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certainly we should not hold the pupil responsible for conduct to which his bringing-up has necessarily led him.
I wish to put great stress upon the duty of teachers to visit and make the acquaintance of the parents and friends of their pupils. The question with me is, how they can get along without it. When I go home at night, nearly exhausted with my day's labor, and see the work that must be done before the next morning — see that certain things in my family require my attention - I do not ask myself how I can go and see the families of my pupils, but I ask how I can afford not to make their acquaintance. I have never been able to answer that question; and therefore I say I must economize my time — divide it between my duties at home and them.
I may be asked, perhaps, whether it may not seem like cringing to the domineering disposition of the parents to go and hunt them up, and ask if they are interested in the education of their children. I think not. I do not see how it can be interpreted otherwise, if a teacher is discreet, than that he feels it to be his duty to seek out the parents and make their acquaintance.
Nathan Hedges, Newark, N. J. This is a matter that lies within the teacher's every-day business; and the first thing I have to say is, that he can do but little good without the coöperating influence of the parents. It is indispensable, and the teacher who does not seek to secure it, meets with difficulty at the very threshold of his work. The great majority of teachers, when they commence their labors, have no realization of the parent's solicitude when he brings his cherished child to him, and says, “ Here, will you take my boy?" He feels that his choicest treasure is put at risk; and every teacher should feel that there is committed to him a treasure which he is most sedulously to watch, most carefully to cherish. If you think further, my young friends, that this child is not only the hope of the father and mother, but is to become a future man, and fill his place in this great country, that he is an immortal being whose soul is a spark smitten from the Eternal Rock, then your office and duty will assume unspeakable solemnity and importance.
The second thing I have to say on this subject is, that the teacher must deserve the confidence and coöperation of the parent. It is idle for him to expect it unless he deserves it.
The teacher — the male teacher to whom especially I speak — must be a man, a scholar, and a gentleman. It is only to such teachers that intelligent parents are willing to intrust their children. Let every teacher here remember that he has voluntarily placed himself where he is to be looked up to as the model of his pupils, the pattern from which they are to copy. And if I were to address myself to the lady teachers, I would say that not less is required of them than of their brethren.
The third thing I have to say is, what has been so well said by my friend who opened the discussion, that the teacher must seek the acquaintance of the parents of his pupils in their own houses. With me, for more than fifty years, this has always been the first step. When parents with whom I have not been acquainted have brought me a pupil, I have usually said to them, “In a few days, after I have become acquainted with your son, I will call and see you.” When I become acquainted with the temper of the boy, for all my pupils are boys, when I see whether he is governed with ease or not, when I find whether he has got a conscience, whether he shows the effect of religious training, when I find the characteristics of his mind, I then go to the parents and confer freely with them; and I am ready to confirm what my friend has said over and over again, I have never found parents unwilling to cooperate with me. It would indeed be a strange infatuation if parents who love their children should hesitate to cooperate with the teacher to whom they have intrusted their education.
Hon. E. P. Weston, of Gorham, Me., Superintendent of Public Schools. Some twenty years ago, I was teaching my first term, as principal of an academy, in a village in this State. I had certain notions of the etiquette that I supposed would be observed. Some few parents called upon me, and I would have been very glad to see others — expected to see others. I put myself on my dignity, if you please, supposing that the principal of an academy would be called upon, and not call upon others without an invitation. After about six weeks, I met the father of two or three boys in my school, and almost his first salutation was —“I have not seen you, sir, at my blacksmith shop.” He then went on to say, that my predecessor frequently called in to see him at his shop, and talked about his boys, as he passed along to school. Said I, “Mr. Smith, had I known that was your expectation, and that it was the custom in this place for the teacher to call at the shops and houses before being called upon, I would have done so; but in my ignorance I supposed that I was to be called upon, if there was anything that required to be talked about.” He was offended that I should have expected him to call upon me. He took it for granted that it was the duty of the teacher to go round and make the acquaintance of the parents first. That taught me a lesson that I practised upon afterwards. I concluded to lay aside the ordinary rules of etiquette, and go round and make the acquaintance of all the parents possible in the course of my subsequent teachings.
Now, I believe, as my friend Mr. Stone has said, that the teacher is not to ask what may be proper in regard to certain
supposed rules of etiquette and propriety; he is simply to ask himself, “ Have I anything to do with the parents of the pupils in my school? If so, let me not wait for them to come to me, but let me go to them.”
H. M. Collon, of Middletown, Conn. I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the gentlemen who have preceded me; but it seems to me that they have narrowed the question. It seems to me that if a teacher should call on every parent once a week, it would not be the best step nor the great step towards securing the coöperation of the parents. I derive a lesson here from my position as a clergyman. I would ask how we should get on if we staid in our studies and waited for the people to call upon us, without ever calling upon them? If some crabbed deacon, or poverty-stricken parishioner, or over-modest man or woman in a parish, thinks that we must first call upon them, are we to let them go beyond the bounds of our love and devotion, and wait for them to call upon us? It would be preposterous. The only rule for us is to visit every cottage and castle, and find out every human being in it that has a soul. So it is with regard to teachers and parents. The parents hire us with money — often without love — to take charge of the brains of their children, and they expect us to do the work. They do not expect to come to us to see how well their boys are getting along, any more than I expect my shoemaker will call upon me to see how my boots are getting along.
I would say, emphatically, that, if we would best secure the coöperation of parents, we must prove to them that we are taking charge of their children, that we are responding to their trust. They must see in the manners of their child, in the gathering greatness of his brow, in the glory of his eye, in the intelligence of his look, that we are working a change in his brain, a change in his whole being; that he is more manly, more true for our work; and until we can prove to the parent that we are doing that, we shall neither get his real coöperation, nor deserve it.
The question seems to me to be simplified and narrowed down to this, - How shall I make the parent believe I am doing the best possible for his child ? I can make him believe it by practising a sham, and in that way get his patronage and sympathy; but the real way, the only way that ought to impress itself upon the heart and conscience of respectable men and women, is to prove to them in reality that we are doing as well for their dear little ones as possible. And to do this we must look upon those boys and girls as minds; we must look through their bodies of flesh into their souls. In other words, we must engage in this work not as a steppingstone to something better, merely, but as the truest, noblest work to which it is possible for a human being to be called ; the work of a Christian, the work of a missionary, the work of Jesus Christ himself; and any man or woman who dares enter this profession having a lower aim than this — aiming at the dollar, aiming at social power— is degrading himself or herself, and the profession to which they were so sacredly called.
If, then, we wish to have the coöperation of parents, we we must prove to them, in every possible way, that those children are our children, those minds our minds; and, raising this standard in the air, climb up to it: “By God's help, I will treat that son as though he were my son, that daughter as though she were my little daughter;” and in so doing, being interested in this work, we shall surely win the hearts of the people; we shall win their confidence and coöperation; we shall be certain of their respect, and of our own selfrespect; and eventually we shall win to ourselves all that human beings ought to require. (Applause.)