As one would guess from its name, The Student often included pieces about the process of education—and about the age-old attempts of students to circumvent the process. Teachers (and college professors!) today may blame electronic distractions, but “Henry Sanford’s Teacher” points out that students unwilling to apply themselves to their studies have been a feature of schools since education began.
“Henry Sanford’s Teacher,” by Eliza A. Chase (from The Student, May 1853; pp. 17-19)

Very soft and balmy was the air that swept lightly over the forest; very pleasant the neat school-house on the shore of the bright Conesus, whose ripples danced and glittered in the golden sunlight, and the bright young faces around the flower-decked lawn partook of the general gladness. Every thing about the neat and commodious building showed the hand of care and affection, and the pleasant school-room was regarded by the children with mingled love and respect.

One only among the happy group assembled on that bright summer morning seemed sad and discontented—one only sprang nor forth with an eager cry of joy to seize the hand of the beloved teacher as he made his appearance.

Henry Sanford was a “new scholar,” and felt ill at ease in his novel situation. He was a timid and somewhat irritable boy. Ill health had made him excitable, and at times peevish, while too much indulgence at home had led him to expect privileges at school which could not reasonably be granted.

Unaccustomed to fix his mind upon a subject for any length of time, he learned his tasks imperfectly; a few floating facts were all he could remember, while the subject-matter he seemed scarcely to comprehend.

His parents excused him from close application, on the ground of ill health; and his teachers, finding him a difficult case to manage, had generally yielded to his parents’ wishes, and let him learn what he would and remember what he could.

Such had been his habits till he was about fourteen, when he chanced to be paying a visit to his uncle, who resided on the shore of the Conesus, one of the many beautiful lakes which gem Western New York.

His cousin William gave him such glowing descriptions of his school, the delightful weeks and months that passed under the instruction of Mr. Saunders, “the best teacher in the world, and as kind as if he were your brother,” that Henry was charmed, and longed to be Mr. Sanders’ pupil, too. His father gratified his desire, and in a few days he was located at his uncle’s, with bright visions of the school-room.

Every child that has been in Henry’s situation knows the loneliness of being a stranger in a school, unused to its customs and regulations. He was greeted with kindness and cordiality by Mr. Sanders, but he felt as if he had no part with the other children.

Though not required to learn any tasks that day, he thought the restraints which he suffered exceedingly irksome; and as his repeated requests for especial favors met with a mild but decided refusal, he began to feel himself much aggrieved, and to wish he were home once more.

“I shall expect a perfect lesson from you to-morrow, and I think you are not the boy to disappoint me,” said Mr. Sanders to Henry, as he assigned him the task in geography for the next day.

“But it is so long, I am sure I can never learn it,” said Henry, in a doleful tone.

p. 18

“Do you think you could learn half of it in a hour, if you were to study diligently?” asked the teacher, laying his hand on Henry’s head.

“I think I might,” returned he, brightening up a little at the kind manner of the teacher, and the prospect of only half the prescribed lesson.

“And the other half in another hour?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Henry, a little disconcerted at the idea of what might follow.

“Well, then, by studying two hours you can learn the whole. Try it, and remember ‘the diligent shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.’ ”

Henry was in despair; he felt it was of no use to remonstrate; the lesson must be learned, cost what it would. He bent his way homeward, complaining to his cousin William of the inexorable severity of the teacher, and weeping from vexation.

“I don’t see how you can like Mr. Sanders, he is so stern and severe,” said he, petulantly. “He would not let me stay out to play after the rest came in, nor sit in the seat I wanted to, nor draw in my geography, nor do any thing else. One must sit perfectly still, and not laugh, nor talk, nor leave one’s seat, and he came along so slyly and took away my slate when I was playing puzzle with the boy I sat with; and then you have to walk like a regiment of soldiers, and tread as carefully as a cat watching for a mouse; and—well, I declare it is too bad, and I shall not live a month if I stay here.”

A burst of laughter from William interrupted his complaints. “Poor cousin, mine,” exclaimed he, “you are grievously abused. Can’t do as you please, because you do not please to do right; can’t play puzzle nor draw pictures in your geography! You don’t look like living a month, truly! Why, one would think you had the hypochondria; and your face is as long as my arm, and you look as solemn as the bird of wisdom. You will think differently in a few days. Why, you will soon love Mr. Sanders and his severe rules so well that you will not disobey him if he tells you to. Come, come, Henry, cheer up, you’ll be a favorite, depend upon it.”

“Well, it is too bad, William, that a fellow can’t speak a word nor move about when he is tired.”

“Oh, you will become used to that, and love our beautiful order. This is your first day, and you are tired, because you have had nothing to do. There is nothing to make you feel fresh and in spirits like having plenty of work. I used to think like you when I first came here, and I thought Mr. Sanders took delight in catching rogues and heedless boys. But I would not exchange my quiet, orderly school, and kind though strict teacher for any other in the world.

“In a month—the time you have allotted for your mortal pilgrimage—you will be the happiest boy in school and will be among the first to spring forth and greet Mr. Sanders. I must take care, or you will have my place in his regard. Woe to you, Henry Sanford, if you supplant me in my teacher’s affection.” And William shook his finger threateningly and with such mock gravity, that Henry could not forbear laughing.

The month spoken of by Henry passed, and still he showed no symptoms of approaching dissolution. He had learned to respect the authority of his teacher, for he saw it was founded in reason; he felt no disposition to resist a sway which, though strict and unrelaxing, was maintained for the good of the pupils, and the kindness, patience, and firmness of Mr. Sanders corrected the desultory habits in which he had indulged.

The soft, mellow days of September came, and after a vacation of a few

p. 19

white boys hug their white teacher

weeks the scholars again assembled. The eager shout of the expectant group announced the arrival of the teacher, and the joyous throng bounded to meet him. William, the restless, impetuous William, seized him to utter his welcome, others followed his example, while Henry pressed his arm quietly, as if happy only to touch one so well and so deservedly loved.

As William paused a moment to take breath, he perceived his cousin, and laughing loudly, exclaimed, “O dear, I shall not live a month if I stay here. It is too bad that a fellow can’t speak a word or move when he is tired.”

Mr. Sanders looked at him, unable to comprehend his meaning, but Henry only laid his head affectionately on his teacher’s arm, and smiled at his cousin’s rally. [Transcriber’s note: There may be a typographical error here; the sentence makes better sense if the last word is “sally.”]

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