Preface to the 1785 Edition

My very dear Brothers,

It would not be enough for us to know the duties imposed on us by our vows if we were to remain ignorant of the means we need in order to correspond, as we should, with the end of our Institute, which is the instruction of children. This is why we intend in the following pages to discuss the virtues that are characteristic of a good teacher.

You will certainly, very dear Brothers, eagerly welcome a work that is of such great importance for you. We have followed the plan given us by M. de La Salle, our venerable Founder. We have composed this treatise in accordance with his principles and maxims; and what we have drawn from others was taken from the most reliable authors.

The virtues, or—what comes to the same thing—the qualities and characteristics, of a good teacher are Gravity, Silence, Humility, Prudence, Wisdom, Patience, Reserve, Gentleness, Zeal, Vigilance, Piety, and Generosity.

We do not intend to speak of these virtues in theory; we are satisfied—and must be satisfied—with simply making an application of these virtues to the end we propose to attain; and it is in this perspective that we will consider them in the pages that follow.

Here is the order to which we will conform. We will explain the true character of each virtue, the particular traits proper to it, and the defects opposed to it. Thus we are going to offer you a series of tableaux, as many as there are virtues to consider. In beholding these, an intelligent and attentive teacher will easily perceive what he needs to do and to avoid in order to make his teaching more effective.

Before beginning, we might observe that it would perhaps be easy to find a link concerning all these many virtues. Thus we might list Wisdom first, because it presents the main objective, the total objective that a teacher should propose to himself. Prudence might be placed second, because it makes a teacher know how he should act so as to fulfill his role properly. Then the other virtues would follow, each in its place, and the work might end with Gentleness, the crowning virtue of a good teacher, thanks to the value given it by Charity, the queen of all virtues. But such an arrangement seemed to us a merely artificial one, of no real utility. We felt that we should follow the order that M. de La Salle himself considered proper to indicate to us.

We have added, as a sort of postscript, some reflections on the conditions that he calls for so that correction may be salutary both to the one who inflicts it and to the one who receives it.

Brother Agathon
Melun, 12 February 1785