One of the many essay topics suggested by eNotes for Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the following:
Contrast the teaching styles of Atticus Finch and Miss Caroline Fisher.
One might begin to formulate an essay in response to this suggestion by noting such differences between Miss Caroline and Atticus as the following:
MISS CAROLINE FISHER AS A TEACHER
- Miss Caroline believes in corporal punishment as a way of enforcing classroom discipline.
- Miss Caroline is young and inexperienced.
- Miss Caroline reads childish stories to her students.
- Miss Caroline thinks that education should be confined to formal schooling.
- Miss Caroline thinks that teachers need to be professionally trained.
- Miss Caroline’s views of education are theoretical and modern.
- Miss Caroline regards herself as an authoritative figure in the ways she teaches.
- Miss Caroline has little interest in her students as distinct individuals.
- Miss Caroline teaches in ways that are routine, mechanical, and uninspiring:
The Dewey Decimal System consisted, in part, of Miss Caroline waving cards at us on which were printed “the,” “cat,” “rat,” “man,” and “you.” No comment seemed to be expected of us, and the class received these impressionistic revelations in silence.
- Miss Caroline has been to school and has a degree but she does not seem particularly wise.
ATTICUS FINCH AS A TEACHER
- Atticus never uses corporal punishment on his children; instead, he reasons with them.
- Atticus is mature and experienced.
- Atticus encourages his children to read adult newspapers and books for themselves.
- Atticus thinks that children can learn anywhere, including informally and at home.
- Atticus assumes that almost everyone is in a position to teach children something.
- Atticus’s views about education are intuitive and traditional.
- Atticus regards himself as a cooperative collaborator in the ways he teaches his children.
- Atticus treats all persons, including his children, as distinct individuals.
- Atticus teaches more by personal example than by offering formal lessons.
- Atticus claims to lack formal education but seems full of genuine wisdom:
“I never went to school,” he said, “but I have a feeling that if you tell Miss Caroline we read every night she’ll get after me, and I wouldn’t want her after me.”
Lee mocks Miss Caroline as a teacher but shows genuine respect for the informal teaching done by Atticus.