Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

who wrote such beautiful English about I was disturbed. I was not gripping the the duty of the teacher to the tender, two with hoops of admiration — and I budding soul of youth, were beside me to wanted the thing to be unanimous. But tell me just how to begin. But he was I went on. Most of the school were not there; and it has been convincingly listening - at least they were doing nothing borne in upon me since that he never was. else. Some stared at me curiously; some

I had hoped for a good attendance the looked blankly straight ahead; here and first day. There were fifty-seven; which there was a dropped jaw. Half way down was not at all bad considering that most the aisle was a slender girl of fifteen — of the "big ’uns” had to stay at home to almost grown, with large, inspirational help cut corn, make molasses, and sow eyes, brown hair, a clear, refined face, and wheat. They would come on later — a winsome mouth. She was listening with about the time the frost was on the pump eager attention, and I saw dreamy aspirakin and the arithmetic class was in com- tions were stirring within her. Her name pound fractions.

should be Eudora. And in the last seat I made a feeling little speech about the in the centre aisle, trying to conceal the “great opportunities that lay before us," shabbiest and scantiest garb in the room, and told them what a good thing education was a boy of eleven or twelve, whose was for the human system and cited eyes, burning with a great yearning, were James A. Garfield and Abraham Lincoln fixed on mine; pale, thin-faced, underfed, as examples; mentioning that these dis- but with a high forehead and sensitive tinguished victims of assassins' bullets but resolute lips. His name should be and orators' eulogies were once as ordinary Luke. as any one of the boys present, which was And so school opened. There were to pretty hard on my illustrious examples. be no rules — save one — “Do Right.”

However, I could see great promise in How very simple; how easy! Do away my pupils. They were vigorous and had with a hundred thousand thick, fat, dull, come in close touch with the soil, at both twisted volumes of revised statutes; and ends. In spite of my beautiful theories, just pass one law — “Do Right.” at the first tap of the bell I had subcon- It worked beautifully the first day. sciously decided that whatever praying ! But as I returned that evening to my did should be done with my eyes open. boarding place with books to review on And while my soul and psychology kept one arm, and dinner pail on the other, I my tongue going on the beauties and felt unaccountably tired. There had been delights ahead of us in the flowery fields a strain in the day's work my teachers' of learning, my eyes were busy picking out psychology had not mentioned. the most salient bumps of human nature I was tired but relieved. Nothing and sizing them up,

dreadful had happened all day. And in On the off side in the extreme northwest spite of a far-off fluttering sense of uneasicorner sat a boy I instantly called "Chuck.” ness, I was happy, for as I walked the He was about fourteen years old, chunky, ridge road shadowed by over-reaching oak with a thick neck, a pug nose, and a head and walled by hazel and sumach, I saw that looked like a knot sawed from a black- more vividly than ever the vision of the jack tree. Straight across the room in the academy walls, the college campus, and

years old, six feet tall, with a long nose, succeed with this school. The children a loose skin, a mournful face, and hair the should love me, the parents honor me — color of dead broom grass.

and better paying districts call me. I had As my words glowed with the joy of a little tussle with my conscience whether school, Chuck's pug nose went a fraction I should give up my well begun work here nearer his forehead, his left eyelid lifted next year, and go to a bigger school at slowly, cautiously, his eye crept circum- better wages. spectly around until it met Slimmy's, and In the first day I had discovered several then the eyelid dropped.

things. The biggest problem was — "How

was I in six hours a day to teach eight everlastingly and eternally damned in the fundamental branches of learning to fifty- Bean Ridge district — and all adjacent seven pupils, and do it according to every territory. one's individual bent?” I had discovered I was glad when Friday and four o'clock that I must have twenty-seven recitations came. Even now I never hear a clock every day. And with a class of fifteen in strike four that I do not unconsciously the fourth reader and fifteen minutes for lean back and say “Thank the Lord,” and recitation, how was 1 to teach Tommy to Friday late in the afternoon will be my follow his historical bent in reading, lead favorite day as long as I live. The school Jimmy to love Robert Louis Stevenson, had been curious and quiet Monday; not and cultivate Mary in literature, and give so curious nor quiet Tuesday; restless Bob the desired start in political research? Thursday; and by Friday the noise had In my dumb, puzzled groping at that time grown to resemble the flight of locusts. I could see no way of doing anything to When the bell rang Friday at afternoon that class but teach it the fourth reader. recess, Slimmy came in several minutes

