The Man Who Changed Schools in Colonial America
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
In the 1700s, punishments for students in school were severe. Teachers of that day normally relied on fear and beatings to keep children in line and to make sure they learned their school lessons. Christopher Dock, a schoolmaster in two Mennonite schools in Pennsylvania began to change all of that.
Dock immigrated to America in 1714 from Germany. He became a school teacher and developed his own style of teaching based on encouragement. His desire was to build character in his students using positive peer pressure and persuasion. Although he disciplined poor behavior and attitudes, his methods of discipline were more likely to consist of making a child sit alone for a while. He also had a policy of considering each child with understanding.
He would reward students with illustrations of birds or flowers in chalk drawings on their hands and urged parents to reward their children for good school work by giving them praise, pennies, and fried eggs. His motto was "Different children need different treatment."
Christopher Sauer, a printer in Germantown, noticed Dock's results with the students when his children attended one of Dock's schools. He encouraged Christopher Dock to write a manual on school management. Dock completed the manual in 1750 but wouldn't let Sauer print it until after his death. He didn't want the book to be a monument to him, but he did let Sauer print a few of his articles including A Hundred Necessary Rules of Conduct for Children and A Hundred Christian Rules for Children.
Christopher Dock died one evening at the school where he taught. He was found on his knees in prayer. Soon after that Saur's son published Dock's book called School Management on August 3, 1770. It was the first book of its kind in the United Colonies and influenced the management of schools for years to come. Years later, the Mennonites named a high school in Lansdale, Pennsylvania after Christopher Dock.