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Whilst we thus insist on the Sunday class for all our grown-up girls, we would be very careful in our way of organizing it. It is not for children, but for young women; and we must remember to show this by making it quite separate from the Sunday school.
It can be only held once a day, before afternoon service, and as a preparation for it (since these girls are often wanted at home in the morning), and probably cannot last much longer than an hour at a time. It is also better for these girls to meet together in their teacher's house and not in the regular school, for they will then feel that they are really asked to meet and read with her, and not, as they are so apt to think, "going to school" like little children. But before we proceed to the actual rules and plans for the class, we must say a few words as to the manner of collecting and admitting the girls, which will also apply to the weekly classes. In order to keep the big girls from falling off, you must be careful to refuse any girl belonging to the school, or who is below the
of fourteen; and for the sake of the class, as well as for that of the girls, you should not admit them indiscriminately. We must be discreet in restraining the feeling which prompts us to hold out the right hand of admission to the worst in the place, in hope of reforming them. Should we not do so, we shall find the character of the class gradually deteriorating, the best girls forsaking it, and the mothers justly alarmed. Nor can you tell the mischief of class companionship with a bad set, for you do not see how often it leads the way (as indeed it should) to friendship and intimacy. Inquiry should first be made as to the character of each girl of the parents and neighbours, and if you find gross misconduct or extreme unsteadiness and wildness, you must refuse even the most anxious entreaties.
gross” and treme,” for we would not shut the door against those who have for a time been led astray, but who are now in earnest in their desire for better things. Steady attendance on the Sunday and weekly classes is in itself a pledge of good conduct, and has often reclaimed a wild and thoughtless girl. But the openly dishonest or light in conduct must, for the sake of others, be rejected. “What then,” shall we be asked, "will you, after asserting how often a helping hand and a timely word have saved those on the brink of a fall, refuse to give it? What then will become of these unfortunate ones?" We can only reply that if they are on the brink and have not yet fallen, we would certainly admit them, on their own assurance of striving to do better; and should have great hopes of success. But if they have already yielded to vice or open sin we could not, consistently with our duty to the others under our charge, receive them. We visit their sins upon them not willingly, but because we are sure that the respectable, well-conducted girls ought to be able to be held forth as examples to the rest of the parish if we wish the classes to be of service, and to be considered as preventives against
vice. As for the poor girls themselves, we can only expect to benefit them by teaching them alone, or with one or two others of the same class, whenever we see that they are penitent enough to be instructed.
The teacher, before she finally admits her pupils, should go round to the parents and explain her wishes and plans as well as her rules, begging for their approval and support. She will but seldom receive any assistance from the parents' authority--for the girls are, alas! free to do as they please—but they will be more likely to be on the lady's side and to help her by persuading their daughters to attend regularly; and if the parents are interested in their daughters' progress they will not interfere by keeping them from their classes on trivial pretexts.
Your next step will be to speak quietly and privately to each girl as you admit her.
Take her into your room where you may make her at ease with you by pointing to some sacred picture or figure quite new to her, and talk to her about her own life, with its duties and trials, and say
how you desire to help her in these things by your instruction. She will be touched and gratified, and the strange sights will stamp your words on her mind and make her more anxious to come and learn about them. A girl of fourteen who was thus addressed before entering the class of big girls, was much struck at a picture of our Lord bearing
Her teacher explained how, by this example, she could endure her own crosses or small daily trials.
“ And I dare say you have something that troubles you at home,” concluded she. The girl, before so sheepish and insensible, brightened up, and said in a manner that made the lady smile, “Please, ma'am, it's baby; he's my little cross, for he's always a fretting, and so heavy to carry!" Quaint and funny as the application was, it set her right with her teacher, and she became one of her most attentive and earnest-minded pupils.
The system of teaching as well as the actual rules must of course vary with different dispositions, and with the tastes and wishes of the teacher. But some hints may be of use, and these we proceed to give. Our first anxiety must be to make them understand the privilege of being a member of the class of grown-up girls, and the duty of being a credit to it so as to keep up its good not only on their own number, but on those who do not belong to it. They should be shown the responsibility they incur in being well taught, and whilst you encourage them to come by giving good marks, prizes, or by lending books and pictures, you should always appeal to the highest motive, viz., the fulfilling of a duty. Whilst you are particular do not be over strict, but make few rules, and keep them. They must attend regularly, be punctual, orderly, and attentive; but do not be afraid of a lighter story after the principal lesson is over, or check the suppressed laugh or pleased smiles which it will produce.
Be determined that not one shall stay away without a good reason, and either exact a message or a petition for leave, if it be necessary. But if it is only a Sunday's absence now and then, do not mind it. The rule of attending divine service afterwards ought always to be kept, except when a mother asks that the girl may return in order that she herself may go to church, and shows that her daughter has been in the morning. You will have opportunities at the Sunday-class of directing their conduct for the coming week. You may, without an actual lecture, and drawing your advice from the gospel, epistle, or lessons for the day, talk to them about many temptations and occurrences, and warn them in the time of the village clubs or of any other doubtful festivity, against unrestrained or evil pleasures. Perhaps you find that they are apt to gossip or have quarrels with each other, or have been wild and unsteady; you can easily point out the sin of these faults and illustrate their tendencies by some story of your own; the duties of servants selected for them out of the Bible, when a girl is about to leave you for service; the duties of home life for those who remain; the lessons that every season with its plants, flowers, and animals may teach-should each be dwelt upon in turn, and may, with God's blessing, come back to them when needed. The evils of smart dress must be publicly noticed, for the difficulty of checking its excess is, indeed, almost impossible, so ready are they to be offended at your mentioning it or to doubt your motive for doing so.
