게시판  검색  자료실  사이트맵  예수와나?

Prev ] Home ] Up ] Next ]



Tolstoy as a Schoolmaster

교사로서의 톨스토이

By Ernest Howard Crosby




Chapter 7

Recitations and Examinations

Bible history and Russian history were both taught in the Yasnaia school. The teacher reads or tells his story from memory and then asks questions, to which the children answer all together. If this produces too much disorder, he puts the question to a single pupil, and if he cannot answer, the rest help him out. This system was the gradual growth of experience, and it worked very well whether there were thirty children present or only five. The master does not allow the noise to become overwhelming, but guides, so far as it may be necessary, the torrent of happy animation and excited rivalry.

A new master was shocked by the uproar, and almost suffocated by the crowd of children climbing over his back and on his lap, and he put a stop to it, but by so doing he completely spoiled the class. To enable them to understand, says Tolstoy, children need to come close to those who are talking, and to seize the slightest change of face and of gesture. The new master made them sit on benches and answer each in turn. The boy who was questioned stammered, ashamed and confused, and the teacher, with a kindly expression and a smile, encouraged him by saying --

"Well, then ... and after that? ... good, very good," as is the wont of schoolmaster.

But Tolstoy soon became convinced that nothing was worse for a child than to have to answer alone in this way, and nothing more harmful than the relations of superior and subordinate which it produced between master and pupil. "Nothing is more revolting to me," he says, "than this spectacle of a man who torments a child without having the slightest right to do it. The teacher knows well enough that the pupil is suffering from having to stand blushing and perspiring before him, and he finds it disagreeable himself, but he has a rule -- a pupil must learn to speak alone."

But why must he learn to recite alone? "Nobody knows," unless indeed it is to be able to show off before visitors. And visitors Tolstoy regards as thorough-going nuisances. They had only one effect upon him, and that was to satisfy him that set exercises and answers and examinations were relics of the superstitions of the Middle Ages. Either they went away convinced that the scholars knew what they did not know, and the teacher had succeeded in fooling them, or else they thought that they did not know what they knew perfectly well. It would be as sensible, he claims, to examine a man of forty in his knowledge of geography as to examine a man of ten. You have to live for months with a person to find out what he knows. And where examinations are made a feature of education they become an end in themselves, and the student no longer really learns philosophy or history, but he learns the altogether distinct art of answering examination questions, a totally useless branch of study.

Tolstoy made the experiment in history of questioning the class separately. Most of them soon tired of this. The boldest alone went on answering, and the timid ones held their peace, burst into tears, and were marked zero. The new teacher was disgusted with the results, and noted in his class-book that this, that, and the other boy were stupid and worse. "I cannot get a word out of Savine," he entered.

Savine was a rosy-cheeked boy with soft eyes and long lashes, the son of a farm-hand. He wore a blouse and trousers and his father's boots. His pretty and attractive face struck Tolstoy at once, especially as he won the first place in the arithmetic class, both by his ability to calculate and by his merry enthusiasm. He also read and wrote fairly well. But as soon as he was questioned, "he drops his head on one side, tears come to his eyes, and he evidently longs to sink through the floor." It is a real martyrdom for him. "Is it the fear which his former teacher inspired in him (he had studied with a priest)? Is it self-distrust, pride, his false position among children whom he considers inferior to himself, the dislike of seeing himself in this one matter behind all the rest, and of appearing at a disadvantage to his teacher? Has this little soul been hurt by some unlucky word of the master? Is it for all these reasons together? God knows, but this shyness, even if of itself it is not a good trait, is certainly closely bound up with all that is best in his boyish soul. To obliterate it with the aid of a ruler -- material or moral -- you may do it, but at the risk of obliterating at the same time other precious qualities without which you cannot lead him far on the right road."

Tolstoy persuaded the new teacher to let the children desert the benches and climb where they pleased, and the class began at once to improve. And he soon saw entered in the journal some flattering remarks regarding the same Savine.

Maeterlinck has spoken recently of the "spirit of the bee-hive." Forty years ago Tolstoy wrote very much the same way of the "spirit of the school." "There is," he tells us, "in a school, something undefined, which is almost entirely independent of the master's control, something absolutely unknown to the science of pedagogy, and which constitutes notwithstanding the very foundation of success in teaching -- it is the spirit of the school. The master has indeed a negative influence upon it, for unless he abstains from certain things, he may destroy it. This spirit increases in proportion as the master allows the pupils to think for themselves, and with the number of pupils, and it decreases in proportion as the lessons and hours are lengthened. It communicates itself from child to child and to the teacher himself, and shows itself in the sound of the voice, in looks, in gestures, in rivalries -- something very palpable, necessary and precious, and which consequently every master ought to cherish. It is a spirit of ardour which is as necessary to intellectual nourishment as the saliva is to digestion. It cannot be artificially produced, but it springs into life of itself. It is the teacher's duty to find some useful object for this spirit to spend itself upon, and not to try to quench it. You ask one boy a question, but another wishes to answer it. He bends towards you and looks at you with all his might. He can hardly keep back the words. Ask him, and he will answer with passion, and what he says will be fixed forever on his memory. But if you keep him in that state of tension for half an hour without letting him overflow, he will let it out in pinching his neighbour."

Tolstoy tested his classes in the following way. He would go out and leave the school to itself, after it had been going on for a time in the usual disorder. When he returned he would listen at the door and find the children still engaged at their studies, reciting to each other and correcting each other, more quietly than when he was there; while in an old-fashioned school, if the teacher leaves, and orders the pupils to continue their studies alone, they will begin sky-larking as soon as he is out of hearing. The reaction is certain. A new pupil at the Yasnaia school was pretty sure to remain silent for a month or more, but gradually he began to recite with the rest and to take his natural place, absorbing what he heard.




Home ] Up ] The School at Yasnaya Polyana ] Fights at School ] Punishment ] Story-telling ] Liberty, Equality, Fraternity ] Methods of Instruction ] [ Recitations and Examinations ] History ] Other Classes ] Tolstoy's Later Views ] An American Experiment ] Tolstoy at Home ] A Chapter on Penology ] True and False Education ]


 게시판  검색  자료실  사이트맵  예수와나?

Prev ] Home ] Up ] Next ] Homepage

This page was last modified 2001/12/29