Twenty Talks to Teachers

by Thomas E. Sanders

Chapter 14: Ten Time Killers

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1908
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Source: Sanders, T. E. (1908). Twenty Talks to Teachers. The Teachers Co–Operative Company.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 10.4
  • Word Count: 2,819
  • Genre: Informational
  • Keywords: education, educational, learning, teaching
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School time is precious. Each minute should count. The formation of correct habits is the greatest end of school work. Surely then the proper use of time is essential to a successful school. We lose time in so many ways. It often looks as if teachers tried to waste time purposely. We cultivate lazy habits in pupils by letting things drag. They learn to snooze over their lessons, to grope about mentally, to allow their minds to wander to irrelevant things, to put off until the last minute what should be done promptly and well.

The teacher should not seem to hurry. The intense nervous tension sometimes found is detrimental. But the school–room should be a workshop in which pupils are intelligently and profitably busy. They should be happy in their work, but they should be working. The work should be done well, this brings even to little children the feeling of satisfaction, the feeling that it is worth while in school. The work should be intelligent, educative work. In the modern school the strength and worth of the teacher and the principal is shown in the intelligence and breadth of view with which the school work is selected. We are going wild on busy work. Interest is an essential to profitable work, but all work in which the teacher may get up interest and enthusiasm may not be profitable work. To say that because pupils are easily interested in raffia weaving, sewing, manual training, etc., does not necessarily prove that these subjects are essential to the best development. The child's interest is usually a borrowed interest, at least is often a borrowed interest. You could get up just as much interest in building a snow man, in jumping the rope, in rolling rocks down a hill or splashing water in the brook as in the raffia work or domestic science. It requires more than the fact that children may be made to like a subject to justify its use in school. The pupils should be busy and busy at intelligent, educative work. They should be happy in that work. Happiness usually comes from the feeling of doing something, and doing this thing well.

But let us notice some of the time killers. They are numerous. The ten mentioned below are probably the most common among young teachers, although it is not assumed that the list is complete.

1. Lack of definite plans for the day.—For the teacher who has never made definite plans for her daily work, it is hard for her to understand the loss of time and energy—time and energy on the part of the pupils and even more so, time and energy on the part of the teacher. You should, from the course of study, know what is expected of the grade in a term. Divide this by the number of months you have to teach. Look over the work carefully, examine the text–book, note what supplementary work you think the text will need. Then at the be ginning of each month write out briefly, but specifically, what you want the class to do each week of the month. With this general outline before you, work out in advance each day's program for the first week. At the end of the week prepare in the same way each day's program for the second week, etc. It will take but a few minutes, and it will be profitable minutes to you and to the class.

If you find that you cannot do the work planned for the month, do not worry about it, but do well as much of it as you can and pass the rest over to the next month. If you find you can complete the work of the month well, and have extra time, do not by any means keep the class marking time and waiting. Take up the work of the next month. The important thing is that you set yourself and your class a certain task—I do not mean to imply that it is an unpleasant task—for each month, each week and each day of the week. This lesson plan made at times of leisure or when the mind is free to consider the work as a unit will be a criterion for judging your own progress with the class and will be a valuable guide in planning how best to present the subjects to the class. It will save you much time and energy and worry at the recitation periods when every thing must be centered on the work before you.

2. By allowing slovenly work.—I believe that from one to two hours a week are lost in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth years, in the subject of arithmetic alone, be cause the pupils in the first four years are not properly drilled in the four fundamental processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There should be snap and vim and hustle in the early number work. The tables should be learned and learned thoroughly. Pupils should be drilled in rapid combinations. It may be well to know how to develop the multiplication table, but knowing how to develop it will never take the place of knowing it. Time is wasted in developing in early number work when it should be used in knowing, in thorough committing to memory. When asked how many seven times seven, the child should answer forty nine as quickly and with as little hesitation as if asked his own name. The drill should be so perfect the men tal response is instantaneous.

3. By rusty machinery.—There are many things about the school that must be looked upon as the machinery of the school. Order and decorum are great time savers, but red–tape for its own sake is to be avoided. Keep your thoughts centered on what you want done and how this can be done with least loss of time. I was at the opening of a famous normal school a few years ago. The freshman class was to be divided into three sections. Two teachers, normal teachers too—teachers whose very methods are supposed to be worthy models—spent over forty minutes in making the division. It was tiresome to the class and tiresome to me to observe. In less than ten minutes I should have passed about pointing to each student numbering as I pointed, "first," "second," "third," "first," "second," "third," etc. Then I should have asked all those numbered "first" to take one part of the assembly room. All numbered "second" to take another. All those numbered "third" to take another. Then in ten minutes more by passing slips of paper I should have had the names and addresses of each and the class could have been dismissed.

Time is wasted in the passing of classes, the distribution of wraps, collecting of papers and necessary school movements. Teachers often lose from two to five minutes by a clumsy method of collecting or distributing papers. I saw a good part of a recitation period lost recently by a teacher in a city school where I was visit ing. She wanted the composition papers collected and redistributed. There seemed to be no system or fore thought either in collecting or redistributing, several pupils getting their own papers back for correction. Some such plan as follows would have saved time, energy and discipline :"Time." All pupils stop work and sit in easy, graceful positions.

"Papers to the right." Each places the paper to the right side of the desk where the monitors can reach it easily.

"Collect." Pupils in back row of seats acting as monitors quickly and quietly collect the papers in regular order to the front.

"Exchange." Monitors exchange papers in some regular order.

"Redistribute." Monitors pass back to their seat, placing a paper on each pupil's desk as they pass.

With these five simple directions the compositions could have been collected and redistributed for correction. No time is lost. There is no noise or confusion. The very matter of collecting helps in order and decorum.

