Copyright © Louis Schmier

Date: Sun 1/14/2007 3:06 AM
Random Thought: A few thoughts.

I am an activist. I actively have discussions with myself, usually on my pre-dawn meditative walks. But, for the past month I've been grounded by this cold that has been hanging on and on and on and on. So, this balmy January springy morning I had a pre-dawn conversation with myself by the fishpond. It's at these ruminating times I dare to look at myself and reflect on what is working, what is working sometimes, and what is not working. It affords me the insight to know that I have a choice to react to that and those around me. It's at these times I talk with myself about whether I am pursuing my vision, whether I am best serving, am I adhering to my creed. I think asking the questions is far easier than hearing the answers. But, if I didn't hear the answers to my compelling questions, I couldn't make the necessary decision to walk the right road.

So, I thought I'd share with you some thoughts that crossed my mind and heart as this new semester just completed its first week:

1. From experience, from passion, from a vision, from reflection, and from common sense, I am a student of daily life. It's an interest in people that has led me to understand that everything in a person's life has an influence on everything else in a person's life. Wherever you go, there you are. What happens outside the classroom is tightly intertwined to what occurs inside the classroom, and what happens on the inside of a student reflects in what happens on the outside. It no different with me. So if I am interested in both my and a student's performance, I have to be interested in both the whole student and the whole me as a person.

2. It's the power of creativity and imagination that makes us all powerful. The power doesn't solely lie in acquiring information. It's more about acquiring the ability to learn how to learn and to be imbued with the love to learn That ability doesn't lie in memorization or in grade getting or even smarts. It doesn't lie in knowing the material because odds are that material will be soon outdated. It lies in the talents of curiosity, passion, perseverance, imagination, creativity. They are more important, far more important, to individual achievement than any IQ or GPA.

3. Test. Test. Test. I sometimes think that No Child Left Behind and the Spelling Commission's Report are and will be to education what Katrina was to New Orleans. Standardized testing, under the aegis of accountability and answerability, is the most effective means our governmental and educational systems have created for suppressing individuality and creativity.

4. Test. Test. Test. Educational is not just about teaching and learning content. It's also about the development of sensibilities of one's self and of one's place in the world. A student's development depends on learning values, building self-esteem, understanding how to deal with frustrations, having respect for others, increasing self-confidence, delaying gratification, rising to challenges and seeing them as opportunities to grow, all these things are essential for a student, a human being, to learn.

5. Test. Test. Test. Our educational system has become too instrumental. It's teaching students that the only important things are those things that will be on the test. It's teaching them more how to do well on tests and less how to think for themselves. So, while it may produce more informed people, the question is whether it produces more innovative people?

6. Test. Test. Test. We academics have only ourselves to blame. We think if you have been in business or you have an advanced degree in a discipline that you can go into a class and teach without any preparation for classroom teaching. That suggests that the content of what is "taught" is the only thing that matters. It's that old bugaboo of "if you know it, you can teach it."

7. Each student you meet has something to teach you. If you choose to learn each lesson, teaching becomes increasingly fulfilling, difficulties will become less difficult, many of the things that once held you back will lose their power to do so, and joys will become more profound.

8. For a teacher to be inspiring, her or his teaching must be inspiring to her/himself. She or he must have intense feelings about teaching and deep contemplations about it no less than she or he has about her discipline

9. We say that many students have turned into cunning little careerists, jockeying grades, and awards. Why shouldn't they. They've been trained to be that way. In fact, many academics have turned into cunning careerists, jockeying for renown, tenure, advancement, and building their sub-specialty empires called expertise.

10. There is a superiority of the quest to make a difference in someone's life over entering an additional line on a resume

11. A devotion to reputation can easily erode an academic's integrity in the classroom.

12. A devotion to tenure can more easily erode an academic's integrity in the classroom

13. Teaching is more attitude, more intention, than method or technique. I think teaching is in many ways like art. When teaching is alive in the teacher, she or he becomes inventive, creative, imaginative, adventurous, daring, challenging, and enlightening

14. By accepting our own shadow we see the sunshine in others.

15. Any student, anyone of us, has to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; we should never ignore, let go unclaimed, and throw out anyone.

16. Teaching is not a celebration of ego.

17. Our work as scholars is fueled by an insatiable curiosity about matters related to our discipline. Why don't we have comparable curiosity about the people we label students. Why isn't our classroom a room filled with 'I wonder?

18. We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily difference we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee. The foundation of being a great teacher, then, is honoring the small things of the present moment, instead of pursuing the idea of becoming a great teacher.

19. Too many use the "100% game" as an excuse not to experiment. Achievers concern themselves with excellence, but do not obsess over perfection. Nothing is perfect and works for everyone. Things get done by doing them in the real world, not by rationalizing that conditions aren't perfect and the result won't be 100%.

20. I am always amazed how people think it so necessary to create an abstruse jargon when it comes to education--or anything for that matter. I find that when I am deeply affected by a student's achievement beyond what that particular student believe he or she was capable of doing, I can't find adequate words to describe it.

21. For the sake of each student, that's why the whole of academia exists.

22. You know, if you see the beauty and sacredness in each student, you'll connect with each student's possibilities. That why seeing each student that way feels good. It encourages, inspires, supports, and reinforces.

23. Power! Want to exercise power? Want to be a powerful influence? Then, don't see power in terms of imposing or controlling or manipulating or dictating or being tyrannical. That kind of exercise of authority doesn't reflect intelligence or wisdom. It is exercised by the weak and insecure. It smothers. Its impact is pathological. Well, Jung reminds us that where the most powerful power you can exercise resides. It's in a little gentleness, a bit of kindness, a tad of caring, and a lot of loving.

24. Nothing is more valuable than every moment of teaching, for each minute should be a sacred quest. The glory is for each student to be fully alive in the teacher's eyes and heart. A true teacher has these qualities: love, faith, generosity, caring, empathy, compassion, and humility.

Whew. An even two dozen. That's all for now.

         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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