W1112 SCHOOL ESSAY BY MARGARETTE BARKER LERNED [McQuesten]
Jan 1 1827
From: Hopkinton, New Hampshire.
It is not for the purpose of writing an essay on government of the school or state, that I have taken my pen in hand at this time. That topic I will leave to abler heads than mine. Nor do I presume to write for the instruction of any; although our worthy President in his very appropriate inaugural address expressed a willingness to learn, even from the humblest of us.
Primarians! But it is solely to magnify my office in the view of those who occupy a higher rank in this most respected and respectable fraternity of teachers.
Be it known then, that the writer is, for the time being, a Primary School Teacher. Her sphere of influence is less extended than that of most of her fellow-teachers; her number seldom exceeding forty, but this number affords efficient diversity of mind, and disposition, to render it an interesting field of study, and to employ all a teacher’s ingenuity and skill, to develop and cultivate.
In instructing older children, we find much which we wish to undo. Bad habits to correct, evil tempers to soften, and stubborn wills to subdue. But the teacher who has children under her influence from the age of four years until they are fitted to rise a degree in the ascent of the hill of science, has an opportunity if she knows how to use her influence, to bend the twig in the right direction. She may form their habits, modify their dispositions, and lay the foundation of truthful, amiable and useful character. Let her once gain the love and confidence of the little beings and it seems, sometimes, as if she might almost mould them to her will.
But there are some whose hereditary perverseness, nurtured as it is by parental culture, cannot be held in subjection by the law of love, nor the rod of correction drive it entirely from them, but such instances, at least in my own school, are exceptions to the general rule.
The minds of children are developed more rapidly at this early age, than in after years so that their teacher has the satisfaction of seeing more immediate results of her efforts for their improvement–Her patience too, is less frequently tested. She can wink at their innocent playfulness, and more readily excuse their wayward pranks.
Does she enter her schoolroom some morning, sad and dejected: Let them chant their morning prayer and bow their heads, while she commends them to the love of "Our Father who art in Heaven;" then, before commencing the daily routine, let her gather a circle of the bright and good ones around her; let them tell about their little plays, their new toys, their Christmas presents, or their holiday sports. When they have finished and their glistening eyes are upturned to her in loving confidence, let her tell them a story of her own, and see how eagerly they will catch each word as it falls from her lips, and strain their little minds to take in the new ideas she is endeavoring to communicate, and how their eyes moisten with sympathy, as she tells them some little tale of sorrow.--If after an hour spent in this way, her heart is not made lighter, and better, it must be because it is not in her work.
And then, too, how delightful is their simplicity, their trustfulness, their artless and winning ways, their grace and beauty their cunning roguery.
Oh, there is nothing in your higher and High Schools to be compared with it.
We will therefore contentedly labor on in our> humble sphere, satisfied with the reflection that our work, bears the same relative importance to yours, that this foundation does, to the superstructure.
1 We have dated this essay as 1827 at Hopkinton, N. H., since Margarette’s essays at Adams Female Academy are dated 1824 & 1825. The one essay for 1826 gives the date but no location, while those for 1827 (2) are written at Hopkinton, N.H. In November of 1825, Margarette received ten farewell notes from fellow students at Adams Female Academy (W536-W564). She also gave a Valedictory address, but it is undated, so we have dated it as November 15, 1825 (see W1120). In the above essay she is obviously a Primary School Teacher but we do not know the name of the school--it may have been in Hopkinton, her home town, since she continued to receive mail at Hopkinton in 1826 and until her marriage to Dr. Calvin McQuesten in November 1831.