For more than 400 years, the personal essay has been one of the richest and most robust of all literary forms. Distinguished from the detached, formal essay by its warm, friendly, conversational tone, its loose structure and drive towards candor and self-disclosure, the personal essay seizes on the minutiae of daily life – vanities, fashions, food, culture, language and identity. It is poetry, it is song, it is speech, at once both call and response in the hands of a master story teller…
For some time now I have been researching into the schools of yesteryear. “5 Great Schools” is a gem that I wish to share with you. Though written over 100 years ago, the continued validity and wisdom displayed by President DeWitt (from Bowdoin College) is well worth a bit of reflection, even today…
by President William DeWitt Hyde
Practical Selections from twenty years of Normal Instructor and Primary Plans
DANSVILLE, NEW YORK
F. A. OWEN PUBLISHING COMPANY, 1912, (page 31-32)
Personality is what wise employers of teachers try to secure above all else. People with mean natures and small souls ought never to try to teach. Still, personality is greatly capable of cultivation. It is largely an affair of our own making. Five great schools of teachers tried to find a solution to this problem.
They were the Epicurean, the Stoic, the Platonic, the Aristotelean
and the Christian.
Whoever follows the teachings of all these schools will become a popular and successful teacher, and anyone defective in a majority of them is unfit to teach.
The Epicurean idea was that one should get, at all costs, as many pleasures as possible. Teachers should have good food, no hurried meals, a comfortable room in which to be quiet. In the long run these are half the battle. Teachers should not deny themselves these. Rest, quiet, and good food are necessary.
Next is needed wholesome exercise. The teacher shut up for five or six hours must have one or two hours under the open sky every school day, care free. The teacher should do a lot of outdoor things in vacation, and the one who doesn’t is falling away even from this low ideal.
The Stoic teaches one to keep the mind free from all worry and anxiety ; the mental states make the man. The teacher’s troubles can be reduced by reducing the mental worries. The blunders once made should be left behind, not brooded over. There is no situation in which we can not be masters, is the Stoic’s lesson. Every teacher must some time learn it. The teacher’s life is more full of general discouragements than any other profession, but the Stoic formula will overcome them. Teachers should live in care-proof compartments.
Platonism bids us rise above this world. Platonists were not the most agreeable people to live with. Much that passes for Christian religion is simply Platonism in disguise. Still, it contains some truth that every teacher ought to know and sometimes apply. A teacher would hardly keep his poise without these Platonic resources, but moderation is necessary.
By the Aristotelean school, man was to find his end here and now, on earth, not in Heaven. Teaching is an extra hazardous
profession as far as nervous energy is concerned. The teacher’s problem is one of proportion—what to select, what to leave out. The essentials to the main end ought to be taken, the others left. The teacher must say no to calls good in themselves, but not for themselves. Amateur theatricals, dancing and dinner parties ought to be taken part in only in great moderation. Physical health and vivacity of spirits must be maintained at all cost. Teachers should be sure what they do is best for them and then never mind what people say. Teachers should have their own individual end in view.
The counsel of the greatest Teacher remains.
Christ says to the teachers to make the interest and aims of each pupil their own.
Where the un-Christian teacher’s work ends, the Christian teacher’s work begins.
Teacher and pupil are engaged in a common work.
The attitude of the Christian teacher is, “Come, let’s do this thing together ; I’m ready to help you and want you to help me. ”
The successful teacher looks forward to the pupil’s future. Teachers learn to see with pupils’ eyes, share their work, rejoice in their success, be more sorry than they at their failures, lead them, never drive.
Any teacher who can combine the five qualities I have mentioned will find teaching a pleasure and achieve success.