Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996 11:22:21 -0500 (EST)
With my students are out of class, scurrying around campus as they worked on their next class project, I decided to stay in and fight the dolrums of a low-level but pernicious cold that won't loosen it's clutches and has kept me off the pre-dawn streets for the past week, the foot-dragging of the insurance company, and the distruption in our household wrought by the still not totally repaired damage tropical storm Josephine caused. As fate would have it, as I lay listlessly on the couch, over the cable DMX floated the soft, healing sounds of Nat King Cole crooning, "Smile." It caught my ear because I have been uncharacteristically less smiley than usual. And, I thought about a comment a student made only yesterday. "Doc," he said, "how come you're not smiling as bright as you normally do and bringing your 'let's go you can do it' bounce as much into class?
Well, I suddenly realized the role a smile can play in the classroom. I bounced off the couch and here I am tapping on the keyboard.
I know history very well. I teach it very well. There was a time not to long ago that I thought that was all I needed to know and to do. Now I know differently, that I needed to know and do more. I now understand that students need more than just subject matter transmitted to them. Now I teach people, not history. And, I seem to understand more now why I can't touch all students-- but how to touch a vastly larger number of them than I once could--than when I tried only to be the professing, information-transmitting historian.
And so, now I realize how a silent, sincere smile--not a perfuctory one--is a powerful teaching tool. It's low tech, but high yield. Doesn't cost anything, but it's invaluable. It's portable. So, it's not nailed down to any particular place, but no one can rip it off. It takes very little maintenance, but it maintains a great deal. It takes very little energy to generate--doesn't even need batteries, but it generates lots of energy and can charge your batteries and those of people around you. To have it you don't need much, but it so often fulfills much need. I give it without any guarantees, but it is so often returned. It's infectious, but keeps the classroom a healthier, brighter, livelier, and more productive place.
A smile is magical. It's embracing. It's relaxing. It's exciting. It's inviting. It's curative. It's invigorating. It's reassuring. It's a rejuvenating, creative force. I find that a smile puts a radiating light on my face, a sparkle in my eyes, a spring in my body, a livliness in my spirit, an enjoyment in my heart, a sincere caring in my greetings, a warmth in my words. It sharpens my sight; it hones my hearing; it heightens my awareness.
I find that when my lips and cheeks and spirit are uplifted in a smile, it is almost impossible to be down or down on me or anyone else. A hugging, friendly, reassuring smile, more than words, I think brings people closer together to respect and appreciate and value and believe in themselves and each other. It works wonders to help solve so many problems in the classroom, most of which have little to do with the subject.
I think so simple a thing as a silent, reassuring smile--positive, encouraging, and supportive--speaks volumes. It says, "I notice you." "I'm glad you're here and welcome you." "I like you." "I want you here." "I know you're important and valuable." "I know you belong here." "I know you're talented and capable." "I have faith in you." "I will do whatever it takes to help you achieve."
And I have discovered that as most students see the truth behind my smile, they feel better and happier and more confident. They begin to smile back at me and at themselves. I see not only that they are achieving more, but even more important I see them starting to believe in themselves more and like themselves more. Now, I can't prove that methodically. I just know it.
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier (912-333-5947) firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History /~\ /\ /\ Valdosta State University /^\ / \ / /~ \ /~\__/\ Valdosta, Georgia 31698 / \__/ \/ / /\ /~ \ /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" -\____