Teaching


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A. Bronson Alcott's General Maxims

These are the "General Maxims by which to regulate the Instructor's Practice, in Instruction," according to A. Bronson Alcott, father of the author Louisa May Alcott.


    I. To teach, with a sense of the accountableness of the profession.
    II. To teach, with reference to Eternity.
    III. To teach, as an Agent of the Great Instructor.
    IV. To teach, depending on the Divine blessing for success.
    V. To teach, as the former of character, and the promoter of the collective happiness of man.
    VI. To teach, to subserve the great cause of philanthropy, and benevolence.
    VII. To teach, distinctive from all sinister, sectarian, and oppressive principles.
    VIII. To teach, with charitable feelings toward all rational and animal beings.
    IX. To teach, distinct from prejudice, from veneration of Antiquity and from excess of novelty.
    X. To teach, to improve the Sciences of Instruction, and of Mind.
    XI. To teach, duly appreciating the importance of the profession.
    XII. To teach, unawed by the clamours of ignorance, yet governed by the dictates of wisdom.
    XIII. To teach, nothing merely from subservience to custom.
    XIV. To teach, with unremitted solicitude, and faithfulness.
    XV. To teach, appreciating the value of the beings to whom Instruction is given.
    XVI. To teach, regarding the matter as well as the manner of Instruction.
    XVII. To teach that alone, which is useful.
    XVIII. To teach, in imitation of the Savior.
    XIX. To teach, by exact, uniform example.
    XX. To teach in the Inductive method.
    XXI. To teach gradually, and understandingly, by the shortest steps, from the more easy and known, to the more difficult and unknown.
    XXII. Teach by the exercise of Reason.
    XXIII. Teach, illustrating by sensible and tangible objects.
    XXIV. To teach, by clear, and copious Explanation.
    XXV. To teach, by a strict adherence to System.
    XXVI. To teach, by simple, and plain unambiguous language.
    XXVII. To teach, by short, and perfectly obtained Lessons.
    XXVIII. To teach, by Encouragement.
    XXIX. Teach but one thing at the same time.
    XXX. Teach interestingly.
    XXXI. Teach principally a knowledge of things, not of words: - of ideas; not names.
    XXXII. To teach, by consulting in the arrangement of lessons, that proportion of variety, which is adapted to the genius and habits of the young mind.
    XXXIII. To teach, by keeping curiosity awake.
    XXXIV. To teach nothing that pupils can teach themselves.
    XXXV. To teach, as much as possible by Analysis.
    XXXVI. To teach, by exciting a laudable ambition for excellence, guarding against its opposite.
    XXXVII. To teach, endeavouring to make pupils feel their importance, by the prophetic hope placed in their conduct.
    XXXVIII. To teach, endeavouring to preserve the understanding from implicit belief, and to secure the habit of independence of thought and of feeling.
    XXXIX. To teach, endeavouring to invigorate and bring into exercise all the intellectual and moral and physical powers.
    XL. To teach, attempting to associate with literature the idea, and perception of pleasure.
    XLI. To teach, attempting to induce the laudable ambition of progressive improvement.
    XLII. To teach, by consulting the feelings of scholars.
    XLIII. To teach, with animation and interest.
    XLIV. To teach, by furnishing constant, useful, and as much as possible pleasing employment.
    XLV. To teach, treating pupils with uniform familiarity, and patience, and with the greatest kindness, tenderness, and respect.
    XLVI. To teach, by cultivating the moral, and sympathetic feelings and affections.
    XLVII. Teach, by consulting the collective happiness of the School.
    XLVIII. Teach, by persuasion, not by coercion.
    XLIX. To teach, by Comparison and Contrast.
    L. To teach, by allusion to familiar objects, and occurrencies.
    LI. To teach, without Indolence, and Discouragement.
    LII. To teach pupils to teach themselves.
    LIII. Teach, by intermingling Questions with Instruction.
    LIV. To teach, with relation to the practical business of life.
    LV. To teach, endeavouring to fix things in the understanding rather than words in the memory.
    LVI. To teach, without bringing pupils in comparison with one another, or touching the spring of personal emulation.
    LVII. To teach, with reference to Habit.
    LVIII. To teach, with independence.

    A. Bronson Alcott
    From the original Journal of 1826
    Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts


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updated 10/12/99