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Unfit school teachers

As we celebrate Children’s Day this month in our Methodist Schools, it is worth reflecting on the relevance of teacher behaviour in dealing with their pupils. This short, but powerful, article came out a century ago, but, its message continues to be a challenge to teachers whose actions speak louder than words that “preach” Christ’s message, but are less than exemplary.

‘ALITTLE Chinese lad was brought by his father the other day for us to see, on his arm, the evidence of punishment administered by his school teacher, “because he did not (perhaps could not?) study”.

The poor little fellow’s arm, from the elbow to the shoulder, was a dreadful, ugly-coloured bruise.

Without weighing the merits of the case, even conceding that the boy was wholly deserving of punishment, the person that could leave such palpable evidences of undiscriminating and excessive use of force, must be no more than a brute.

In this case the wrong is aggravated by the fact that when the boy’s father returned with a note merely asking, without rebuke or comment, for the lad’s certificate of dismissal, and the name of the “lady” teacher who forgot her sex and her vocation, the principal practically endorsed this out-of-date, barbarous sort of discipline by abusing the man and refusing a reply. It is hard work to refrain from adding the names in print.

Another teacher in a different school where he had a good reputation as an instructor but where the principal we know does not approve of the methods we take exception to, one day threw a book across the room at a boy, striking him in the eye.

So long as such examples of unrestrained or misdirected animal passion as this are found behind the desk, how in the name of consistency can anything better be expected in front of the desk?

Any teacher who could so grossly forget his or her self-respect as to demean himself in the eyes of the pupils, has no right to expect good behaviour from them.

Still another unfit person to instruct children is the profane man.

Whatever his personal inclinations, tendencies or morals, the school teacher has no more right to use profane language, not to indulge in any other gross habit or pastime, notably betting than a waiter has to appear at table in the clothes and odour of a hostler. It isn’t a month, however, since we met a prominent educationalist whose language smelt offensively of brimstone.

So long as teachers are so scarce that the brutal and profane are kept on the rostrum, there is room for missionary teachers.

It is worth five years of a man’s life, or a woman’s, to place before the impressionable mind of our youth a daily example of Christian purity and manly self-control even if one never uttered a syllable of positive Christian teaching.

But in the meantime, teachers from whose rooms children issue with black eyes and bruised limbs, looking more like the result of drunken wrath than of intelligent discipline, are our special target.’ – MM December 1906, p. 20-21.

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.


To the Unknown Teacher

I SING the praise of the Unknown Teacher.
Great Generals win campaigns, but it is the Unknown Soldier who wins the war.

Famous educators plan new systems of pedagogy, but
it is the Unknown Teacher who delivers and guides the young.

He lives in obscurity and contends with hardship. For
him no trumpets blare, no chariots wait, no golden decorations are decreed.

He knows the watch along the borders of darkness, and makes the
attack on the trenches of ignorance and folly. Patient in his duty,
he strives to conquer the evil powers which are the enemies of youth.
He awakens sleeping spirits. He quickens the indolent, encourages
the eager, and steadies the unstable.

He communicates his own joy of learning, and shares with boys and
girls the best treasures of the mind. He lights many candles, which, in
later years, will shine back and cheer him. This is his reward.

No one is more worthy to be enrolled in the democratic
Aristocracy, “King of himself and servant of mankind.’’


— HENRY VAN DYKE (1852-1933).



WATCH your Thoughts, they become words.

Watch your Words, they become actions.

Watch your Actions, they become habits.

Watch your Habits,

they become character. Watch your Character,

for it becomes your Destiny …