IS it advisable for a college graduate who does not mean to be a teacher permanently, to keep school for a year or more after leaving college?
This question can hardly admit of a general answer, so wide is the diversity of cases both as regards the student himself and the opportunities of employment opened to him. Age is to be taken into the account. If one graduates at twenty-four or later, and is free from debt, it is better for him to enter at once on his professional studies, especially at the present time, when the freshness and vigor of youth are at a premium in some of the professions, and at a discount in none. But if one is in debt, he should keep school, or engage in some remunerative employment long enough to free himself of pecuniary encumbrance, which is always felt as a heavy burden in the entrance upon a professional career.
For one who graduates at the present average age, a year or two spent as a classical teacher can hardly fail to be very serviceable. It is of special use as a means of reviewing and fixing firmly the rudiments of a liberal education. It is as to these that a good scholar on leaving college is most deficient, often not prepared for the admission examination. He can read Latin well, Greek passably; but there is a good deal of the minuter details of Latin and Greek grammar that he has not retained, while he has probably lost all of his Freshmen mathematics, except a few leading definitions and one or two remarkable propositions. Yet these elements will be of great worth to him in after life, both in his own reading and study, and in the position which as an educated man he may often hold in the oversight of institutions of learning. The drilling of schoolboys in the elements makes deep furrows in the teacher's memory, so that the very things that had grown dim in his recollection after an interval of three or four years will now remain in vivid recollection as long as he lives.
Teaching is also to be valued for the experience of life which it gives, for the discipline of temper which it demands, for the self-dependence and capacity of self-help which it develops, and for the habits of punctuality, order, and method which it creates or confirms. At the same time, the new social relations into which the young teacher is brought can hardly fail to be of value, as an initiation into general society, it may be into society of a high order of intelligence and culture, or if not, into conversance with portions and classes of the community with which in his professional life he will be more or less associated, from which he will have clients or patients or parishioners whom he can serve the better if he has previously acquired some knowledge of their manners, habits, and characters. In two of the (so-called) learned professions a young man fails at the outset oftener from his ignorance or inexperience of society than for want of ability or attainments; and it is by no means rare for a man to make a signal failure in one place, and to have an equally signal success in a second, in which he has profited by the experience of the first. A year or two in a school may save the teacher one remove, if not more, when he shall have become a doctor or a minister.
A young man need not fear to undertake the responsibility of a teacher's office, if he have the qualifications usually required. There are men who are made for teachers, and they go on improving from youth to age; and if there were enough of them to fill all the places opened from year to year, it would be an imposition upon the public for any others to offer their temporary services. But these born teachers are comparatively few; next to them, in merit and serviceableness, come young men fresh from college. Their first year is often their best. They have to study a great deal through that year, and teach only what they have just been carefully reviewing. They are manly enough to command respect, and yet retain sympathy enough with boyhood to win the attachment of their pupils. They have not encountered the discouraging experiences, the damaging comparisons, the censorious criticisms, which are very apt to chill the enthusiasm of a second year, though a teacher of real merit is never seriously injured by them, and in good time learns to regard them for no more than they are worth. The teacher who goes to his work directly from college can hardly fail of satisfying, if not brilliant success, if he will bear two counsels - the quintessence of early experience and long observation - in mind. One is, undertake to teach nothing that you do not fully comprehend, nothing which is not as fresh in your mind as you want to have it in the minds of your pupils. The other is, exercise a rigid self-government, and you will never be unable to govern your pupils.