Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Thu, 8 Dec 1994
It's late in the afternoon. It's the end of the quarter. I'm in my office. My eyes are blood shot, my muscles ache, and my mind is mush from struggling to engage in the torturous and very uneducational process of assigning grades. I've been having trouble concentrating. I haven't been able to stop thinking about Susan.
She had poked her head in the doorway this morning and had looked down at me. There I was, sitting cross-legged on the floor, cursing under my breathe, surrounded by cluttering piles of journals, grade sheets, self-evaluations, student portfolios, folders of comments on students, final exams, and final projects.
"I've got a present for you," she said with such pride in her voice.
I beckoned her in and pointed to the floor. I cleared a place for her. She delicately stepped over one or two heaps blocking the entrance way to sit down. I gave her a Tootsie Pop, and we chatted for a while about the class and how much history she had learned. About fifteen minutes later, she got up.
"Where's my present?" I asked in mock annoyance.
"It's in my journal," she impishly answered. Then, with a "happy holidays" on her lips, a broad beam of a smile, and a confident swagger she disappeared.
I opened her journal and read her last entries. I quietly closed it, cleared everything around me away, leaned against the wall, unwrapped a tootsie pop, quietly closed my eyes, and felt an overwhelming sense of fulfillment envelop me. Occasionally, I opened my eyes, looked at her journal, and then turned my head to glance at the crowd of toys --the bottle of bubbles, the stuffed monkey, the pin game, the giant dice, the M & M dispenser, the pop gun, the model Harley, and so on--that celebrate my desk and one corner of my office. It was a hell of present she gave me. I'd like to share it with you:
You really got my attention....You did something tremendous for me. You made me, forced me, to get the courage to see inside myself and believe in myself, to stop thinking of what others perceive me to be, but be what I am as a human being. I realize now that I have many hidden talents and great potential, but I was afraid at the beginning of the quarter to see if I had because so many people have told me in the past that I didn't and I was afraid that I would not find anything and see that they were right all along. I now value my opinions more than I value others' opinions in reference to me. Because of you and your support and your words of encouragement, I got an A in my Speech class. But, I also got up the courage to apply for a job to help pay my way through college I would never have before thought I was good enough for. Well, I heard you whisper in my ear, "You can do that," and I applied. I went on the job interview during the Thanksgiving holidays. The job was for an Extended Day Enrichment Program Supervisor and an Assistant. When I went into the room, I sat in a chair in front of a table where the people sat. I heard you whispering in my ear, "You can do it." Those few words gave me confidence. I used my talent and spoke openly and professionally like I have never done in my life. I got the job as the Supervisor, not the Assistant!! I am going to help those children see who they can be just like you helped me find myself.
I suppose I could go on about value education, about coming out from behind the podium, about going beyond the students' head into their hearts, about healing ailing spirits with the same compassion we would nurse a sick animal, about helping students become self-reflective and self-renewing and securing the courage to "break out, about helping them learn how to live lives of continual growth and development, about seeing them more as the future and less as the present. Maybe I will some other time. But today, Susan's hug, quiet "thank you," and that new found fiery pride in her teary, joyful eyes has just left me without words.
I guess it is the Susans who make teaching my spiritual nourishment. I can't conceive of life without a classroom, and I can't conceive of a better way of dying than keeling over at the age of 90 in a classroom during a knock-down-drag-out discussion. When that happens, I just want them to say of me on my headstone, as "He touched a student and changed the world."
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier (912-333-5947) email@example.com Department of History /~\ /\ /\ Valdosta State University /^\ / \ / /~ \ /~\__/\ Valdosta, Georgia 31698 / \__/ \/ / /\ /~ \ /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" -\____