Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri 11/1/2002 4:51 AM
Random Thought: Deep Teaching

Well, today is November 1st. It's All Saints' Day. The whole of Western Christendom is celebrating my birthday. I am finding birthday cards in the strangest places scattered around the house. My angelic Susan always does that even though she is convinced that Hallowween would have been more appropriate time for my entrance into the world. At times, she not sure whether I'm a loving trick or treat. Maybe she's right---sometimes. It's interesting. If I didn't know that I am sixty-two today, I would swear I'm only an "experienced teenager." If you didn't know how old you are, how old would you say you are?

Anyway, all this is an aside. I want to share Melinda with you once again. I doubt if any of you know who Melinda is. I shared our experiences in one of my earlier "e-relfections," before they were called "Random Thoughts," when she was a first quarter freshmen in one of our classes at a time I was in the beginning legs of my journey " That particular refleciton, shared the end of 1993, happens to be listed by the Seattle high school teacher who archives the Random Thoughts on the web as one of his "classics."

In that particular untitled e-reflection, I wrote we teachers leave a lot of ourselves behind in each student, and in that sense, the class is never over. Melinda is an example of that. She and I have stayed in touch over the years. She has allowed me to follow her career and life. She is married to a neat man whom I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time last weekend. She is a high school teacher in the Boston area now, and a doggone good and caring one. She says I had something to do with that. I saw her and her husband while I was in Boston. We chatted for too short of a time, squeezing into a few but hours between M.I.T. and family stuff during a hurried short weekend. It was enough, and it was not enough.

I wrote a message to her this morning in answer to a warm and endearing message from her. I'd like to share my words with you:

Dear Melinda,

Do you know of anyone who would begin a project knowing he or she would never see its full completetion? I do. I know many such people with that kind of vision, conviction, commitment and dedication. They're called teachers.

The paradox of teaching is that our living legacies, our visions often are not achieved by us in our presence. We may be a beginning step, maybe a continuing step, but not the whole journey. That can only be achieved by the living of those we have touched and may never see again and may never know about.

That's why sometimes I have issue with these teaching awards and recognitions--and even teaching assessments. Significant teaching, what I'll call "Deep Teaching," is not a promotion, or the size of a raise, or standing on a podium receiving a plaque or scroll or gold watch, or getting an emeritus title or listening to what someone says. The accolades and recognitions are the result of what someone else thinks you are and what they think you've done, or wants others to think you are and have done. They are not who you are and are not necessarily what you've done.

Deep teaching is a state of your mind, heart, and soul. I always tell my students that they know, their gut tells them, when they have done whatever it took to do a project. It's no different with teaching. You have to dive deep. Truly deep teaching is who you honestly--honestly--know you are and what you truly know you've really done. And, the only true judge of you is you. It's a deep, below-the-waterline tough and demanding recognition your strengths and weaknesses as a human being.

Deep teaching is a deep, unconditional--unconditional--commitment to each and every student. It doesn't allow you to hesitate, doesn't give you an opportunity to look back, doesn't offer you a chance of turning back, doesn't excuse you for drawing back, and doesn't permit you to accept ineffectiveness. It's a deep internal satisfaction, a deep inner sense of joy and pride, a deep knowing that you did what it took to squeeze out of yourself every creative thought and every loving action that lives inside you in order to squeeze out every independent, creative thought and action in each student, and help him or her reach for his or her unique potential somewhere out there in the unknown reaches of the beyond.

How do you dive deep--and stay deep? Well, you know about my "Rules of the Road," "Ten Commandments of Teaching," "Ten Stickies," and "My Musts." Here's some more. My strokes and kicks for deep teaching. Everyday:

1. Believe. Believe, and you shall look for, listen out for; then, and only then, you will sense, see, and heed
2. Know that in the ordinary is the extraordinary, in the common is the uncommon
3. Constantly change your thinking and get into the habit of breaking your habit of doing things
4. Always look for possibilities and potentials
5. See the invisible; notice the unnoticed; name the unnamed; find the hidden, go into the shadows
6. Understand that there's always more than one right answer and always a better way
7. See problems as challenges and challenges as opportunities to change lives and alter the future
8. Let go of your safety and comfort and familiarity
9. Stay on the edge and be readly to jump off
10. Don't be afraid to make mistakes
11. Care. Love deeply and passionately, hope eternally, never lose faith.
12. Celebrate what's right and what went right, and not focus what's not right and did not work
13. Learn "why," get an energizing and directing vision, so that you can learn "how"

Thirteen! Deep number!!

         Make it a good day.


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

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