This book was written at the turn of the 20th century for Catholic teaching nuns. It is called The Catholic Teacher’s Companion – A book of Inspiration and Self-Help by Rev. Felix M. Kirsch, O.M.C. (1924). The lessons between the covers are valuable for parents, educators and all who work with children.
The children of today must be trained to stand on their own feet. The temptations of the present age are so numerous, and the moral support that the young people receive from their environment is all too often practically nil so that the pupils must upon leaving school he fortified to stand four-square to all the winds that blow.
Here again the teacher’s personality is an important factor. If her life and conduct are governed by the teachings of Christ, if she acts on principle and is not subject to the whims of the moment, she may hope to make true Catholic men and women of her boys and girls.
Our age needs boys and girls who have back-bone enough to lead Catholic lives amid frightful temptations, who are trained to practice virtue and shun vice even if the watchful eye of the teacher, priest, or parent is not observing them. But they cannot be trained to such independence of conscience if the teachers will not give their pupils more liberty as they grow up to the beginning of manhood and womanhood.
Put your pupils therefore on their honor; give them motives other than working for good marks and gold medals; let them obey and be industrious at their books because they will thus serve their own best interests.
Teach them the principles of manhood, and give them opportunities to translate these principles into their daily lives. In the higher grades of the elementary school and throughout the high school the teacher has many opportunities for allowing her pupils scope for the exercise of self-reliance. But even in the primary grades she should be on the alert to train the pupils to be self-active.
When assigning tasks, she should afford opportunities for the pupils’ initiative; for instance, when giving themes for compositions, or when controlling the reading of authors. She may also train the pupils to self-reliance by encouraging them to make collections of stamps, plants, insects, bugs, butterflies, etc.
Another means for training them to be self-reliant is to encourage them to tutor some of the weaker pupils of the class. By placing mite boxes for the missions or by starting a school savings bank, she will encourage her pupils to make sacrifices of their own accord, and to deny themselves the enjoyment of sweets or the use of tobacco.
It goes without saying that the campus and the playground offer untold possibilities for the development of self-reliance, and the teacher should make her influence felt in this direction also.
The charge is sometimes made that boys brought up in orphan asylums fail as soon as they are given the liberties of the world. The boys will undoubtedly fail if they have not been trained to use the liberties aright.
Though guarded scrupulously against all that might prove a temptation, they are not prepared for the battle that is unavoidable in the world at large, and hence in their later lives are at the mercy of the snares that beset their path on every side.
The boys and girls attending our schools are exposed to dangers enough, but what must be insisted upon is that they be trained in self-help for the greater struggle that is certain to be theirs.
Let them be taught the practice of living in the presence of God. Let their minds be impressed with the idea that we all are soldiers, that life is a warfare, where each must face for himself the eternal enemy of our souls and his accomplices among wicked men and in our own lower nature.
Men keep sacred the memory of those teachers of their boyhood days who appealed to them to be little men, little soldiers against the devil and his wily temptations. Act in this way with your pupils, and in their adult lives they may be bruised and scarred in many a battle, but they will bless the memory of their teachers for training them to stand to their guns.
It might be mentioned in this connection that the teacher should not neglect to train her pupils’ sense of honor. She will do this most effectively by giving praise and blame in just proportion. She must use praise and blame more frequently with very young pupils, as they are not capable of judging themselves, and have no standard other than the teacher’s word for evaluating their work or conduct. But the more mature pupil must be habituated to perform his tasks out of a sense of duty.
While a judicious admixture of praise and blame will probably produce the best results, we feel safe in saying that praise is, on the whole, more effective than blame.
Educators are complaining quite generally about the decay of reverence among young people. There is therefore need for training our pupils to practice reverence. They should learn to reverence their fellow-men, who are made after the image of God, and are prospective citizens of heaven.
They should be taught to reverence themselves as being temples of the Holy Ghost. They owe special reverence to their father and mother; to their teachers, who are their foster-parents; and to their priests, who are their fathers in God.
The reverence that our pupils owe to their superiors is grounded on the principle that human authority takes the place of God among men.
Special laws were passed in ancient Sparta to enforce the reverence due to the aged. When an aged man entered the room, a youth who might happen to be present had to give up his seat to him, and was not permitted to speak except when asked.
At Athens an old man came into the theater after all places had been taken, yet none of his fellow-citizens offered him a seat. But when he approached the Spartan ambassadors, they all arose to offer him a seat in the most honored place.
The Athenians applauded the respect of the Spartans, but one in the audience remarked truly enough: “Though the Athenians know what is right, they fail to practice it.”
Reverence, like all other virtues, must be taught by doctrine, practice, and example. Teachers should inculcate reverence by practicing it toward their pupils.
A Latin proverb tells us, Maxima debetur puero reverentia, “We owe very great reverence to the child.”
Every teacher must therefore in her own conduct be a model of politeness and refinement. She must, indeed, demand respect for herself, but if the precept is reinforced by her own refined demeanor and due reverence for all, she will undoubtedly receive universal respect.
She must, therefore, be courteous when asking pupils for service, and must not neglect to acknowledge their kindness. Thus she will prepare the way for insisting that the pupils, too, should be courteous to one another.
This will require special efforts in the case of boys as it is not ignorance or that is generally responsible for their bad manners, but merely the dread of being considered a “sissy” by the “other fellows.”
Punctuality exacts self-discipline and detachment; it often asks us to interrupt some interesting, pleasant work in order to give ourselves to another kind, perhaps less attractive or less important.
However, it would be a great mistake to esteem our duties and to dedicate ourselves to them according to the attraction we have for them or according to their more or less apparent importance.
All is important and beautiful when it is the expression of the will of God, and the soul who wishes to live in this hole he will every minute of the day, will never omit the slightest act prescribed by its rule of life. -Divine Intimacy
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