A country school? To be sure; but isn't late; and, glancing out of the window, I saw two thirds of the public school system in Chuck throwing up a ball to get one more the country? Maybe there are fewer whack at it with his bat. The B geography pupils in some rural schools; and yet in class was reciting when he sauntered in the next school that I taught I had ninety- and dropped with an audible thump into seven, with thirty in the primer class, and his seat. When I looked around I caught a class of algebra and physiology after a very distinct wink at Slimmy. I did school hours. And I may add right here, not say anything. I would wait until that in all my subsequent teaching I found Monday and think it over. in varying degree the same difficulties, the As I returned to my boarding place that same problems, as in this first school. afternoon I felt more than a faint sub

I made more discoveries the next day conscious flutter of uneasiness. I had and the next. Before the week was out been very kind, very reasonable, and gentle I had it borne in on me that to watch with the pupils. Yet there had been too fifty-seven restless, nondescript descen- much noise the last two days. I must do dants of Adam and Eve, Judas Iscariot, something about it; and you are always Lucretia Borgia, and a few other worthy uncomfortable when you have to do someunworthies, and at the same time assign thing about it. and hear twenty-seven recitations every My days were passed in aggravated six hours, was a pretty big job. There anxiety and my nights in feverish dread. was only one thing to be done; nail my flag I would dodge a member of the school to the masthead of McGuffey's reader and board as though he had the bubonic plague. Ray's arithmetic, and go in soul and body I expected every Friday to get a request to fight human nature and the demons of to resign. ignorance. I knew that unless I taught At length I rose up and determined to them to read, the door would be shut on take radical steps. I promulgated a rule: most of them. In a few years — three or “There shall be no whispering." Not a five - nearly all of them would be out of word. The slightest breath that shaped school; and unless they had learned to itself into an audible request for a “pencil" follow the printed page and get its meaning, should be punished rigorously. That the agricultural paper, the mechanics' would make it easy. Nobody could accuse journal, the newspaper, the religious me of partiality. Everybody who whisjournal, the magazine, would fail to carry pered would be kept in at recess. their helpful message to them; and their This was the middle of October. During mental development would be arrested at all my worries and anxieties there had been the very beginning. I had to teach them a few consolations — at least two. Luke, how to write, and, of course, I had to the thin-faced, underfed, shabby boy in teach arithmetic. If I didn't "learn 'em the back seat in the aisle row, ate up his to do their sums” thoroughly I would be studies like a locust on a green limb. I never saw such a fierce passion for knowl- times when things approached the riot edge. He heeded everything I said with stage. I invented a number of original worshipful attention, and attacked every forms of moral suasion. lesson as though it were a personal enemy One by one I had forsaken the tenets of of mine to be demolished. And Eudora my teachers' psychology until all were watched with ever constant vigilance to abandoned but one — 1 clung to that. meet my expectations of her. She learned Never inflict corporal punishment. The quite as readily as Luke, but hers was a teacher who can not govern without the sort of joyous effort; she revelled in her rod should resign. That was deeply studies; and was happiest when some task ground into me. I did not want to resign, led her imagination far afield. She had and so I invented other punishments innever offended in the slightest; never by stead of the rod. word or act, not even by accident, had she My first big contact with parenthood disturbed the faintest ripple of order. . occurred the week before Thanksgiving.

I had promulgated the no-whispering I had vowed that no matter what happened order on a Monday morning. Everything I would not use physical violence. But had been quiet. I started to let the school I think the school knew me better than I out for the morning recess. I had not knew myself, or things would have been seen nor heard a whisper. Arthur Bott- worse than they were. Slimmy and ler's hand flew up; Arthur Bottler's meddle Chuck and several others had been some voice piped out:

baiting me, slowly, cautiously, but con“Eudora whispered!”

stantly encroaching a little here and there. Eudora turned very pale, her eyes went Slimmy took the lead, for he was the down to her desk, and then sought mine largest — much larger and older than I. in a sort of scared appeal.

