This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
DURING the past twenty years great improvement has been wrought in the penmanship of our youth, by the general introduction of writing books into our common schools, containing engraved copy lines; and yet statistics show that vast numbers of people in every State in the Union are unable to write; and some of these are to be found in nearly every locality. A majority of these persons have passed their school days, but the necessity is none the less urgent with them for improvement in penmanship; and they would gladly avail themselves of the opportunity for receiving instruction, if a competent teacher were to open a Writing School in their vicinity.
There exists a general demand for good instructors in Writing throughout the country, and teachers who will properly prepare themselves for the profession, can have excellent remuneration for their services. It is true that many persons attempt to teach writing as a profession, who, through bad management and want of moral principle, deservedly fail; but the earnest, faithful, competent teacher is wanted, and will be well rewarded for his labor.
There are but twenty-six letters in the alphabet to write; fifty-two in all, capital and small letters. The principles from which these letters are formed are, in reality, very few; and to obtain a mastery of these principles is the object of giving instruction. Therefore, to acquire a knowledge of how to write, a large number of lessons is not absolutely necessary. The course of instruction may be so arranged as to very completely include all the principles pertaining to penmanship in twelve lessons; and the class may have such practice, each lesson being two hours in length, as will, with many pupils, completely change their penmanship in that time. It is not pretended that any one can perfect their writing in twelve lessons. Real ease and grace in penmanship is the result of months and years of practice; but a knowledge of how to practice, to impart which is the mission of the teacher, may be learned in a short time. In fact, most people are surprised to see how much may be accomplished in few lessons when the class is properly instructed.
Should, however, the teacher wish to give a more extended term of instruction, it is only necessary to drill longer upon each principle, with elaborate blackboard illustration to correspond. If the time and means of the student prevent the taking of the longer course, the shorter term may be made proportionately beneficial. Should the Twelve - lesson term be adopted by the traveling teacher, the following suggestions may be of service in the organization and management of a Writing class.
Having acquired proficiency in penmanship, and having good specimens of writing to exhibit, let the young teacher, desirous of establishing a Writing school, visit any locality where live a civilized pe6ple. While it is true that the more ignorant most greatly need the advantage of such instruction, it is nevertheless a fact that the more intelligent and educated the people of a community, the better will be the teacher's patronage.
Secure, if possible, a school-room provided with desks and a blackboard. It is no more than justice to present the directors and the teacher of the school, upon whom the responsibility of management of the school building rests, each with a scholarship in the writing class. Having obtained a school-room, the next thing to be done to secure success, is to thoroughly advertise the nature and character of the school, and the time of commencement. The teacher may do this in the following ways :
First, By having editorial mention made in all newspapers published in the vicinity.
Second, By posters, announcing the school, liberally distributed about the town.
Third, By circulars, giving full description of the school, sent to each house.
Fourth, By visiting each school-room, supposing the day schools to be in session, in the vicinity, and, having obtained permission to do so, addressing the pupils of the school, accompanied by blackboard illustrations, showing method of teaching, announcing terms, time of commencing school, etc., and
Fifth, By personally calling at every public business place, and as many private houses as possible, in the neighborhood, exhibiting specimens and executing samples of writing when practicable.
A lady or gentleman well qualified as a teacher, pursuing this plan will seldom fail of obtaining a large class. Having secured an established reputation as a good teacher, personal canvass afterwards is not so necessary. Personal acquaintance with the patrons of the school, however, is always one of the surest elements of success with any teacher.
If the school is held in a rural district, newspaper and printed advertising can be dispensed with. In the village or city it is indispensable.
It is unwise to circulate a subscription paper, the establishment of the school being made contingent upon the number of subscribers to the class. A better way is to announce the school positively to commence at a certain time and certainly to continue through the course, which announcement inspires confidence and secures a much larger class.
