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manipulating the dictionary, so he starts at the beginning, and in a blundering way proceeds to go through the whole book until he discovers the letter T. What does the mother do in her role as assistant? When she sees how inexperienced he is, she says, “Why, you know the letter T comes after S, and is near the end of the alphabet. You must look toward the end of the dictionary. Find R; R comes before S. Let me show you how to find it,” she adds; and she takes the dictionary and hunts out the letter T.
But the novice does not understand how to go forward, even when he has the letter T; for he does not know what comes after T in the original, and he asks his mother. The mother then spells out the first syllable. She adds: “You know R comes toward the end of the alphabet, so you must look way along toward the end of the T's." Then when he finally gets the Tri, and wants to know “what comes next,” she tells him every letter as he needs it, and she also tells him its relative position in the vocabulary. All the child does is to go through the manual process of turning over the leaves. He has not really thought his way through any of his difficulties. Since he was not led to take the initiative at any point, he will be practically helpless if he is ever placed in another situation like this, because he has gained little, if anything, from his experience to-day which will make him self-helpful in the days to
Some teachers depend altogether upon home assistance in the child's learning how to use the dictionary, which is, by the way, one of the most difficult feats for the novice, and one of the most important, in order that he may avoid waste of time and energy. A distinguished physician recently said that the vision of a good many children is ruined from the use of the dictionary; and when one observes the fruitless, unintelligent wandering through a dictionary of the typical fifth and sixth-grade pupil, he can appreciate that it is a serious tax on his physical and mental constitution.
But let us continue with our typical case. The pupil finally happens upon the word triumphal, and it Teaching to satisfy for
is defined by the use of two mal requirements in- or three synonyms, none of stead of to train a pupil which is any more familiar in self-helpfulness to him than the word he is looking up. What does the typical parent do in such a crisis? He reads the synonyms to his child, and then tells him what one he had better choose to employ as a substitute for the original. He does not lead the novice to get some kind of a hold on the meaning of the unfamiliar words either the original or the substitutes. He simply asks him to learn memoriter the substitute agreed upon, so that he may satisfy the requirement of the teacher, whether or not he derives any useful training in the process. As intimated above, the parent is not concerned primarily with the value of the experience of a child in performing a task, but only in assisting him to get at the result, so that when the hour of need comes in the recitation, he can render up what he has memorized, and so satisfy the teacher. Of course, if the teacher would always make the proper test with a pupil to discover whether he had himself taken all the steps leading up to any conclusion, she would quickly discover that he had accepted the result worked out by the parent, and absorbed it by sheer force of memory.
If the lessons in any subject be mastered at home, there is some danger that the work will be done in a mechanical, memoriter fashion. It is the writer's opinion that the chief difficulty with modern teaching, as with teaching in all times probably, is that it seeks to get at formal results without regard to the sort of experience which the individual has in reaching the same. It requires patience and supreme skill to teach a learner to take the initiative in all that he is learning—to go ahead of the teacher instead of to follow on; and in this way to be self-active in a
genuine sense. When a teacher says to her pupil, "You must do the work yourself”, the latter is apt to think this means learning by heart a process which has been initiated by some one else. If the teacher could in any way make certain that the pupil would receive in his home expert guidance in taking the initiative in his work, then there would be a distinct advantage in having some tasks done there, because the parent could give his child individual attention.
It ought to be possible to impress upon sixth-grade pupils, say, the value of doing most of the original work in any process themselves, seeking assistance only by way of guidance. And there is a fundamental difference between guiding and helping, as these words are ordinarily interpreted. In guiding an individual, one simply causes him to consider the situation before him so that he may see how he ought to move. In the hands of a skilful guide, the novice is led to consider all the conditions involved in making up his mind what he ought to do, whether in arithmetic, in geography, or in anything else. If he is attacking a new situation, he must be stimulated to call up all he has experienced that bears upon it. His inclination will be not to do this. If he would do it spontaneously, there would be no need for teachers, of course. The tendency of the untrained person in a new situation is to become confused.
Not until he has had long training in using his experience will he gain such momentum that he can, without any guidance whatever, employ it effectively so that he can solve his own problems. A welltrained college graduate ought to be able to do this on all occasions. A well-trained high-school pupil should be able to do it in most of the situations in which he finds himself in the high school. An eighth-grade pupil should be completely self-helpful in respect to much that he studies—practically everything in reading, very much in geography, most of arithmetic, and everything in spelling. The pupil in the first grade is, of course, the least able to use his experience so as to solve new problems. But no matter what point he has reached in his educational development, skilful teaching can lead him to take the initiative in most of what should be taught him.