The boys had been slow about coming “Did you?" I asked.

in when the bell rang. They tarried a “Yes — I asked Mary for her arith- little longer each time. metic.” Mary was her seatmate.

One day Slimmy stayed out ten minutes. “Then I guess you will have to stay in.” At the evening recess, I remarked:

A deep flush of shame and mortification “Slimmy may remain in to make up for spread over her sensitive face; her lips the time he lost at noon." trembled — Eudora, who had never been Slimmy gave Chuck a wink, and depunished in school, was the first victim of liberately got up and went out. I saw my new iron-clad rule, while all the several violet rays before my eyes, but rest, guying, laughing, boisterous ones, held in. When I dismissed at four, I passed out whooping and yelling.

stationed myself at the door, and asked Eudora's head slowly sank upon the desk Slimmy to keep his seat. before her; and her shoulders rose and fell Slimmy kept it. “Now,” I said, dropin a slow sob. She had tried so hard to ping psychological formulas, "you will be perfect; she had wanted to do exactly apologize in the morning for your disright with me; just as I had hoped to be obedience — do it before the whole school, perfect before the district — and we had or you will take your books and go home both failed.

and not come back.” Wrath smoldered in me all the rest of the Slimmy took his books. But early next day; the raw sort of wrath that comes morning his father came back. when you feel yourself one third in the He began to talk like a man who is wrong and two thirds the victim of cir- , looking for trouble and does not want cumstances. I surely kept a vigilant eye, any excuse for not having it. He laid the for by the evening's recess I had garnered law down flat that his boy was coming

and read the names and ordered them to remain in.

Things drifted after that. There were periods of calm; and again tempestuous

gize. The other boys had stayed out late at recess and never been kept in; and his boy was just as good as any of them and I couldn't run any "Sandy" over him.

denld

not wish, some 100Some one strageli

I tried to explain, and at the same time of them, did not come. I waited five, make it clear that Slimmy was not coming ten minutes. Then they came straggling back. The interview began to take a in from the woods. Some of them looked rather serious turn. I am glad that I sheepish, some looked as though they were never found out what the result would not well pleased with themselves. But have been if Melvin Robins, the president Chuck puffed and slammed the books of the board, had not arrived just then. about his desk in a self-gratified way. I

Robins had heard from his children did not say anything but looked them about the "Slimmy” affair, had guessed over carefully to see that they were all in. there would be trouble, and had ridden They were all there but Luke, my prize over. He jumped off his horse and began scholar. to talk; the gist of it was that Slimmy I called the first class and, while it was would do exactly what the teacher said, at the board, sauntered back to Jim or stay out. And moreover Slimmy's Coggins's desk. father would stay off the school premises. “Jim,” I said in an undertone, "where Slimmy's father left, and Slimmy spent is Luke Elton?” the rest of the winter hunting rabbits and Jim squirmed a little uneasily in his telling the boys what he was going to do seat — “I dunno — went home I reckon.” to me.

“Why?” The question went quick and Expelling Slimmy checked the stream straight. of disorder a little but did not stop it. “Oh, I dunno – I think he said he Trouble accumulated at compound in wasn't feeling very well." terest. I was working feverishly trying to was distinctly uneasy. I skipped the help the school, trying until my eyes ached next three recitations and dismissed at to get the classes ahead, and encourage three o'clock. I would interview the boys the backward ones. Yet every day things about being late, Monday morning. happened that sent me home in a torment I closed the school house hastily and of failure.

started off down the ridge road toward I worried over all these things, individu- Elton's. The farther I went the more ually and collectively. Each offered a uneasy I became, and the faster I walked. problem for settlement, each added to the I had not gone a mile when I saw Luke miserable uncertain feeling that something ahead of me. He was walking very had to be done about it — and that it slowly. I ran forward. was not nearly all right with the world. His lip was cut and blood was over his But the worst of it was my ideals had face and clothes; his face was bruised and toppled, and the vision was gone.

already his eyes were swollen shut, and The unruly spirit had been gaining a there was an ugly mark on his neck at the little all the time. Chuck, who knew and base of the skull. I took him to the cared less about books than a rat does creek and washed his face and then took about roses, had given me constant trouble. him home. Outwardly conforming to my directions, I went for a doctor, who said on examihis impudence and sullenness in the school nation that the boy's weakened system room, his bullying on the playground, gave and nervousness were likely to make his me constant trouble. Since Slimmy was hurts serious. expelled, he was the leader. Though there As I went home I turned to the right were older boys, he was chunky, very and stopped at Coggins's. Jim was out muscular, and weighed a hundred and in the field shucking corn from the shock. thirty pounds.

