In the formation of character, no other influences count so much as the influence of the home. The teacher's work should supplement that of the parents, but is not to take its place. In all that concerns the well-being of the child, it should be the effort of parents and teachers to co-operate.
The work of co-operation should begin with the father and mother themselves, in the home life. In the training of their children they have a joint responsibility, and it should be their constant endeavor to act together. Let them yield themselves to God, seeking help from Him to sustain each other. Let them teach their children to be true to God, true to principle, and thus true to themselves and to all with whom they are connected. With such training, children when sent to school will not be a cause of disturbance or anxiety. They will be a support to their teachers, and an example and encouragement to their fellow pupils.
Parents who give this training are not the ones likely to be found criticizing the teacher. They feel that both the interest of their children and justice to the school demand that, so far as possible, they sustain and honor the one who shares their responsibility.
Many parents fail here. By their hasty, unfounded criticism the influence of the faithful, self-sacrificing teacher is often well-nigh destroyed. Many parents whose children have been spoiled by indulgence, leave to the teacher the unpleasant task of repairing their neglect; and then by their own course they make his task almost hopeless. Their criticism and censure of the school management encourage insubordination in the children, and confirm them in wrong habits.
If criticism or suggestion in regard to the teacher's work becomes necessary, it should be made to him in private. If this proves ineffective, let the matter be referred to those who are responsible for the management of the school. Nothing should be said or done to weaken the children's respect for the one upon whom their well-being in so great degree depends.
The parents' intimate knowledge both of the character of the children and of their physical peculiarities or infirmities, if imparted to the teacher, would be an assistance to him. It is to be regretted that so many fail of realizing this. By most parents little interest is shown either to inform themselves as to the teacher's qualifications, or to co-operate with him in his work.
Since parents so rarely acquaint themselves with the teacher, it is the more important that the teacher seek the acquaintance of parents. He should visit the homes of his pupils and gain a knowledge of the influences and surroundings among which they live. By coming personally in touch with their homes and lives, he may strengthen the ties that bind him to his pupils and may learn how to deal more successfully with their different dispositions and temperaments.
As he interests himself in the home education, the teacher imparts a double benefit. Many parents, absorbed in work and care, lose sight of their opportunities to influence for good the lives of their children. The teacher can do much to arouse these parents to their possibilities and privileges. He will find others to whom the sense of their responsibility is a heavy burden, so anxious are they that their children shall become good and useful men and women. Often the teacher can assist these parents in bearing their burden, and, by counseling together, both teacher and parents will be encouraged and strengthened.
In the home training of the youth the principle of co-operation is invaluable. From their earliest years children should be led to feel that they are a part of the home firm. Even the little ones should be trained to share in the daily work and should be made to feel that their help is needed and is appreciated. The older ones should be their parents' assistants, entering into their plans and sharing their responsibilities and burdens. Let fathers and mothers take time to teach their children, let them show that they value their help, desire their confidence, and enjoy their companionship, and the children will not be slow to respond. Not only will the parents' burden be lightened, and the children receive a practical training of inestimable worth, but there will be a strengthening of the home ties and a deepening of the very foundations of character.
Co-operation should be the spirit of the schoolroom, the law of its life. The teacher who gains the co-operation of his pupils secures an invaluable aid in maintaining order. In service in the schoolroom many a boy whose restlessness leads to disorder and insubordination would find an outlet for his superfluous energy. Let the older assist the younger, the strong the weak; and, so far as possible, let each be called upon to do something in which he excels. This will encourage self-respect and a desire to be useful.
It would be helpful for the youth, and for parents and teachers as well, to study the lesson of co-operation as taught in the Scriptures. Among its many illustrations notice the building of the tabernacle,--that object lesson of character building,--in which the whole people united, "everyone whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whom his spirit made willing." Exodus 35:21. Read how the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt by the returned captives, in the midst of poverty, difficulty, and danger, the great task successfully accomplished because "the people had a mind to work." Nehemiah 4:6. Consider the part acted by the disciples in the Saviour's miracle for the feeding of the multitude. The food multiplied in the hands of Christ, but the disciples received the loaves and gave to the waiting throng.
"We are members one of another." As everyone therefore "hath received a (R.V.) gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Ephesians 4:25; I Peter 4:10.
Well might the words written of the idol builders of old be, with worthier aim, adopted as a motto by character builders of today:
"They helped everyone his neighbor; and everyone said to his brother, Be of good courage." Isaiah 41:6.