Ask no one to sign a subscription paper, or to pay tuition in advance. The fact of doing so argues that the teacher lacks confidence in the people, who, in turn, suspect the stranger that seeks advanced pay, and thus withhold their patronage. The better way is to announce that no subscription is required to any paper, and no tuition is expected in advance; that all are invited to attend the school, and payment of tuition may be made when students are satisfied of the worth of the school. The fairness of these terms will secure a larger attendance than could otherwise be obtained, and will induce the teacher to put forth the very best efforts to please the patrons of the school.
Commencing about the middle of the term to make collection, by good management on the part of the teacher, if the school has been really meritorious, all the tuition will be paid by the time the last lesson is reached.
To secure the best attendance, and the most interest on the part of pupils, the school should be in session every evening or every day, Sundays excepted, until the close of the term. It is a mistaken idea that students do best receiving but one or two lessons per week. During the intervening time between lessons pupils lose their interest, and the probability is that the class will grow smaller from the beginning to the close, if the mind of the student is allowed to become pre-occupied, as it will be, with other matters that occur between lessons so far apart. On the contrary, a writing class that meets every day or evening, under the management of an enthusiastic, skillful master, will grow from the beginning in size and interest, and the student, like the daily attendant at the public school, will exhibit a good improvement, resulting from undivided attention to the study, from the time of commencement to the close.
Each pupil in the class should be provided with pen, ink, and a writing book. Practicing in the evening, each should be provided with a lamp, covered with a shade, throwing as strong light as possible on the writing.
For the writing book, use five sheets of best foolscap paper. Cut in two, midway from top to bottom of the sheet; put one half inside the other; cover with strong paper, and sew the whole together, the cover extending one inch above the writing paper.
Slips are best for copies, as they slide down the paper and can be kept directly above the writing of the pupil while practicing. Twenty-four copies will be generally sufficient to occupy the time of most pupils during the term, and should be arranged to embrace all the principles and exercises it is necessary for the student to understand in writing plain penmanship.
The copies may be written or printed. Written, if well executed; printed, if the teacher can obtain them, suitably arranged for the twelve-lesson term, as they are thus more perfect than written copies are likely to be, and save the teacher the drudgery of writing copies. If printed, the copy should be a fine, elegant lithographic fac simile of perfect penmanship; - perfect, because it takes the pupil no longer to learn to make a correct than an incorrect letter. Numbered in the order of their succession, from one to twenty-four, these slips should be wrapped together in a package, which should be pasted on the inside, at the top of the cover, whence they can be drawn as required by the student. When the copy is finished, the slip should be placed at the bottom of the package.
The wrapper, holding the copies, should be sufficiently firm and tight to prevent the copies falling from their places when the book is handled. If the copies are kept by the pupil free from wrinkles and blots, an advantage of this arrangement is, that when the book is written through the copies are yet carefully preserved in their place, when new writing paper may be added to the book and the copies used again by the same pupil or by others.
Another plan is, for the teacher to keep the copies and distribute the same at the commencement of the lesson among the members of the class, and collect them at the close. When the teacher is short of copies, this plan may be pursued, though the other is the most systematic, and is attended with the least labor.
The most advanced and rapid penmen of the class, who write out their copies before the close of the term, may be furnished with copies of various commercial forms, for practice, in the last of the term.
Should a second term of lessons be given, those students who attend it should review the copies of the first term for about six lessons, after which they may be drilled in the writing of commercial forms, business letters, compositions, etc., according to the capacity and advancement of the pupil.
The copy should always be ready before the class assembles. The teacher should never be compelled to write a copy while the school is in session, especially if the class be large.
The teacher having arranged to give a course of lessons in writing, should open the school at the hour appointed, even if there be no more than one pupil in attendance at the time of commencement, and should conduct the term through, unless insurmountable obstacles prevent. If the school possesses real merit the class will steadily increase in size, until a hundred pupils may be in attendance, even though but a half dozen were in the class at the opening lesson.