Copyright © Louis Schmier

Date: Thu 2/16/2006 3:51 AM
Random Thought: Dream: A Word for My Dictionary of Good Teaching

I got up this morning, brewed a pot of delicious coffee, sat down at the computer, worked the online Washington Post crossword puzzle, and then went out into the chilly dark before the sun came up. It feels good to get back to power walking even if I can't as yet do it the entire five mile route. Each step of my walk is a momentary step aside from the day-to-day concerns of life. It's the quality time I spend with myself. It's what I often call my "vision time." It's a time I re-establish contact with the dreams of my vision and maintain their vibrancy. It's a time, as Thoreau might say, I rapt in the purpose and meaning of my vision. It's a time I remind myself of the beautiful possibilities that life holds for me. It's a time I renew my determination and commitment to do whatever it takes to make my vision come true. It's a meditative time before the light of day when I commit myself to overcoming the challenges of each day in order to insure that my driving vision continues to see the light of day and that my daytime language is no less than my pre-dawn language.

I came in from my walk, leisurely poured a cup of coffee, ambled to my computer, casually opened my e-mail, and then got hit by the blast of a short, category 5 message. With one exclamation point, then two, then three, this professor at a southern university wrote, "You are so impractical! You're so dreamy!! Get your feet on the ground!!! You stories are worthless! The ramblings are anecdotal and soft!! Some hard research, please!!! You are as much a Dr. as that silly Dr. Seuss that your stories sound like!!!!"

But, I was in a shelter safe from her gusty sentences. On my walk this morning, I had begun to get myself into the groove, to get my "juices" flowing, to put on my spiritual game face as I began to prepare myself to give the opening plenary address, "It Begins With me" at the Lilly-South conference on teaching in higher education tomorrow morning at the UNC-G.

So, I quietly wrote back, "Thank you. As a devotee of Dr. Seuss, to be placed in the same category as Dr. Seuss is a humbling honor I really do not deserve which I don't think you had intentions of bestowing. You say I'm 'impractical,' and 'dreamy.'" You know what a dream or vision is for me? It's a whispered 'pssst.' It's so often an answer to a question you haven't yet figured out how to ask. It's trying to get your attention and tell you that there's more to life and to our profession than just getting through a day. A dream is nothing more than you trying to tell you who you are and can be. Dreams are not practical you say? They're soft? Well, I don't think there's anything idle about them. What do you think pulls you through the things pushing against you? What do you think pushes you past the people who tug at you? What do you think determination, perseverance, and commitment are made of? Where do you think you find your deepest love, your strongest faith, your highest hopes, your most profound purpose, your truest meaning? What do you think is the source of your greatest strength? What do you think you see the sharpest with? What do you think offers you the keenest insight into what is your potential. What do you think entices you to live? What do you think energizes you to move with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment? What do you think makes for those miracles and magical moments?"

"Do you think Dr. Seuss was merely talking about physical places to go, material things to acquire, renown to secure, people to hobnob with, experiences to have in his masterful OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO? He wasn't. The place he was talking about is inside you. When he ended the book with (I've virtually memorized it in its entirety), 'Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way,' he was talking about you and me; he was talking about the heights of our potential; he was talking about limitless possibilities inside us once we eliminate the limiting walls we've built around you. He is still talking to me. I see nothing childish about this book or any of his other insightful books. I read his books about Horton, Yurtle, the Lorax, Zax, Gertrude McFuzz, Sam, and the Cat all the time. At least once a week, I read OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO. And if I could afford it, I'd give a copy of that particular book to every student in my classes and to every student graduating. It's the best practical advice for professional and life in general I've read!!"

"I remember the days when I merely wished upon a star, sought refuge in flimsy excuses, hid from myself under weak explanations, costumed and posed and postured for the world, stepped all over myself, disabled myself, walled myself in, put what was important to me inside aside, and excused and rationalized away. I see now how the pain I felt when I prevented myself from dreaming and following those dreams had the same purpose as any other pain. It was meant to get my attention and encourage me to correct the situation. But, I didn't listen what I self-servingly described as outrageous. I now see that there is no courage in spiritual pain. The nightmarish pain I had befriended was no friend of mine. Now, I feel the joy of following my dream. That joy, too, has a reason for existing. It keeps me in pursuit of that dream. I once had thought dreams were so frustrating, put there as a torture. Now I see that my dreams are blessings. They're energizers. They're encouragers to reach beyond that resigned 'ah, me' and surrendered 'oh, well.' They're driving forces pushing and pulling me to become what I am capable of becoming."

"When Dr. Seuss began OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO with: 'Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away,' he was talking about the boundless excitement of endless possibilities. He was saying that you must listen to your dreams, for only by following your dream do you have the best shot of becoming who you are capable of becoming. Your dreams aren't important because they may get you fame and fortune. They're valuable because they express your unique potential. I learned that I've got to stop waiting around and start living the dream behind the dream. Dreams do not come true on their own. You have to work to make them come true. You've got to get out of your way, on your way, live on the outside the purpose inside of you, live your dream every moment as I do, live your dream in every moment. Do that and you come closer to being where you want to be, being who you want to be, and doing what you truly want to do. Your dreams will not come true in an instant. Sure, there are risks. Sure, you have to be careful. Sure, you've got to be prepared for the pitfalls. But, you sure won't be stopped. I'll tell you about the practicality of dreams. The possibilities for your life they offer are far greater than any challenge that has come my way. And, if you can tough it out and work at them, doing whatever it takes, being patient, you'll steadily bring those dreams to life; you'll enjoy each and every moment; you'll be fulfilled and enriched; and more importantly, you'll leave tracks in the sand and will have altered the future."

"Dreamy? Me? You bet!! I consider that a recognition, not a condemnation. My vision keeps me in emotional, physical, and spiritual shape. I may we walking on the streets, but I'm always running, sprinting, after my dream. If I don't have a vision, I don't believe. If I don't believe, I don't plan. If I don't plan, I don't act. Then, I'd lose my vitality. I'd rust like unused iron, rot like wood just lying around, stagnate like unflowing water, or atrophy like unexercised muscles. Practical? Me? You bet!!! Do you know something more powerful to motivate, inspire, and move people than a vision or dream? Do you know something more that gives you the courage to become? Do you know something that reveals your character more than your dreams or visions? I don't. You know, those sweet miraculous moments I experience in teaching are little more than those instances when I momentarily catch up with my vision and am one with it. When that happens, I hear that voice telling me, 'Louis, dream on.' So tell me, what achievement hasn't begun with a dream, with running after it, and with catching up to it? You think you could e-mail me if someone didn't have a dream? You think you could turn on the light in your room if someone didn't have a dream? You think your could drive your car if someone didn't have a dream? If their technological achievement began with a dream, why, then, is it impractical for me to dream? You think we'd be closer to social equality if a bunch of people didn't have a dream? Why can't what I want to achieve and hope the students achieve likewise be focused and driven by a dream? I put the power of my passion into the day-to-day, sensible and practical struggle to live my dream, vision or credo if you will, to be that person who is there to help myself and another person help us become the persons we're capable of becoming. In everything I do, I do whatever it takes to give life to my dream and give my dream to my life and to others. And, as I feel the push and pull, the unrealistic transforms into undeniable reality, the unimaginable world metamorphoses into a new world, and miracles happen. That's the way to learn! That's the way to teach!! Heck, that's the way to live!!!"

Dream. That's a great word for MY DICTIONARY OF GOOD TEACHING. I'll send this to Kenny for him to ponder.

         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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