Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: 4/26/2003 6:32 AM
Random Thought: An Addiction

I received a cryptica one sentence note this morning from a professor in the far northwest. "Louis, you talk about teaching like you're an addict on a high." I didn't know this person. This is the first message I have ever received from her. So, I'm not sure whether I should see a warm smile or a chilly sneer as she typed in her words. It may not a very nice analogy, since it does more than infer an abnormality or an uncontrolled obsession. There is nothing abnormal or uncontrolled in my educational philosophy or practices, or in my life, although my report card is full of "F's." I am lucky to have several true "F"riends; I have a loving "F"amily; I have a strong spiritual "F"aith; I keep physically "F"it; every day I have what some would call childish "F"un; every day I meditate by my "F"ish pond in order to keep myself mentally and emotionally "F"resh; I am constantly and devilishly "F"risky with my angelic Susan; I do walk among, tend, and talk with my "F"lowers each day. I am an accomplished "F"ixer-upper who can work with his hands as well as with his mind; I know where I presently am is "F"ine, but I can still grow so much more. And, admittedly my "F"inances aren't great, but I'm working on them. When you add up all those "F's" and average them out, I get an "A" for active, and "A" for alive, and a "B" for balanced. Not a bad personal and professional GPA. Doesn't seem all that abnormal or uncontrolled to me. But, then, that's me.

And yet, I can understand where that professor might be coming from if she doesn't understand where I came from. A little over a decade ago, I came to a sudden realization of the truth of what William James said: "....human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." That is, for things to change, you have to change; and, you can change if you chose to change. Ever since that critical moment, I started making some choices about changing myself and hence changing what I do. I began to learn about learning; I began to find my "why" am I teaching and my "what" do I want and want others to get out of an education; I began to develop a set of articulated life-directing characters and subsequent values; I started to write a song into my teaching instead of continuing to chant a dirge; I started to introduce a dance step into my teaching to replace my plodding along; I started to evolve into a "do" person from a "going-to-do" person; I started to place one foot in front of the other rather than stand where I had been for decdes; I started to become what Zig Ziggler called a "meaningful specific" instead of remaining a "wondering generality."

Now, understand what I am about to say is my take, and, of course, I'm not asking anyone to accept what I say. I only ask that you stop and think about it. After all, you never know which line is crooked or straight, as Socrates said, unless they lie next to each other.

I started learning almost twelve years ago (and yet is seems like literally yesterday), when I chose to start believing in myself and in each student, I started putting faith at the very heart of my personality and I started changing from a more-often-than-not purveyor of the discouraging negative to a universal propagator of the encouraging positive.

At the core of the negative person such as I subtle was is skpeticism and cynicism. You see it in everything they say and do. There is so little happiness and so much more stress, so little energy and so much underwhelming, so little dreaming and so much wall-hitting. They aren't "make-it-happen" people. But, if you're a positive believer, each day is like going into a bakery and deeply inhaling the aroma of fresh bread hot from the oven.

I am thinking more and more that when it comes to teaching, E.I.--Emotional Intelliegence--is so much more important than I.Q. After all, attitudes are ways in which we can make anything happen and we are or become what we think about all day long. It's your E.I. that determines who you are, where you go, what you do when you come to the wall, and how you handle the hell when it breaks loose! I fully admit that I'm an E.Ier, that I am a strong believer in the driving power of self-esteem, self-confidence, optimism, and what I call "those four little big words:" hope, belief, faith, and love. Sure, I might sigh disappointment; sure, my voice and face may get a sternness; sure, I might have to get in a student's face or kick him or her in the butt. But, I never stop caring for each of them.

You see, I am a rabid and raving fan of each student. I know each and every life in that classroom is significant; I known each life in that classrom is going to make a difference; I know each life will help alter the future. An authentic caring for each student, an unshakeable belief in each student, a firm faith in each student, a endless hope for each student, a appreication of each student, and, yes, a boundless love for each student will let anyone see the invisible, believe in the incredible, achieve the impossible, and leave a lasting legacy of making a difference!

That's who and what I am. That is my normal way of living and teaching. And, if that means to this professor that I am an addict, I stand ready to accept the judgement of a life sentence in the classroom for my addiction.

         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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