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LETTER TO A FRIEND

DEAR

ON

THE SUBJECT OF SUNDAY SCHOOLS.

Portsmouth, October 8, 1822.

YOUR letter is upon so interesting a subject, that, though I have not much leisure at present, I hasten to give you as full an answer as I am able. I will first give you an account of one Parish School, which I think has been successful in an unusual degree, and then state some objections to your plan.

The South Parish School in this town was established in April, 1818. A meeting was called of those persons who were disposed to favor such an institution. Some half a dozen attended, and formed themselves into a society for the support of the school, and opened a subscription to defray the expenses. Three superintendents were then chosen by them, to whom the selection of teachers was confided. Notice was given, from the pulpit, of the day on which the school would be opened; and the children were requested to present themselves on the Saturday previous.

The superintendents received them as they came, examined them separately in reading, heard them repeat a prayer (if they knew any), questioned them familiarly on the doctrines and duties of christianity, and endeavoured to form some opinion of the amount of their religious knowledge. A book was then prepared, in which their names, ages, and places of residence, with the names and occupations of their parents, masters, or guardians were entered in parallel columns. They were then classed by tens, according to their apparent capacities and degrees of improvement, the boys and girls being arranged separately. The requisite number of teachers was then engaged, and every thing prepared for the ensuing day.

Such was the commencement of our school. We began with about fifty children, and adopted the general regulations, of which I send you a copy. We have from time to time made a few alterations, which I have marked with a pen. Our school, at present, contains one hundred and two girls, and eighty-three boys. The average attendance through the summer has been, sixty-seven girls and sixtytwo boys. They are divided into thirty-one classes, under the care of seventeen ladies and twelve gentlemen, besides the superintendents; two of whom have the care of classes, besides their other duties.

The children and teachers assemble in the school-room, at the ringing of the first bell in the morning. The superintendents are usually there about twenty minutes sooner to prepare the room and receive the children. In ten minutes the school is opened. One of the superintendents reads a

short passage from the scriptures, and offers a prayer in plain and simple language, such as the children may understand. After this, each child repeats to his teacher the verse referred to on his ticket, receives the next number of his ticket, and the regular instruction then begins. These tickets are numbered from one to twenty-six, and are designed to produce punctuality in attendance. At the beginning of a quarter, each child, who is in his seat at the commencement of the religious exercises for the day, receives No. 1, or, if not present then, the first time he does attend he receives No. 1, and the next time he attends he repeats the verse referred to on the ticket, surrenders it, and receives No. 2, and so the other numbers in sequence. If not in his seat, at the opening of the school, he forfeits his ticket for that time unless he has a good excuse for his tardiness. If absent (from whatever cause), he of course receives no ticket. Twenty-six lessons, equal to two lessons a day for thirteen weeks, constitute a quarter. The tickets therefore are not numbered beyond twenty-six. The instruction continues in the school till the bell tolls a second time, when the school is dismissed,-each class going out together, in order, the girls first, and then the boys; and it is the duty of the several teachers to see that their respective children attend meeting. Seats are provided in the galleries for such children as have no other seats, the girls and boys on opposite sides of the meetinghouse; and one of the teachers (in rotation) sits with them respectively. There are usually about fifteen boys and twenty girls, who would not attend meeting at all without this arrangement; but who now attend punctually.

In the afternoon the children pass directly from the meetinghouse to the school-room. There is no formal opening of the school, but the children surrender their tick- · ets, and repeat their verses, as they come in. After about an hour-usually longer-the school is closed by a prayer by one of the superintendents, and the children are dismissed.

Each teacher is provided with a set of tickets, according to the size of his class, filed regularly and kept in a little box which is marked with his name. These boxes are kept in the desk at school, and are distributed by the superintendents to the teachers, as they come in, in the morning. This prevents any forgetfulness or confusion. The teachers are also provided with a class-paper, prepared by the superintendents, containing the names of the several children belonging to that class, with blank spaces to mark their attendance. They are also furnished with blank memorandum-books and pencils, to keep an account from day to day of the behaviour and improvement of their several children. These operate as a check upon the tickets to prevent any child from getting by fraud a higher number than he is entitled to.

On the last week of every quarter, the superintendents and teachers meet together, usually at the house of Mr. P—, in the evening. After a prayer by Mr. P, for he always meets with us on such occasions, we converse familiarly on the state of the school. The teachers surrender their several class-papers, and make a report of the behaviour, improvement, and general condition of every scholar. One

of the superintendents takes notes in writing of every thing material that is communicated, and files the class-papers surrendered, and the reports made. At the close of the evening, a hymn is sung, and we separate. It is generally a very happy evening.

After this meeting the superintendents prepare an accurate list of all the children in the school, ranging them under their several classes, marking against each name the number of tickets received, and adding such accounts of the behaviour of the children, as have been received at the teachers' meeting. For example;

"Class No. 1. Boys. Mr. A. L. teacher.

I. C.

26

G. H.

26. &c.

"This class has distinguished itself through the quarter, for punctual attendance, and good behaviour at school and in meeting. The teacher reports I. M. to have made the greatest comparative improvement. W. S. has been detained by sickness," &c.

On the first Sunday of the new quarter, this list is read from the desk, by one of the superintendents. The room is generally crowded by the parents and friends of the children, on this occasion. After reading through the list, a small book, with a printed label, is given to each child who has been punctual during the last quarter. Every one who has obtained twenty tickets, is for this purpose deemed punctual. Those who have excelled, in each class, receive a book of more value, or a certificate of good behaviour, &c. at the discretion of the superintendents. If a child has

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