Instructions for Teachers and Parents
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IRST, GET THE CHILDREN to come to your school. The great complaint with some teachers is, that they cannot obtain scholars. In London, we are having a canvass of the children; that is a good idea, and you ought to have a canvass of every country village, and of every market-town, and get into the Sunday-school every child you can. My advice to you is, get the children to come by all fair and right means. Do not bribe them; that is a plan to which we strongly object, and it is only adopted in schools of the lowest order, schools of so mean a class that even the fathers and mothers of the children have too much sense to send them there. "But, then, Farmer Brown won't employ them, or the squire will turn them out of their situations; or, if the children don't go to the school on Sundays, they shall not go on weekdays." Oh, that beggarly trick of bribing! I wish there were an end of it; it only shows the weakness, and degradation, and abomination of a sect that cannot succeed without using so mean a system. But with the exception of that method, do not be very particular how you get the children to school. Why, if I could not get people to come to my chapel by preaching in a black coat, I would have regimentals to-morrow, I would have a congregation somehow. Better do strange things than have an empty chapel, or an empty schoolroom. When I was in Scotland, we sent a bellman round a village to secure an audience, and the plan was eminently successful. Spare no right means, but do get the children in. I have known ministers who have gone out into the streets on the Lord's-day afternoon, and talked to the children who were playing about, and so induced them to come to the school. This is what an earnest teacher will do; he will say, "John, come into our school; you cannot think what a nice place it is." Then he gets the children in, and in his kind, winning manner he tells them stories and anecdotes about girls and boys who loved the Saviour, and in this way the school is filled. Go and catch the children. There is no law against it; all is fair in war against the devil. So my first instruction is, get the children, and get them anyhow that you can.
Next, get the children to love you, if you can. "Come, ye children, hearken unto me." You know how we used to be taught in the dame's school, how we stood up with our hands behind us to repeat our lessons. That was not David's plan. "Come, ye children,come here, and sit on my knee." "Oh!" thinks the child, "how nice to have such a teacher, a teacher who will let me come near him, a teacher who does not say, 'Go,' but 'Come!'" The fault of many teachers is that they do not get their children near them; but endeavour to foster in their scholars a kind of awful respect. Before you can teach children, you must get the silver key of kindness to unlock their hearts, and so secure their attention. Say, "Come, ye children." We have known some good men who were objects of abhorrence to children. You remember the story of two little boys who were one day asked if they would like to go to Heaven, and who, much to their teacher's astonishment, said that they really should not. When they were asked, "Why not?" one of them said, "I should not like to go to Heaven because grandpa would be there, and he would be sure to say, 'Get along, boys; be off with you!' I should not like to be in Heaven with grandpa." So, if a boy has a teacher who talks to him about Jesus, but who always wears a sour look, what does the boy think? "I wonder whether Jesus is like you; if so, I shouldn't like Him." Then there is another teacher, who, if he is provoked ever so little, boxes the child's ears; and, at the same time, teaches him that he should forgive others, and be kind to them. "Well," thinks the lad, "that is very pretty, no doubt, but my teacher doesn't show me how to do it." If you drive a boy from you, your power over him is gone, for you will not be able to teach him anything. It is of no avail to attempt teaching those who do not love you; so, try and make them love you, and then they will learn anything from you.
Next, get the children's attention. "Come, ye children, hearken unto me." If they do not hearken, you may talk, but you will speak to no purpose whatever. If they do not listen, you go through your labour as an unmeaning drudgery to yourselves and to your scholars, too. You can do nothing without securing their attention. "That is just what I cannot do," says one. Well, that depends upon yourself; if you give them something worth attending to, they will be sure to attend. Give them something worth hearing, and they will certainly hearken. This rule may not be universal, but it is very nearly so. Don't forget to give them a few anecdotes. Anecdotes are very much objected to by critics of sermons, who say they ought not to be used in the pulpit; but some of us know better than that, we know what will wake a congregation up; we can testify, from experience, that a few anecdotes here and there are first-rate things to get the attention of persons who will not listen to dry doctrine. Do try and gather as many good illustrations in the week as you possibly can; wherever you go, if you are really a wise teacher, you can always find something to make into a tale to tell your children. Then, when your scholars get dull, and you are losing their attention, say to them," Do you know the Five Bells?" If there is such a place in the village, they all open their eyes directly; or you ask, "Do know the turning against the Red Lion?" Then tell them something you have read or heard which will secure their attention to the lesson. A dear child once said, "Father, I like to hear Mr. So-and-so preach, because he puts so many 'likes' into his sermon;'like this, and like that.'" Yes, children always love those likes." Make parables, pictures, figures for them, and you will always get on. I am sure, if I were a boy listening to some of you, unless you told me a tale now and then, you would as often see the back of my head as my face; and I do not know, if I sat in a hot schoolroom, but that my head would nod, and I should go to sleep, or be playing with Tom on my left, and do as many strange things as the rest, if you did not strive to interest me. Remember, then, to make your scholars "hearken."