Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sun 9/19/2004 5:25 AM
Random Thought: My "Wall of Sacred Gifts of Teaching"

It was a wet walk this pre-dawn morning. It was a noisy and crunchy walk as well. The air was soggy like a wet sponge this morning. I also had to do some broken field walking around the street litter that at a glance looked liked scattered South Georgia mosquito droppings. It turned out to be scattered pine cones mixed in with twigs and needles, souvenirs wrested from the trees by what for us were luckily mere breezes of Frances and Ivan. There was also a light, peaceful stillness in the air this heavy morning. Not a silence, but a stillness. What's the difference. I think silence is the empty space into which the outside sounds pour. Stillness is the inner space in which life comes to life and pours out into the outside life. I've found that as I walk in the pre-dawn darkness, when I listen to the stillness, when I meditate on this stillness, I discover how it feels to be fully aware, how it feels when all the sounds of my coming activities are grounded in real and meaningful purpose, how it feels to know that all is possible.

This morning, I was thinking about a "gratitude" message I had received from a student who had been in class a while back. It hit me like the first prayer of the High Holidays we of the Jewish faith are presently observing and sent me into a reflective mood. I had read it over and over and over again, got deeper and deeper inside, downloaded it, and carefully taped it to what I now call my "Wall of Sacred Gifts of Teaching." Cumbersome though that title may be, that wall in my office is about faith, belief, hope, wonder, love, possibility, and miracle. It's my satisfaction wall, my purpose wall, my vision wall, my fulfillment wall, my incentive wall. I never merely glance at it. There is never a time I don't look at it intently and take a deep breath.

Maybe that wall should be called my "Thank You" wall, not so much thank you from students as a thankfulness to each of those students for showing me the abundance that can fill the classroom. These students have enabled me to see more clearly, to appreciate more , to discover more, and to use more ways for making a difference that I otherwise would never have noticed. These students took accomplishment, fulfillment, and satisfaction out of hiding and raised my expectations for myself.

And so, this isn't a "don't wait" wall, a "sit back" wall, and a "it doesn't happen by itself" wall. This is not a "just getting by" wall; it's not just a "keeping up" wall; it's not just a "sitting on the sidelines" wall. It's a "roll up your sleeves" wall. It always reminds me that a mournful "why me," or woeful "I don't need this" or an uncaring "this isn't my job" attitude won't result in these expressions of student gratitude, but a caring and engaged "that's what I am here for" attitude does. This wall says, "Hey, Schmier, see the view in the classroom. Every day, in some little way, see the view. That's all. You won't be disappointed." When I do, I never am, for seeing is believing and believing is seeing.

Maybe that wall, then, should be called my "Wonder Wall." Every time I go into my office, every time I sit by the computer at my desk, I look up at those haphazardly placed gifts and wonder; every time before I go to class, I wonder at the wonder of it all on that wall. That sacred, wonderful wonder wall gets me into the listening and seeing mood; it gets me thinking about all the possibilities and all the miracles that are out there waiting to fall into my lap if I'm willing to move my lap to where they're falling; it reminds me how unimaginably grand is a classroom. Sometimes I just sit and stare and wonder why I wonder.

Many people have their "Me" wall. On it they have hung their nicely framed degrees, their recognitions, their appointments, autographed photographs, letters of commendation, and their awards that proclaim their academic and scholarly achievements. This wall is my "Me" wall that quietly tell of my teaching and learning accomplishments. On and around it are crowded cards, paintings, carvings, picture buttons, a coffee mug, a drinking cup, cartoons, letters, poems, and other affirming gifts I have received from students over the past twelve years. Some gifts have overflowed to sit on my messy desk. Each gift is a life's story of having made a difference; each is a souvenir of having touched someone; each is a tale of me having been altered by someone; each is an affirmation that in some small way the future has been changed and the world altered. Each gift is stile on my journey. Each gift is a step taken on faith, with hope, in belief, and with a lot of unconditional love. Each gift is a goal, a dream, a passion that has come to life; each gift has brought me to life; each gift is a consequence of having reached a real and meaningful accomplishment, of having a sense of satisfaction that nothing else can duplicate. These gifts aren't the rewards of faith, belief, hope and love. The people who sent them to me are.

It's a good feeling wall, and there is nothing that feels quite so good as knowing that you've made a positive difference. There is nothing that energizes you in quite the same way as a real and valuable accomplishment. There is nothing that uplifts you as realizing you've influenced a life. There is nothing quite as filling as a sense of fulfillment.

It is a challenge wall, for it is an "this isn't all there is" wall; it's not a "you can relax now" wall; this not a "you can pat yourself on the back" wall. And, while each gift makes the next moment a brighter world, they are whispered reminders that no matter how many gifts decorate that wall, there are still more wonders, more miracles, more achievements, more moments, more efforts.

No, I am no more being self-indulgent, egotistical or just plain silly then if I mounted by degrees, acknowledgements, commendations, recognitions, and awards. This wall is not a bragging wall to show others how good I am. It is a gratitude wall. It is a blessing wall. It is a joyful wall. It is a humble wall. It is a thankful wall. I don't think it is self-centered to have a real and astounding joy of being who I am and where I am and what I am doing. I don't think it is self-centered to have a daily reminder of who I can still be and where I can still go and how much more I can still do. It is a humbling, appreciation of the power of the caring teacher wall. That's important. The more I sincerely appreciate teaching, the more value I give it, the more I give it, the better it will continue to become. These gifts give me the energy to give my energy to my blessings rather than to problems or obstacles. It's a private collection of validation, gratitude, appreciation, and compliment that connects and reconnects me with the best reasons I do what I do. It a wall which I use to draw great comfort and encouragement. If there is a time when I question the value of what I do, I just look at that wall and let the cards, notes, and letters speak to me. And, these gifts keep me in line. They are reminders that I must keep spending my time doing the kinds of things that will add to my wondrous "Me" wall of sacred gifts of teaching.

I think every teacher needs that kind of "me" wall on which to hang their sacred gifts of teaching.

         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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