Don't Be Always Don'ting!

Adapted from "Our Sunday School Scrap Book," by Daniel Wise, 1866

"Don't be always don'ting!" 

This was the favorite precept of an educator in his addresses to teachers.  Interpreted it means, "Don't be always reproving your students," and is worth being put into every teacher's mental pocket, to be ready, like small change, for frequent use.

Don't laugh!  Don't talk!  Don't shuffle your feet!  Don't be so lazy!  Don't put your hand on Charley's shoulder!  These and a score of similar don'ts are forever tripping from the tongues of some teachers.  They hit every fault they discover in their children with one of these sharp-edged don'ts.  An onlooker might imagine that the art of winning the affections of children lies in the power to say don't, or that this formidable word contains a magic power to transform thoughtless children into diligent, well-behaved students of holy writ.  And yet, that onlooker needs but to look a little longer to learn that this pragmatical Mr. Don't is a creator of disorder, a stirrer-up of pettishness and ill-temper, and a very pestilent fellow at the best.

"Don't be always don'ting," then, friend teacher.  Reprove as seldom as possible.  Reproof, in hourly use, loses its power for good, and is more mischievous than the evil it would correct.  The eye, vivid with an expression of grief at the child's misconduct, is the best deterrent for the ordinary foibles of children.  It will usually quiet the disorderly student, and leave no bad mark behind.

Instead, let the teacher:

  • Be lively and interesting
  • Keep his class busy
  • Encourage his students to diligence by words of cheer
  • Check the idler by a well-directed question
  • Exert the full power of his eye
  • Choose to be blind to many trivial offenses, remembering that much of the restlessness of children is the voluntary by-product of their exuberant activity and not a moral fault

If these previous suggestions are followed, the teacher will be surprised to find how little occasion there is for don'ting, and how easily his class is kept in order.

Willful misconduct should be corrected by private admonition rather than by public reproof.  Five minutes' affectionate reprimand in private is worth more as a curative than a thousand public reproofs.

Sunday school teachers need the patience of love, and the wisdom that comes through prayer, to govern well.  But these gifts, precious through they be, are within the reach of the humblest.  Is it not written, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  (James 1:5)