I headed straight toward him and Jim Friday all day I felt a vague uneasiness. saw something in the way I came that I had seen looks between Chuck and some made his feet restless to run. of the other big boys that I did not like. “Jim,” | was in easy reach before ! After the evening recess, when I rang spoke, “what happened to Luke Elton?” the bell, the girls and some small boys Jim made just one halting evasion and came trooping in. The big boys, fifteen then he told it eagerly.

Oh, it was a horrid story. It made my and see it done, I'll beat you until you blood boil — as it would yours, and I'll have to be carried home in a wagon. And save you the boiling by not telling it. go home and tell your dads all about it.

"I didn't have nothing to do with it,” And also tell them if they don't like it whimpered Jim, "none of us did but to come here as quick as they can get here Chuck.”

and I'll settle with them in a hurry.” "No," I said, "you great, cowardly That was foolish — but I was mad. It brute, you infamous gang of brutes! was dangerous. I fully expected it to be - you stood by and saw him do that.” the finish of me as well as of my career.

Sunday evening I went out into the But they didn't come. And the order thicket, and selected ten young hickory that I had in that school the rest of the sprouts of last year's growth, nearly an week scared me. It was so still that someinch in diameter at the big end, four feet times I listened to my watch tick to see if I long, smooth and straight.

was not deaf. Then I went to bed and slept better There was trouble and annoyance at than I had in months.

Bean Ridge during the rest of school; but I was at the school house early next my order was good. I had quite as plenti. morning, and smuggled the gads in without ful complaints of too much strictness as any of the pupils seeing. I hid them on I had had the other way. But I fought the floor behind my desk.

it through. When school was called there was a Lots of times I examined myself and felt slight sense of uneasiness, but Chuck was in what a fearful failure I had been. I could his seat, impudent and self-assured as ever. scarcely see a thing of importance that I I saw him wink at several of the boys. had accomplished. And yet I discovered, Without any preliminaries I said: afterward, that I had taught a great many “Chuck, come up here."

things that I had not tried to teach. I Chuck did not budge. Instead, I saw found that a teacher teaches most unconhim bracing his feet under the desk. I sciously; that he is more valuable, or waited about ten seconds and then went invaluable, than any of his teachings. I after him.

discovered that what was in me of amWhen I had landed him on the platform bition, of high ideals, of standards of by my desk, I laid him face downward conduct, somehow impressed itself on the and took off his coat. He was thoroughly school. I found that my ambition got scared by that time. This was a new sort into the brains of many of the pupils; and of moral suasion.

of that school, primitive and tempestuous “Stand up!” I ordered. He stood. as it was, seven at least are now holding

I brought out that bundle of hickory positions of high honor and trust; five are gads, and two of them were shredded like happy in useful professional work — and hemp strings when I was done.

many others are doing good honest living. “Now," I said, when I had deposited the After all, it is the teacher who is the doorlimp and lacerated, moaning, whimpering and through his spirit the pupils are to young brute in his seat, “Tom Murphy, walk to higher fields of hope and endeavor. I want you next."

I still felt at the close of school that I I called three others — big boys that was an utter failure, that my hopes were I had learned were implicated. I used one blasted, the vision gone. I would never gad apiece on them.

get another school. I had not had one When it was finished the school was compliment, not one word of encouragescarcely breathing. There was not a ment — nothing but complaint during the sound but the suppressed moans of whole six months. Chuck.

But when the school was dismissed, “Now," I said, with very effective Melvin Robins to my surprise came up affection in my tones, "if ever one of you and shook hands with me. vulgar, bulldozing brutes is guilty of any. “You ain't done near as bad as some thing like that again - or even stand by beginners," he said, encouragingly.

« PředchozíPokračovat »