This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
More enduring phases of the social mind in a school continue until the personnel changes. A term in school sees as much change as a year in business or politics, and a year in school is sometimes equal to a generation in the larger world outside because in that time an entire change in the personnel may occur. Every teacher knows that no two classes are alike. Each class has its own peculiar attitude toward the teacher, the study, and many other things besides. One of the fascinating occupations of the teacher is to watch the development of these attitudes and to try to account for them. Often the attitude is determined by a single member of the class. This is most easily seen when the influential member either enters or leaves after the term has well begun.
In one case I noticed a great change when a member of the class withdrew to teach after having been with us a month, though I had not been aware before that she had been setting the pace for the others.
I had an extremely indifferent class. About the middle of the second quarter a girl entered from another school who was bright and interested. At first some of the old members of the class were jealous, next they began to wake up. This quickened the pace of the whole class and in time most of them did better work.
The class had been working splendidly. One day one of the girls was absent and did not come back for several days. The class was dull and lacked initiative. No questions were asked; no discussion could be started. The attitude of the class grew worse from day to day, though the teacher tried hard to work up some spirit. When the girl returned the class livened up and all went well again.
I have two divisions of a seventh-grade reading class. They do not manifest the same interest nor accomplish the same work day by day. One has more class spirit, strives to outdo the other, and usually keeps ahead.
I have two writing classes in the practice department, the Sixth A and the Sixth B. I use the same lesson plans and writing copies for both classes, but there is a marked difference in the work of the two. The A's are noisy and careless; the B's are quiet and diligent, doing their work as well as the A's and sometimes better. The A's seem to think I am not capable of teaching the subject.
I have two drawing classes, Sixth B and Sixth A, so different in attitude and work as to be hardly believable. The younger class is by far the better. I account for it first by the fact that the pupils are from better homes. The Sixth A class is upset by three pupils who have gained a reputation in lower grades for that sort of thing. The strongest of the three in making for disturbance either talks all the time or else is dropping materials on the floor, thus keeping the class in a state of irritation.