Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sat 5/10/2003 4:34 AM
Ten Years of Random Thoughts

Ten Years. Over 400 Random Thoughts floating out there in cyber space. Two published volumes of collected Random Thoughts and two more on the way. More than 2,000 web citations. Bunches of workshops on campuses and at conferences throughout the world. Wow. Whew. Who would have thought it would have come to this when I had this mysterious urge, desire, need to share myself on that Wednesday morning of April 21, 1993 with a small message entitled "Character-based Education" at a time when the internet was in its infancy and the only web site any one knew of was the one woven by a spider.

Mark Ahlness, who has voluntarily maintained the Random Thought archive website since there was a web, has asked me to share my reflection on this decade of sharing. As he put it, "I think there are lots of folks who would LOVE to hear from you on the Ten Years of Random Thoughts topic. If you have it in you, please do share."

What do ten years of Random Thoughts mean? I'll leave that to each of you to decide. For me, they are reflections of a journey that have offered sharing glimpses into both my personal and professional transformation about which I have shared endlessly.

A lot of you know my story. I've taken many of you with me on my pre-dawn walks, through my garden, by my fishpond, into my classes, into my soul. You've met students, colleagues, friends, my angelic Susan, and my two sons. Many of us have forged e-friendships. I won't belabor you with a recounting of those events leading up to and of that pivotal day in October, 1991, when I experienced by epiphany. It's all on the archival website.

So, I'll just talk briefly about a punctuation mark, a dash. In her poem, "The Dash," Linda Ellis reminds us that we each will some day have our lives represented by two dates: the date of our birth and the date of our death. But, what matters most, she poetically writes, is the dash between those years. That dash represents all the time we have spent on earth "doomed" to making choices, all the time we have spent chosing to live or merely to exist, all the time we have spent chosing to be in a rut or in the groove, all the time we have chosen self-importance or doing important things, and all that we have chosen to do and have chosen not to do. And this I have learned over the past decade, our dash will not be judged by the informational things we know, the technological things we know how to use, the pedagogical things we know how to do, or the professional things we have achieved. That is merely doing the job, performing a task with little passion, belief, and purpose. It is like having a detached retina; it sends the wrong messages; everything, therefore, is blurry; and, if untreated, you are then in serious danger of losing your vision.

That is not to say we should ceased to be knowledgeable people. To the contrary, were we to do that we would become mere going-nowhere day-dreamers. It's the Law of Juice: if there's no juice in the battery, you're dead in the parking lot and you're not going anywhere. I said at the beginning of my journey and I hold to it today even tighter: "There are energizing emotional and driving spiritual components to education, as there are to everything, which are inseparable from its intellectual aspects. There is a fascinating marriage between emotion and intellect between what people feel, think, know, say, and do." I also said somewhere at some time that if there is one principle I have come to honor in the past decade, it is that education is not a world of impersonal forces, theories, principles, statistics, test scores, and subject matter. It is a peopled world. There no learning, no teaching, no subject, no education. There is only biography.

In the course of the past decade I have become, as I recently wrote for the introduction of the impending fourth volume of collected Random Thoughts, a "Hokey Pokey Teacher." You know the Hokey Pokey:

		You put your whole self in;
		you put your whole self out;
		you put your whole self in;
		and you shake it all about.
		You do the Hokey-Pokey,
		And you turn yourself around.
		That's what it's all about!

If you've ever danced the Hokey Pokey you know what I mean. It's really an exciting experience. You start with putting your right foot in and out, and then, with your hands held high, you turn all about. Next, you put your left foot in and out, then your right hand, then your left hand, then your right side, then your left side, then your nose, then your backside, then your head, and finally your whole self. I've seen people get into it, kick off their shoes, kick up their heels, let their hair down, not worry about what they looked like, not be concerned with what anyone said, and just go for it. I've never seen anyone do the Hokey Pokey who didn't move, laugh, and giggle like a child. In fact, I think to fully enjoy the Hokey Pokey, you have to both figuratively and literally jump in and turn yourself around; you have to find the inner child. The Hokey-Pokey is so great that it lightens the spirit and takes years off the soul-- while being just plain fun.

That's what it's all about. It's all about teaching all of each student with all of me. No holding back. It's about taking the risk to put my whole self in. It's about not worrying about how I may look to others. It's about every pore in my body saying an unconditional "yes" to whatever comes. It's about being a heart specialist and having a complicated love affair with the beauty within each student. It is about being fully alive. It is about having a defiant optimism. It's about having a committed commitment. It is about a flirtation and courting with each student that signify that nothing in the classroom goes along as usual. It is about having a heightened gratitude for life. It is about what stirs my soul, inspires me, motivates me, makes me feel like I'm in totally in harmony with why I showed up on campus. It's about just picking up a few bottles of champagne and popping them every time I walk on campus. It's about de-icing with the warmth of my own heart. It's about knowing that every moment is a golden gateway to new possibilities. It's about getting off the treadmill. It's about going on a field trip as an adventurer, an explorer, a learner, and a pilgrim rather than as a disengaged and distant tourist. It's about going into a classroom being filled with an exclaiming, "God, it feels great to be here."

What matters most, then, are those intangible, easy to overlook, energizing, charting, essential goose bumps of excitement every morning you pull back the bed sheets, a fire that warms within, a delicious savoring of every last drop that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, an electrifying head over heels time of your life, a great feeling of feeling great about what you're doing, an unshakeable conviction that what you're doing truly matters, a deep sense of purposeful mission, an unwavering commitment and an insatiable hunger to use your time to make a significant difference in other people's lives.

What matters is how we were life-lifters and lid-raisers and value-adders.

Linda Ellis ends her poem with these words:

		So when your eulogy is being read
		with your life's action to rehash,
		would you be proud of the things they say
		about how you spent your dash?

This, for me, is what a decade of Random Thoughts means.

         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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