cultivation of your moral feelings, that your own personal happiness may be increased.
Wbile it is expected that the teachers will be faithful in imparting instruction and in directing the general operations of the school, in the most thorough and agreeable manner ; certain duties no less important for the success of the school are to be faithfully and honestly performed on your part as pupils.
Those scholars who know what is right, and always endeavor to do right, seldom need to be reminded of what they should do, or what they should not do. Others need frequently to be admonished that they are wrong, that they are doing an injury both to themselves and their schoolmates, as well as to the teachers who instruct, and their parents, who support the school.
The following directions are given, that all may know, at the beginning, what their duties are, as pupils, and on what conditions they are permitted to enjoy the privileges of this school.
I. RESOLVE, on being received as a member of this school, to comply cheerfully with all the requirements of the teachers; and faithfully perform every duty assigned you.
II. RESOLVE, that no impropriety or indecorum shall ever appear in your actions or words, while connected with the school.
III. Always manifest and cultivate a kind and accommodating disposition towards schoolmates,-and respect towards teachers.
IV. At all times let the school-room be regarded as sacred to study and mental improvement. Never indulge in rudeness, childish trifling, loud and boisterous speaking, or anything that would be considered untecoming in genteel company.
V. RESOLVE, to lend your influence in every possible way, to improve the school, and elevate its character.
SECTION B. - DEPORTMENT.
REMARK. It is as much a part of your education to correct bad habits and obtain good ones, to cultivate good manners and learn to conduct with propriety on all occasions, as to be familiar with the studies pursued in school. Read carefully and remember the following particulars.
1. On entering the school, pass as quietly as possible to your seat, taking care to close the door gently, and avoid making unnecessary noise with the feet in crossing the room.
2. Take out books, slates, &c., from your desk with care, and lay them down in such a manner as not to be heard. Avoid making a rustling noise with papers, or noisily turning over leaves of books. Never let the marking of a pencil on your slate be heard.
3. Be careful to keep the feet quiet wbile engaged in study; or, if it be necessary to move them, do it without noise.
4. In passing to and from recitations, observe whether you are moving quietly. Take special care if you wear thick shoes, or boots, or if they are made of squeaking leather.
5. Avoid the awkward and annoying habit of making a noise with the lips while studying.