School Experiences.

From: Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1874).
Author: R.W. Emerson, W.H. Channing, J.F. Clarke
Published: Roberts Brothers 1874 Boston


  The new institution of which I am to be “Lady Superior” was dedicated last Saturday. People talk to me of the good I am to do; but the last fortnight has been so occupied in the task of arranging many scholars of various ages and unequal training, that I cannot yet realize this new era. * *

  The gulf is vast, wider than I could have conceived possible, between me and my pupils; but the sight of such deplorable ignorance, such absolute burial of the best powers, as I find in some instances, makes me comprehend, better than before, how such a man as Mr. Alcott could devote his life to renovate elementary education. I have pleasant feelings when I see that a new world has already been opened to them. * *

  Nothing of the vulgar feeling towards teachers, too often to be observed in schools, exists towards me. The pupils seem to reverence my tastes and opinions in all things; they are docile, decorous, and try hard to please; they are in awe of my displeasure, but delighted whenever permitted to associate with me on familiar terms. As I treat them like ladies, they are anxious to prove that they deserve to be so treated. * *

  There is room here for a great move in the cause of education, and if I could resolve on devoting five or six years to this school, a good work might, doubtless, be done. Plans are becoming complete in my mind, ways and means continually offer, and, so far as I have tried them, they succeed. I ·am left almost as much at liberty as if no other person was concerned. Some sixty scholars are more or less under my care, and many of them begin to walk in the new paths pointed out. General activity of mind, accuracy in processes, constant looking for principles, and search after the good and the beautiful, are the habits I strive to develop. * *

  I will write a short record of the last day at school. For a week past I have given the classes in philosophy, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral science, short lectures on the true objects of study, with advice as to their future course; and to-day, after recitation, I expressed my gratification that the minds of so many had been opened to the love of good and beauty.

  Then came the time for last words First, I called into the recitation room the boys who had been under my care. They are nearly all interesting, and have showed a chivalric feeling in their treatment of me. People talk of women not being able to govern boys; but I have always found it a very easy task. He must be a coarse boy, indeed, who, when addressed in a resolute, yet gentle manner, by a lady, will not try to merit her esteem. These boys have always rivalled one another in respectful behavior. I spoke a few appropriate words to each, mentioning his peculiar errors and good deeds, mingling some -advice with more love, which will, I hope, make it remembered. We took a sweet farewell. With the younger girls I had a similar interview.

  Then I summoned the elder girls, who have been my especial charge. I reminded them of the ignorance in which some of them were found, and showed them how all my efforts had necessarily been directed to stimulating their minds,—leaving undone much which, under other circumstances, would have been deemed indispensable. I thanked them for the favorable opinion of my government which they had so generally expressed, but specified three instances in which I had been unjust. I thanked them, also, for the moral beauty of their conduct, bore witness that au appeal to conscience had never failed, and told them of my happiness in having the faith thus confirmed, that young persons can be best guided by addressing their highest nature. I declared my consciousness of having combined, not only in speech but in heart, tolerance and delicate regard for the convictions of their parents, with fidelity to my own, frankly uttered. I assured them of my true friendship, proved by my never having cajoled or caressed them into good. Every word of praise had been earned; all my influence over them was rooted in reality; I had never softened nor palliated their faults; I had appealed, not to their weakness, but to their strength; I had offered to them, always, the loftiest motives, and had made every other end subordinate: to that of spiritual growth. With a heartfelt blessing, I dismissed them; but none stirred, and we all sat for some moments, weeping. Then I went round the circle and bade each, separately, farewell.

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