Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Wed, 24 Jan 1995


I just finished reading about Samantha and I'm stuck. I can't stop myself from asking over and over again, Louis -- how did you know? Not about the things that Samantha alluded to regarding her walls, but that you needed to "back off". As I read your "thoughts" I was fighting a voice in side of me that kept asking -- what would I do in that same situation. And, I am left with no answer. And, that's why I truly want to know -- "How did you know"? This matters a great deal to me.


You are not the only one who has asked me this question. More than a few people on this and other lists, on-list and off-list, have asked me the same thing. But, you've phrased your question in a way that you gave me a few restless hours last night. In fact, I just came back from walking "on it", as they say down here in south Georgia. Maybe someone who knows me and knows what I've been through, someone like Rick Garlikov, could answer your question that better than I can. I don't have a pat answer, and I'm not sure I have the adequate command of language. If fact, I'm not sure words can properly be used in an answer. It's almost like you've got to be there. I have nothing I can put either my or your finger on, but it is a question that I can't ignore or leave for a surrogate to answer. So, here goes.

I think part of the answer--maybe the entire answer-lies in MY attitude. No, in ME. I work hard at being more than cerebral because I think teaching is more than cerebral. I think it is emotional, perhaps spiritual, as well. I believe in what I suppose might be called "wholeness education", maybe "risk education." I think a teacher has to go beyond the safety of subject mastery and reach to teach: reach out to the person of the student as well as reach within to the person of him/herself.

I think the most important question to ask and answer about my subject is "why", not "what." I think it should be no less with a student. I believe in the Humanity of Teaching. I believe you cannot address the intellect and ignore the spirit; I have an unshakeable belief as a result of personal discovery that nothing is more driving and stronger than the indefinable, often untapped, hidden, buried human spirit within us. Maybe you would feel more comfortable if I used the word, attitude, instead of spirit. So, I am as concerned with attitude, perhaps more so, as well as effort and performance. I believe education is an unending journey of boundless learning rather than a destination of getting a grade. I believe that my concerns as both a teacher and human being should extend beyond both the barriers of the subject matter and the classroom walls. I am more concerned with what kind of persons the students are when they enter the classroom and what kind of persons they will be when they leave the classroom than the amount of information they supposedly will have gathered and what grade they will have received. My view of education and teaching is more qualitative than quantitative; I am, admittedly, a psychometrican's nightmare. I think Samantha, in her own way, summed up my attitude. I am more impressed with a student struggling to be a whole "honors person" than with one settling for being just a unidimensional "honors student." I am more concerned with the person than the student.

I don't mean to be facetious when I say part of the answer is my "blueberries," a meditation, a concentration, a feeling, a consciousness, a sensitivity and awareness, a sincere caring; respecting each student's individuality, being tuned in as best I can to each student's humanity, heeding the call of each student's spirit, asking "why" and not merely being satisfied with describing "what", closely reading what each of them are saying in body language, vocal tones, facial expressions; seeing instead of just looking; listening instead of hearing.

I guess it's also a matter of having gone through personal crisis, though not abuse, having been forced to face myself, of discovering and coming out from behind my own walls, forever taking an inventory of myself, always challenging, defining and redefining myself always alert for the demonic spirits of the past to grab me in their clutches and pull me back, of coming to understand the role attitude plays in each of ours lives, and being able to say "I understand something about the pain; I understand something about feeling unworthy; I can relate to feeling unloved; I've been there." Maybe it's just a simple matter of being as human and real and compassionate as I can at the moment. Maybe it's also having a fear of stepping over the edge--fear and questioning are children of examination--of struggling to implement the serenity prayer, that forces me to be sensitive to the sitaution and not be so self-righteous that I unhesitatingly, like a bull in a china shop, think I have the magic wand that can turn all pumpkins in coaches.

I'm not sure I'm being all that clear and precise. I'm not sure I can be. In the last analysis, what YOU do in the same situation depends on YOU, who YOU are. It doesn't depend on ME and who I am. It depends on what YOUR inner voices tell you should be done and whether YOU have the courage to follow them, not on what MY voice says to do and whether I have the courage to follow them.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
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Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
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