The Qualifications of a Teacher - Discrimination

Jiddu Krishnamurthy

by J. Krishnamurthy

The next very necessary qualification for the teacher is Discrimination. My Master said that the most important knowledge was "the knowledge of God's plan for men, for God has a plan, and that plan is evolution." Each boy has his own place in evolution, and the teacher must try to see what that place is, and how he can best help the boy in that place. This is what the Hindus call Dharma, and it is the teacher's duty to find out the boy's dharma and to help him to fulfil it.

In other words, the teaching given to the boy should be that which is suitable for him, and the teacher must use discrimination in choosing the teaching, and in his way of giving it. Under these conditions, the boy's progress would be following out the tendencies made in past lives, and would really be remembering the things he knew before. "The method of evolution," as a great Master said, "is a constant dipping down into matter under the law of readjustment," i.e. by reincarnation and karma. Unless the teacher knows these truths, he cannot work with evolution as he should do, and much of his time and of his pupil's time will be wasted. It is this ignorance which causes such small results to be seen, after many years at school, and which leaves the boy himself so ignorant of the great truths which he needs to guide his conduct in life.

Discrimination is wanted in the choice of subjects and in the way in which they are taught. First in importance come religion and morals, and these must not only be taught as subjects but must be made both the foundation and the atmosphere of school life, for these are equally wanted by every boy, no matter what he is to do later in life. Religion teaches us that we are all part of One Self, and that we ought therefore help one another. My Master said that people "try to invent ways for themselves which they think will be pleasant for themselves, not understanding that all are one, and that therefore only what the One wills can ever be really pleasant for anyone." And He also said: "You can help your brother through that which you have in common with him, and that is the Divine life." To teach this is to teach religion, and to live it is to lead the religious life.

At present the value of the set moral teaching is largely made useless by the arrangements of the school. The school day should always open with something of the nature of a religious service, striking the note of a common purpose and a common life, so that the boys, who are all coming from different homes and different ways of living may be tuned to unity in the school. It is a good plan to begin with a little music or singing so that the boys, who often come rushing in from hastily taken food, may quiet down and begin the school day in an orderly way. After this should come a prayer and a very short but beautiful address, placing an ideal before the boys.

But if these ideals are to be useful, they must be practised all through the school day, so that the spirit of the religious period may run through the lessons and the games. For example, the duty of the strong to help the weak is taught in the religious hour, and yet for the rest of the day the strong are set to outstrip the weak, and are given valuable prizes for their success in doing so. These prizes make many boys jealous and discourage others, they stimulate the spirit of struggle. The Central Hindu College Brotherhood has for its motto: "The ideal reward is an increased power to love and to serve." If the prizes for good work and conduct and for helping others were positions of greater trust and power of helping, this motto would be carried out. In fact, in school honour should be given to character and helpfulness rather than to strength of mind and body; strength ought to be trained and developed, but not rewarded for merely outstripping the weak. Such a school life will send out into the world men who will think more of filling places of usefulness to the nation than of merely gaining money and power for themselves.

An important part of moral teaching lies in the training of the boy in patriotism—love of country. The above plan of teaching the boy to be of service in the little family of the school, will naturally widen out into service in the large family of the nation. This will also influence the boy in his choice of a profession, for he will think of the nation as his family, and will try to fill a useful place in the national life. But great care must be taken in teaching patriotism not to let the boys slip into hatred of other nations, as so often happens. This is especially important in India, where both Indian and English teachers should try to make good feeling between the two races living side by side, so that they may join in common work for the one Empire.

Discrimination may also be shown in the arrangement of lessons, the most difficult subjects being taken early in the day, as far as possible. For even with the best and most carefully arranged teaching a boy will be more tired at the end of the school day than at the beginning.

Discrimination is also wanted in the method of teaching, and in the amount of time given to mental and physical education. The care of the body and its development are of the first importance, for without a healthy body all teaching is wasted. It should be remembered that the boy can go on, learning all his life, if he is wise enough to wish to do so; but it is only during the years of growth that he can build up a healthy physical body in which to spend that life. Therefore during those early years the healthy development of that physical body must be absolutely the first consideration, and anything that cannot be learned compatibly with that must for the time remain unlearned. The strain on the boy's mind—and particularly on those of very young boys—is far too great and lasts far too long; the lesson period should be broken up, and the teacher should be very careful to watch the boys and to see that they do not become tired. His wish to prevent this strain will make him think out new ways of teaching, which will make the lessons very interesting; for a boy who is interested does not easily become tired. I myself remember how tired we used to be when we reached home, far too tired to do anything but lie about. But the Indian boy is not allowed to rest even when he comes home, for he has then to begin home lessons, often with a tutor, when he ought to be at rest or play. These home lessons begin again in the morning, before he goes to school, and the result is that he looks on his lessons as a hardship instead of a pleasure. Much of this homework is done by a very bad light and the boy's eyes suffer much. All home lessons should be abolished; home work burns the candle at both ends, and makes the boy's life a slavery. School hours are quite long enough, and an intelligent teacher can impart in them quite as much as any boy ought to learn in one day. What cannot be taught within those hours should be postponed until the next day.

We see the result of all this overstrain in the prevalence of eye-diseases in India. Western countries set us a good example in the physical training of their boys, who leave school strong and healthy. I have heard in England that in the poorer schools the children are often inspected by a doctor so that any eye-disease or other defect is found out at once before it becomes serious. I wonder how many boys in India are called stupid merely because they are suffering from some eye or ear trouble.

Discrimination should also be shown in deciding the length of the waking and sleeping times. These vary, of course, with age and to some extent perhaps with temperament. No boy should have less than nine or ten hours of sleep; when growth ceases, eight hours would generally be enough. A boy grows most during his sleep, so that the time is not in the least wasted.

Few people realise how much a boy is affected by his surroundings, by the things on which his eyes are continually resting. The emotions and the mind are largely trained through the eye, and bare walls, or, still worse, ugly pictures are distinctly harmful. It is true that beautiful surroundings sometimes cost a little more than ugly ones, but the money is well spent. In some things only trouble is needed in choosing, for an ugly picture costs as much as a pretty one. Perfect cleanliness is also absolutely necessary, and teachers should be constantly on the watch to see that it is maintained. The Master said about the body: "Keep it strictly clean always; even from the minutest speck of dirt." Both teachers and students should be very clean and neat in their dress, thus helping to preserve the general beauty of the school surroundings. In all these things careful discrimination is wanted.

If a boy is weak in a particular subject, or is not attracted by some subject which he is obliged to learn, a discriminating teacher will sometimes help him by suggesting to him to teach it to one who knows less than he does. The wish to help the younger boy will make the elder eager to learn more, and that which was a toil becomes a pleasure. A clever teacher will think of many such ways of helping his boys.

If discrimination has been shown, as suggested in a preceding paragraph, in choosing the best and most helpful boys for positions of trust, it will be easy to teach the younger boys to look up to and wish to please them. The wish to please a loved and admired elder is one of the strongest motives in a boy, and this should be used to encourage good conduct, instead of using punishment to drive boys away from what is bad. If the teacher can succeed in attracting this love and admiration to himself, he will remain a helper to his students long after they have become men. I have been told that the boys who were under Dr. Arnold at Rugby continued in after life to turn to him for advice in their troubles and perplexities.

We may perhaps add that discrimination is a most important qualification for those whose duty it is to choose the teachers. High character and the love-nature of which we have already spoken are absolutely necessary if the above suggestions are to be carried out.

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