American Children

The letters of Mother Theresa and Mother Caroline give their first impressions of American children. As you read them you may wonder if much has changed in more than 150 years since these were first written. As you read their thoughts, enjoy a moment of reliving their shock in meeting their first American students.

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Letter from Blessed Mother Theresa Gerhardinger, SSND

Below is an excerpt from Letter #728.

“Here are some experiences we have had in our three schools which might prove helpful in sending personnel. Schools will not become large, for there are too many of them, and attendance is voluntary, which is bad. Children attend one school today, another tomorrow, just as they please. If they are corrected they do not come back; learning they often consider recreation. All they want to do is eat cookies, taffy and molasses candy, a cheap sweet. This causes us much trouble. If we forbid it they threaten not to come to school any more. At the slightest punishment their parents say, ‘In this country one may not treat children so severely; they, too, must be given freedom.’


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Letter of Mother Caroline Freiss, SSND

Below is an excerpt from Letter #10.

“We opened St. Peter’s School (Philadelphia) in September, 1848, with 146 girls but now have 235.

I am writing from my own personal experience when I say that any School Sister who can influence them must be a most efficient and practical teacher. Never before had I encountered so imperative and urgent a need to be most firm and determined to insist on school discipline.

The dear children are like young horses where one must always hold the reins. Their fiery and passionate – also, restless and fidgety – temperaments prevent all undisturbed or uninterrupted instructions. The subject must be changed frequently and only a lively and vivacious presentation attracts them. The teacher must show a warm, lively interest in her pupils; only in this way can she work effectively and win their hearts. Then, even if at times she must seem strict or be severe, they have become devoted to her. Of course, this is indeed the general rule but nowhere is it so imperatively necessary as here.


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