Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Mon, 25 Apr 1995

It began as a hard walk this morning, but it didn't end that way. I really didn't want to go out. I had all the excuses not to go out: I couldn't trust that the respite from the morning thunder storms would last and with my luck I'd be caught in a torrential downpour two miles from the house; the wet streets and puddles would turn my shoes into sloshing lead weights within a few blocks; I had just gotten new shoes and the backs of my heels were still tender from their newness; and finally, my legs and back so ached from a weekend of bending and kneeling as I planted about 600 caladiums in my yard that I wouldn't be able to finish my route in the first place.

I decided, however reluctantly, to give it a whirl. And to my surprise, it wasn't long before the aches in my muscles and the reluctance in my head disappeared. I the heavy, noisy, thudding of my feet transformed into a light, almost silent, rhythmic step. I felt as if a fog was clearing out and my spirit was being uplifted. And, I began walking with an unexpected smoothness and ease as I felt this revitalization overcoming me. About two miles into my route, I started thinking in amazement that there is more to walking than form and equipment. There is also, as my old college soccer coach use to tell us, attitude.

It wasn't long before I was comparing that old revelation about my walking to my teaching. There are more components to teaching than equipment, technique, and information. Teaching is not just the lectures and handouts that a person carries into the classroom, or even the technology and technique a person carries into the classroom. It's also that attitude that a person carries in his head, the commitment he carries in his heart, and the passion in he carried in his soul.

Some people talk of wholeness learning, but that can occur only when there is wholeness teaching by a whole person. For, it's not just the mouth that teaches. The eyes teach. The entire face teaches. The body teaches. The heart teaches. The spirit teaches. Education is not just shared information. It is more of shared affection. Our words, whether they are spoken or written or acted, are confessions of faith about ourselves and others. Like it or not, no matter what the subject, we're teaching--and the students are learning--safety or danger, joy or despair, confidence or fear, care or neglect.

Emotional forces, I think, for teaching and learning, are both essential and powerful. I can think "what to do" with my brain, but it's my heart which says, "take a chance. Go ahead," and it's the faith in my soul which drives and directs me by saying "it's the right thing to do." No, the teacher and person are one and the same no less than the student and person are one and the same, and what guides a teacher to do and how to do it extends from who he or she is.

For me, these guidelines are more than rules of behavior or attitude. They are confessions of faith written into my soul which I constantly struggle to use to pilot my spirit, my feelings and actions; to use as a beacon to show the way in what I try, what I caress, what I polish, what I discard and forget, what I reject, what I shun, how I act, and how I judge. They are written into my syllabus, on the door of my office; when I am in the classroom, when I am walking across the campus; when I sit down and when I rise up:

     Rule #1:  Give a damn!  Care!  Love! Don't just mouth it, live
     Rule #2:  Focus on the student and his/her learning.  You can
               worry about the SUbject and your teaching later.   
     Rule #3:  Don't enter the classroom expecting students to
               fail.  Expect them to learn and succeed.   
     Rule #4:  A class is a "gathering of ones", of diverse,
               individual, sacred human beings.   
     Rule #5:  No one in this "gathering" is dumb and unwanted. 
     Rule #6:  Every student is entitled to the personal, equal
               dignity of a human being. Demand that each person
               respect him/herself, and demand that each person
               treat everyone with respect. 
     Rule #7:  No one's face gets erased.  No one goes nameless. 
               No one is left in the background.  No one is allowed
               to be overshadowed by anyone else. 
     Rule #8:  Every student starts with a clean slate.  Don't
               judge a student by the ring in her belly button or
               the tatoo on his arm or the whispers of           
               other people or a Gpa or the accent of their speech
               or the.... 
     Rule #9:  Love every student.  It's OK to be disappointed or 
               even frustrated with their lack of effort or
               success, but don't stop loving them as persons.   
     Rule #10: No class is finished.  I can't think of anything
               more boring than teaching a subject the same way
     Rule #11: Teach today as if there will be no tomorrow. Do
               not let disappointment distance you bit by bit from
               the students.  Be eager to see any student the next
               day.  Fight discouragement. Keep the fires in your
               heart burning bright and hot.  Hang on by your
               fingernails to freshness, energy, creativity,
               innovativeness, experiment  
     Rule #12: Teaching is forever going on.  It goes on every
               moment inside and outside the classroom.  Every
               contact with a student is potentially a teaching
     Rule #13: The 3Rs, as someone said, don't mean a thing if they
               don't make the student more humane 
     Rule #14: Don't be afraid to let the students know that you're
               trying something new to make them powerful learners 
               and that you need their help 
     Rule #15: Remember that teaching is a journey.  It's not an
               event or a destination.  It's like climbing a
               mountain that has no summit to reach.  You just
               have to learn to love climbing. 
     Rule #16: And above all, have lots of Tootsie Pops to go

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

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