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Work and Play in Girls' Schools By Three Head Mistresses

Dorothea Beale

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
The book is divided into three Sections, and each of the writers is responsible only for her own part, and yet I hope it will not be merely a composite book; all the contributors are members of the teaching staff of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, or have at some time formed part of it, and now, as then, there is I believe a unity of purpose, which will give harmony to the work. The book is intended to be a practical one, helpful chiefly to teachers in our large Secondary Schools; the limits imposed compel us (1) to deal more with methods than the underlying principles; (2) to isolate more or less the influences of the school from those of the manifold environment, which are at the same time forming the body, mind and character of the child, and which seem to make the school-life of relatively small moment; (3) we have to treat only of a few years of life; for, like the bird of the fable, the soul of the child comes to us often from some unknown region, stays for a while in our banqueting hall, and then passes again into the darkness. Yet I suppose the experience of most of us bears witness to the great importance of the school-life as one of the factors in the “development of a soul”. “The atmosphere, the discipline, the life” of the school is so potent, that the word education has been often limited to the school period, and the pupils of an Aristotle, an Ascham, an Arnold, speak of their teachers as having given them a new life. Our work is not insignificant, and our earnest study must be by instruction and discipline, by what Plato calls music and gymnastic, to promote the harmonious development of the character; to bring our children into sympathetic relations with the noble and the good of all ages; to lead them into the possession of that good land, “flowing with milk and honey,” the spiritual inheritance of humanity. I would fain hope, that one day all teachers will endeavour to spend at least some time, before entering on professional work, in studying the art, the science, the philosophy of education. In this little book we have had to restrict ourselves almost to the first, but we have referred to works which deal with the higher aspects of the subject. I would earnestly press on all my readers, that their own education must never be regarded as finished; if we cease to learn, we lose the power of sympathy with our pupils, and a teacher without intellectual and moral sympathy has no dynamic, no inspiring force. Especially should all teachers be students of psychology, of that marvellous instrument, from which it is ours to draw forth heavenly harmonies. To many a teacher might the words of Hamlet be addressed by her pupils:— How unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice in this little organ; yet cannot you make it speak. Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Though you can fret me, yet cannot you play upon me.