One lady found it carried to such a point of smart tawdriness, that she felt she could no longer avoid a rule as to the style of dress at her class; she did not like too great particularity or wish to curtail the liberty of her pupils, but made her stand upon flowers outside their bonnets, which she did not even wear herself, and which could be removed without injury to the trimming. The consequence was, that though she explained her reasons very gently, two preferred to leave the class and their teacher rather than stay without their flowers. The mothers were quite as angry as their daughters; but, happily, when the lady despaired as to the influence she had gained over their minds, they repented, and, asking pardon, were reinstated, whilst the rule remained and produced an alteration for the better.
But whilst you may publicly reprove and allude to common faults and temptations, you must never do so to a girl on a private offence. To do so would, if there is any good in her, make her feel always uncomfortable with her companions, and give them an opportunity to laugh at her, or talk lightly about her fault, or would harden the offender and make her sullen and careless instead of penitent and softened. A few kind sorrowful words in private will often bring the tears of a better feeling, and persuade the girls, by your very anxiety to take them apart and screen their faults from their companions, that you really feel for them and wish them to do better. In the whole of your conduct
towards them, be careful to consider their feelings, wishes, and tastes, and to show your love by consulting them in little things; perhaps an elder girl would be pleased to help you by hearing a younger one repeat her lesson ; let her do so: another would like to see this book, learn that hymn, or hear that other story-don't forget these desires. Sometimes make them useful to you, send for them to see you if anything happens to them, and always have a long serious talk as a leave-taking, should they be going away. Let them help in decorating the church, in planting flowers round the graves, and do not pay, but thank them. But. some will say, “Ought we in our Sunday teaching to consult what they wish, and give up our plan for theirs ?” No, certainly not; but strive and make your plans agreeable to them by being thoroughly in earnest and interested yourself. Your teaching will be new to them, and will contain doctrines quite different to those some may have heard at chapel, or even to what are generally received and acted upon at home. For they belong to the Church of England, and without entering into controversy you will try to explain the Bible by the Prayerbook; and striving to instil into them the daily and common use of her collects, psalms, and litanies, you will go on to prove that the beautiful services in her Book of Common Prayer are but an echo of the Bible, and do indeed hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. You will also fill their minds and banish evil thoughts with holy chapters from the New and Old Testaments, with psalms and hymns, not learnt according to your own fancy, but in regular order pointed out by our own Church in the appointed reading for each Sunday, and which may help to illustrate the festivals and fasts commemorating the life and example of our Saviour. Nor need you dread that these heavenly truths should fall dull and heavy on uninterested ears. Only apply and bring them home to their hearts and lives with ever-increasing care and unwearied earnestness; and though they may not produce an impression that remains, you will yet touch them for the time.
Above all make use of your great weapon, God's tender love for them as his children. We have seen tears in the eyes of the dullest, when this has been so simply told as to assure them of that blessed truth. "What then,” we shall be asked, “ will be the result of this Sunday teaching? Will it be sufficient without other aids and forms ?” Teaching once a week, though it is a witness to, and a means of recalling and instilling the truth, cannot improve their opinions and ideas of everyday life, or make them able to fulfil the home duties of servants, wives, mothers and daughters; and though no teaching could be successful without the Sunday-class, we need a more extended machinery of weekly evening teaching. Our principle must be to bring them as often as is practicable under our own influence, and to counteract the
temptations and lax principles of home by the instruction, occupations, and amusements we shall bring to bear upon them.
For this purpose we institute weekly classes for sewing, writing, reading, and arithmetic, in which we don't follow merely the dry drudgery of learning, but branch out by the help of the amusing tracts of the present day into sanitary rules, into the domestic duties which will be required from them, and into some principles of household economy.
Those who are well acquainted with the careless management of the poor, will see the need of this kind of instruction. These classes should meet two or three times a week, as the case will allow; and if you possess the means, you might proceed on one of these nights to instruct as many as like to learn in some simple cookery; such as making soup, arrowroot, beef-tea, milk puddings, which are so much needed by the sick, and which are usually turned out in such an extraordinary fashion by the generality of the labouring classes. Another use may be made of these meetings; they may give you the opportunity of choosing, with the mother's approbation, two or three of the nicest and quickest for the purpose of instructing them in the duties of house and kitchen, under your own servants two or three days in the week. Of course you do not pay them; for it is enough that you are enabling them to enter at once as under servants in a respectable family. Others, who have a laundry, may invite two at a time to come into it to learn washing; which, of course, will be a real help to them for the whole of their lives. In whatever way we can occupy them and lead their minds to higher and purer interests, we are benefiting them, although, perhaps, we may not have the power to form regular industrial classes for service or home life. Yet the classes which we will describe now more particularly are capable of being carried on by most people, and will give the opportunity of directing and watching their conduct, and of volunteering help and advice without offence to the girls or their parents.
The girls can only assemble together in the evening, as more than half will be engaged in field labour. And as they have to get their tea, and make themselves neat after their return, you will not be able to hold your class before six o'clock in winter and seven in spring and summer. They ought not to stay later than eight o'clock in winter, and half-past eight in summer. If possible, preside over them yourself, for they will be ruled best by you; and if you cannot meet them at the village school-room, assemble them under your own roof in the servant's hall, or some other available room. You will by so doing make room at the school for the boys' night-classes, and by keeping a strict watch over the conduct of the girls in coming and going, you can check any forward romping with the boys, or unseemly play with cach other. “But can it be right,” many people will ask, “ to bring girls out late at night? It is all very well for boys; but for girls, do