Until recently, girls who desired to earn their livelihood drifted naturally into teaching, which was often the last refuge of the destitute. Even nowadays, it is taken too much for granted that some form of teaching is the obvious opening for educated women, who aspire to economic independence. But, thanks to various causes and developments, it is now almost universally recognized that teaching is a profession, and one which can be entered only by candidates, who are properly equipped and trained. In a book such as this, it may then be assumed that the elderly governess, driven to teach by poverty and lack of friends, with no qualifications but gentility, good manners, good principles, and a humble mind, is a figure which is mercifully becoming less and less common. It is still necessary, however, to insist on the fact that brains and education and training
are not by themselves sufficient to produce a successful teacher. Quite literally, teaching is a “calling” as well as a profession: the true candidate must have a vocation; she must mount her rostrum or enter her class−room with a full conviction of the importance of her mission, and of her desire to undertake it. This earnest purpose should not, however, destroy her sense of humour and of proportion; it is possible to take oneself and one’s daily routine of work too seriously, a fault which does not tend to impress their importance on a scoffing world. No girl should become a teacher because she does not know how else to gain her living. The profession is lamentably overstocked with mediocrities, lacking enthusiasm and vigour, drifting more and more hopelessly from one post to another. But there is plenty of room for keen and competent women, eager to
learn and to teach, and this is true of all branches of the profession. No work can well be more thankless, more full of drudgery and of disappointment than that of a teacher who has missed her vocation. Few lives can be more full of happy work and wide interests than those of teachers who rejoice in their calling.
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