Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 1996 09:23:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Random THought: Another Gift
Oh, was my nose red this morning. Rudolph, eat your heart out!!
It was nasty out there this morning--cold, wet, dready--even though I went
out fairly late. I'm allowed. We're in our between quarter break. The
biting air is the vanguard of the coming of an arctic blast that should
reach us tomorrow. They say there is whiff of light snow in the air.
Thank goodness there was no wind. Everything is wet from yesterday's
heavy rain. A heavy, icy fog enveloped and clung to everything like an
opaque, soggy shroud. The mist gathered into drops and fell in irregular
rythms and dissonant sounds a musical background to the beat of my feet.
Yet, I didn't really notice the penetrating chill all that much.
I was bundled up tight in my winter grubbies looking like a mobile rag
bag. But even more so, I was warmed by an inner glow still fueled by
Trudy's card and now fed even more by a poignant e-mail message I had
received yesterday from a student I'll call Patrick who was in one of my
classes last year. Both these nice people warmed me and had me thinking
This is what Patrick unexpectedly wrote me from north Georgia last
Read your last message about Trudy. Neat card. Save it. But, I want
you to know that she wasn't alone. I don't know why I'm writing this
to you. I've never done this before, especially with a professor
before. I'm not a good writer. Oops, sorry about the "not a good"
stuff. I call just hear what you're about to say. Maybe I've
never had a teacher who deserved it and I guess I know how you'll
take it. And I guess it's the spirit of the Christmas season, and I
want to give you another gift just like Trudy said you are a gift to
so many of us. I've wanted to come in and say this for a while,
but didn't have the guts. Trudy gave me the courage to do it.
Here goes. Here is my Christmas gift to you.
I know, I only got a C in the course. I deserved it. I know that now.
That was your first gift to me. I screwed up and realize now that
I had only myself to blame. Can't blame you like I once did and
have blamed so many other teachers. Damn, because of you, I can't
blame any teacher anymore for my attitude and performance. Like you
said, the attitude comes from within, and I'm a slave if I let someone
else like a teacher decide for me whether I'll be bored or excited in a
Yes, in spite of my lousy grade and thinking I could pull the
wool over your eyes with a lot of bullshit, you pulled it over mine.
I do remember a lot of history from that class, a hell of a lot more
than I thought I would and more than I dreamed of. And so did a lot
of others. In many respects, you tricked us into performing and
learning by letting us have fun doing it so that it all sorts of
creeps up on us without us knowing. But, you know what? Learning all
that history is important. But, I, and I think a lot of others will
always remember more your spirit. No, it is your love for each of
us. Boy, you are smart. You know your stuff, but I think everything
that goes on in our class and how you get under people's skin is a
result of your love more than what you know about history. That sounds
so corny, I know, but it's true. That is what I will remember most
--and what is more important for my future since I can always go
somewhere to get the facts--is what you teach us each about ourselves.
I'm not saying this just about me. I've talked with many of the
others in our class and with a bunch of students from your other
classes, and most say the same things.
You teach us that we "can"--and you don't let us "can't" without
a fight--and you do it with your spirit, yes, but it's your love that
guides your spirit into words and actions. I remember and will
always remember your simple words you always had for me, that you
hammered at me, and heard you say them to others: "I care and I have
a shoulder and an ear, and you are welcome to them anytime." "You
can do it." "Believe and take the risk of making a mistake. And
if turns out to be a mistake, learn from it. Do that and it will
not be a mistake." "You will surprise yourself more than you will me."
I didn't believe that that you meant it then. I guess as a bullshiter
all I could believe was that everyone else was throwing the BS around.
wrote a nasty letter to some student in the next quarter. Sorry,
about that. I wish I could take it back. Now I see now
how right you are. If I came out of your class with anything, I
think it is that one word, believe. You really got to me--eventually.
It just took time for it to get past my thick skull.
To you, teaching is love. Damn, I can't believe I'm saying all this
to you. I feel like I'm writing a daily journal for class. Well,
I've started and gone this far. I may as well finish and get it all
off my mind. I've been wanting to say this for a while, but didn't
have the guts until I read Trudy's note in her card.
You are support for all of us--but not the sort that robs us of the
strength and ability we have, not the sort that blocks us from reaching
for our potential. No, you are the kind of support and encouragement
that shows us how to find and then build on our ability and strength,
and maintain that new found part of us--that ability and potential
many of us didn't believe we had and was holding us back--that needs
encouragement. You are there with us, not on the sidelines like some
silly cheerleader and not hovering above with your degree in your hand
a superior and master. You are coach, friend, equal, just another
person who, like you once said, puts on his pants one leg at a time
just like each of us. Yes, for you teaching is love.
See you next year for a Tootsie Pop.
Lots of love back,
At one point, in my walk as I fought impending frostbite with warm
thoughts of Patrick, I turned around and walked backwards to see the
tracks I had left behind on the damp asphalt street. I did this weird
maneuver to once again remind myself of that Dakota saying, "We will be
known forever by the tracks we leave?" These native Americans were talking
about leaving a mark on someone's spirit, a track on their soul, not a
book on a library shelf or an award in a bookcase or a title on a door or
a name on a building.
I share these treasures because Trudy and Patrick got me to thinking about
just who are those teachers from whom students learn best. I think
Patrick hit the nail on the head. I think those teachers from whom
students learn best are the ones who have something more than knowledge
although that is a very important ingredient. Even more important, I
think, the most effective teachers are those who, in addition to their
intelligence and knowledge, because of experiences which altered or
focused their sight or some strange gift of human insight or wisdom or
just a simple case of love, are able to speak from their spirit to the
spirit of the students, from their soul to the soul of the students, from
their heart to the hearts of their students. These teachers have the power
to touch because they stand--honest and real and human--openly of
themselves for us to look at; they expose the soul of their humanity, with
all of their frailities and foibles, for us to peer into; they become
vulnerable for our sakes, and in so doing serve us. It is these people
who reach out to students and touch them that students remember; students
remember their words more because of their compassion, hmanity, and their
spirit. It is from the likes of these people that students best learn.
And so, Patrick, like Trudy, reminds me that, as an e-mail firend once
told me, we all constantly--in every class, during every term, every
day--have to ask ourselves five questions: "How will people know _I_ have
been here? How will I leave my mark? "What will be my legacy?" "Will I
have made a difference?" "What tracks will I leave behind?" My answer
today is in two words: Patrick, Trudy.