Oil up the machinery of your school–room and see if you cannot gain from ten to twenty minutes each day and at the same time get better results.

4. Lack of scholarship.—If a teacher has ballast and good judgment, no amount of well–organized knowledge will hurt her. Narrow vision, poor judgment as to what is essential and what is not, gets clouded explanations. This leads to lack of interest and loss of time. Clear–cut, definite knowledge on the part of the teacher will put life and vim in the teaching.

5. Grinding over and over again things already known well.—Nothing is more detrimental to mental growth. Teachers too often fail to discriminate between thoroughness and mere mechanical repetition. Be thorough, but be alive. There is much drill work to be done. There is no substitute for it. We fail often in the newer education because we neglect drill and re view, but there should be life in the work, not mere marking of time and perfunctory repetition. Nowhere is drill more necessary than in number work, and yet this drill need never drag or become uninteresting. One of my fourth grade teachers had done good work in the mechanical part of number work. Her class had been accurate and rapid, and I had allowed them upon several occasions to challenge other rooms. In fact they had done well the foundation work in numbers so essential to good work in arithmetic in the upper grades. To test them I asked the class to vote upon which they would prefer, a fourth of a day picnic out on the lake front or to spend the same time ciphering against some other room. They voted almost as a unit to cipher against the other room. They had been doing the grinding process, it is true, but do you think it had been marking time with them? Every minute had been a pleasure to them because each had been pitted against some other. This had made the work a contest and a pleasure instead of a grind. It is the grind without the pleasure and over something well known that kills.

6. Assigning lessons without any thought on the teacher's part of their contents.—Many teachers would find it hard to solve the problems which they assign to the class in the same time the class has for preparation. The result is that they do not get over the lesson next day. This leaving off part of the lesson day after day soon gets a habit in the class to prepare only the first of the lesson, feeling confident that they will never get down to the last of it. Teachers should know the con tents of the lesson they ask the class to prepare. They should assign only what the class can do well in the time. Then each member should feel that he is held strictly accountable for an honest effort to get the whole lesson.

7. Not teaching pupils how to prepare lessons.—The greatest service a teacher can do for a class is to teach them how to study. Pupils waste hour after hour in honest effort with little accomplished and much discouragement by not knowing how to apply themselves to the work before them. One of my boyhood spelling books has marks to show that I had studied the lesson more than sixty times. I wanted to be faithful, I thought I was doing the right thing. But I was not. I should have learned the lesson by heart so that I could have spelled it from beginning to end in less than sixty times study if I had really studied. What a saving of time if my teacher had taught me how to study my spelling, to think each word over slowly and carefully as I spelled it to myself, to center my best efforts on the words in the list which I was not sure of knowing, instead of studying all alike. Then if I had been taught to study I should never have kept careful account as to how many times I studied the lesson. My thought was to satisfy myself and my teacher that I had tried, instead of getting the lesson. Frequently spend a recitation with pupils until you feel sure they know how to study and apply them selves. One of the greatest compliments a former pupil ever paid me was when he said that I taught him how to apply himself and how to study.

8. Talking too much.—The greatest fault of all, the greatest loss of time perhaps, when teachers as a body are considered, is the fault of constant and often useless talking. Teachers repeat over and over again. They scold and keep it up and keep it up. They explain and explain and keep it up and keep it up.

"Full many a teacher you may know,

Along life's slippery pathway walking, Who left off thinking years ago, But kept on talking."

To spend time in further explanation and elucidation of any point after it has dawned clearly on the pupil's consciousness is a waste of time to the pupil and has a tendency to destroy interest in the subject. To explain a thing to them and then to explain it "in other words" and "in other words" and then again "in other words," as many teachers do, is deadening to mental growth. I am not speaking of repetition of knowledge in review to deepen and impress it firmly on the mind. I am speaking of new knowledge. When the teacher has explained a point briefly, definitely, understanding, he catches the gleam of recognition in the pupil's eye, showing that the explanation is understood. Further talk and explanation is useless and even detrimental.

9. Answering useless questions.—If the teacher is weak, there will be a growing habit in many pupils to ask useless questions as well as to ask over and over again for repetitions. I have known pupils who would, unless restrained, ask for the repetition of half the words in a spelling lesson. Speak distinctly, and teach pupils to listen attentively. It is the part of the pupil's duty to listen attentively to every word of the teacher that is addressed to him or his class. Another habit of many teachers is after a question has been properly answered by some pupil, to again state the answer herself. Nothing is more deadening either to the pupil who first gave the answer or to the interest of the class. If a pupil answers a question accurately, no further comment is necessary. For the teacher to repeat the answer is worse than a waste of time.

Then there is the tell–tale pupil, who is always ready to run to the teacher with little troubles, always being imposed upon by others. Every teacher of experience knows such pupils. Discourage tattling, but make sure the child is not being imposed upon. A little Italian girl kept coming to me and to her teacher with all sorts of imaginary grievances, until she came in one day with her tale of woe when I had weightier matters to attend to. Rather more vigorous than polite, I told her if she came to me with such hatched–up troubles again I should punish her. It had the desired effect. Show pupils who have all kinds of imaginary troubles how it becomes a duty for them to put themselves in harmony with other pupils and to live agreeably with the school family. Then with a careful lookout that they are not being imposed upon deny them the right of coming to you with tales of woe, else you may use much time every day chasing phantoms.

10. Failing to keep the room ventilated.—No one can work vigorously in contaminated air. It will be a great day when every school–room will have proper heating and ventilation. For some years I have worked where there were adequate provision for forcing pure, warm, filtered air into every room in abundance, while the foul, impure, dusty air was being constantly forced out. The value of pure air and ventilation can readily be seen when one compares such conditions and contrasts them with many school–rooms. No school can do proper work without proper ventilation and heating. Do not neglect this important matter in your school.