Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon 7/1/2002 11:42 AM
Random Thought: This Class On This Day

It was a struggle to walk the short block and a half walk from campus to my house. The noon day is so torrid you can fry a cockroach on the sidewalk.

On the sweaty trudge, aside from praying I wouldn't get sunstroke, I was thinking about class today. I still am. It was a class work day. I was watching the students in class today as they worked on their the "Bruce Springsteen Project." As they've gotten into it, the wrinkled eyebrows have lifted, the taut cheeks have loosened, the tight lips have curled upward, the "are you nuts" stunned gaze have become excited twinkles, the sneers have become "cheers." In scattered pockets, communities were pouring through the textbook, going through CD albums, quietly moving their fingers as if they were tickling the ivories of imaginary keyboards or strumming real guitar; they were humming, snapping fingers, writing down, scratching out, rhythmically moving their bodies, even practicing a dance step or two. It was noisy as the students talked, discussed, listened, debated, argued, exchanged, and sought consensus. The place was abuzz. It was alive with the creative sound of the music of laughter. It was awash in a cacophony of imaginative movements. It was lit up with believing smiles. Not one somber and distanced face in the room! I could hear bits and pieces of tunes as they wrote original lyrics that would explain the critical themes they felt linked the chapters on the Rise of "Big Business" and the appearance of late nineteenth century urbanization in the United States: rap, T.V. theme songs, blues, country & western, classical, Broadway tunes, nursery ditties. If this was a Geology class, as my friend Ray Beiersdorfer would say, it was rockin'! ASCAP, move over!!

Whether they were conscious of it or not, they were, as they do on all their projects, putting into action the four major operating themes of the class that we had laid down in a series of challenging exercises at the beginning of the semester: "Never Forget the Story," "It's Communication, Stupid," "Remember 'The Chair,'" and "I Sang; I Can Kick Ass!"

And, as I watched and listened, it struck me once again between the eyes. Do you know what it is about this class on this day? It's today. This day in this class is the greatest opportunity--the only opportunity--I have. As they say, yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery. But, today? It's not done and gone; it's not yet to be will-o-the-wisp. I don't have to wish for it; I don't have to muse about it; I don't have to reflect on it; I don't have to regret it; I don't have to expect it. It's here! It's now! It's where the action is! The money's on the table. And, it's where I have to be focused like a lens pinpointing a beam of sunlight to start a fire.

As I always say, the present is the only present I presently have. There's nothing ordinary about this gift. If you don't think so, as someone said, try missing it. This day is everything I am as a person and teacher. It's a revelation of who I am. Past and future thinking, planning, saying and intending, perspective are important. But, in the end they mean nothing unless I ante up today where my mouth and heart are. It's that saying about streets lined with good intentions. Today is "doing" time, and what I do today is the only thing that matters. What I do today, not what I intend for tomorrow and not what I had done yesterday determines the quality of what I do.

Today is like an extraordinary one-of-a-kind original piece of art. And, I decide what to sculpt or paint or choreograph or design or score. I can chisel, weld, brush, ink, pencil, and step with purpose and with love, with joy and fulfillment. Or, I can use the misshapened and arrhythmias of disinterest, distance, resignation, grumpiness, disdain, and dissatisfaction. It'll show either way.

That's the point. Once again, it's my choice today. It's always my choice each day. Today is not a repeat of yesterday. Nothing routine about today. Today is brand new, a start-up time, a creation, an invention. Those laurels of yesterday wilt fast. It's hard to be energetic and moving if you're resting on those laurels. If you do rest, you'll get out of shape and lose your edge quickly. You certainly won't make a mark if you're marking time.

Very little and a lot are needed for me to make today an extraordinary day. It's that attitude thing. I will say this time after time after time because we all need this constant reminder. Talent, knowledge, and technology are overrated. There are three foundations of teaching and learning. The first is attitude; the second is attitude; the third is attitude. Without choosing the attitude I bring to the class, everything else I may do is a waste of time and everything I may have at my fingertips is a useless. Artists know this; actors know this; athletes know this; far too many academics don't. So, I just have to decide to to make extraordinarily exciting. I just have to put my thoughts and words and feelings into action--today. I have to pick up the chisel or brush or pen or put on the dance shoes enthusiastically--today. It is all within myself, in my way of thinking, my way of seeing, my way of listening, my way of feeling, my way of behaving. I can find reasons to give to this day and these students as much or as little as I choose. I can mire myself in good sounding intentions and in planning for a future yet to be; I can find all sorts of forlorn excuses and rationalizations and regrets in times ago; or, I can put all that aside and can act. I can be positive or negative. I can feel hopeless or hopeful, believe or not believe. I can frustrate myself or encourage myself. I can feel down or feel great. I can hold myself back or I can give it and me and them all I have. I can feel I am snared in a gnarled, thorny brier patch or walking delightfully amid a forest stand of beautiful, tall, majestic, strong trees. I can make it and me and them as valuable or valueless as I decide. This ordinary day is a great opportunity for it to be as extraordinary as I wish, and to treat these supposedly ordinary people--and myself--as glorious as I wish.

Goethe and the Psalmist were right. Nothing is more highly to be prized and rejoiced in than the value of today. Guess what. I don't need anyone's permission to do value it and rejoice in it except mine. And, when I do give myself permission, extraordinary things ordinarily occur--like the projects being presented tomorrow.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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