Copyright © 1997, Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 07:26:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Random Thought: Random Thought: Worth The Effort?

No walk this morning. It's been thundering and lightning since yesterday morning. The place is noisy with barking and meowing from all those proverbial cats and dogs falling from the sky. Heck, the rain is coming down so hard I'm waiting for some guy to launch a boat in the lake that once was my front lawn.

I have to admit that often those rumbling and flashes of light outside were silences and overshadowed by the claps of thunder and flashes of lightning within me after I read a message from a professor at a college in Alabama in which, with pontifical arrogance, self-righteousness anger, and a "they're letting anyone in" tone he condemned his students because they were first generation high school graduates and college entrants, because they weren't in college for the deep love of learning, because they were unprepared to read, write, and take copious lecture notes. He lashed out at his students with words that snapped like a whip that would peal away layers of anyone's spirit: "ignorant," "confused," "unprepared," "lazy." To him, they were nobodies who weren't worth effort and wasting his time. He diagnosed them as an astigmatism on academia that was his mission to surgically remove.

Shortly later, by a quirk of fate or whatever, while I was still storming, towards the end of the 950 messages I have been wading through this past week that had piled up the week before when I was attending a magnificant conference of the International Society fo Exploring Teaching ALternative in Canada, I read a message from Roberta (not her real name). It stopped me dead in my tracks. It excited me. It inspired me. It calmed me. It humnbled me. It brought back forgotten memories of a non-traditional, divorced, abused, frightened, self-conscious, struggling but noble young woman to whom this professor would have pointed as a prime example of academia's nightmare rather than as a dream that could come true. It brought tears to my eyes. I quickly wrote her back and received permission to share her message as my response to this professor. I couldn't think of a better one. She agreed. This is what she took time to write:

Dr. Schmier,
I am just checking on you. I heard a rumor that you were thinking about retiring and leaving VSU. But, before that might happen I have to tell you something you should know. It has been a few years since we were together in class, my first college class, but a day doesn't go by that I don't hear you telling me to believe in myself and that I can do anything I want. I thank you for helping me with my self esteem. There wasn't much of it or self-confidence then. I was in school because I was so desparate to get away and believe I could go somewhere, but I really didn't believe I belonged and could do it. Being the first one in my family to try to walk out of the mill and even try to go to college, and being who they said I was, I was all alone and so scared. I never could figure out then how you could see me way in the back where I was thought I was well hidden out of sixty students. I know now that you weren't looking at us with your eyes.

I remember that day after class when I was so afraid of saying something and looking stupid and sounding dumb that I froze even though I wanted to say something you stopped me where the fountain is located. We sat on the steps. You asked me why I seemed so scared and alone. I was surprised you noticed. I poured my heart out to you about being knocked around and passed around and being abused real bad by my father and brothers and uncles and then by my drunken husband, and how they knocked out my self-confidence and convinced me that it was all my fault for being a girl-child and wasn't worth loving and was a good for nothing evil slut and not capable of achieving much, but that I wanted to be more than just another fat, dumpy, ugly, ignorant, nothing towel folder in a textile mill and do it for my son. I don't to this day know why I felt I could be so honest with you after only two weeks of class. I guess my heart said I could trust you when I never could trust anyone else because you were so trustworthy, so honest and so real and caring with all of us in class.

Remember? You did give a sermon. All you did was to tell me about yourself and what you went through as an ignored second son and how you felt loveless and showed me that I had to find a way to believe that my past was not my fault and I have nothing to feel guilty about and shouldn't give up. In class, you kept pushing me. Kept asking me to participate. You wouldn't let me out with an "I don't know." You would make me and my triad do projects over and over again until we did what we thought we couldn't do. You don't know what that first, "nice going, Roberta" meant to me. No, I know you did. I never heard anyone say such a thing nice to me. I sounded like a song written special for me. I was so proud of using a camcorder for the first time and mking that video tape and display board we did for the final project. You got me to go to a counselor. You went with me. I am still receiving counseling. I've come a long way, but I've got so far still to go.

I just wanted to share with you that I got remarried in April 1996. I thank God I got someone else who cares about me and says I'm worth caring about and is supporting me trying to make something of myself. I am majoring in SPE so I can help kids believe that they can be something in this world. Who would have guessed. Me, might having what it takes to be a teacher. Well, you would have. You did. I certainly wouldn't. But, you wouldn't ever let me not believe in my ability. You inspired me to be inspired about myself and take a chance on myself. You helped me see something there when I believed nothing was there and unlock my spirit to let a freshness in. I guess that's why I took a risk of trusting that I could be loved and touched by another man. I guess that's why I took a risk to see for myself if I could do what you believed I could do.

I guess it all boils down to the beauty learning that you teach. I want you to know that you were and still are a salve on my wounds. I thought I was so ugly and stupid andsinful, and I'm not over that. It's still so hard not believing that I'm evil, not believing I'm only good for folding towels. It's still so hard to inflate my spirit. But, I promise you that I will do it. I keep hearing you saying when I once told you I wish I was pretty and a size 6 that I have a beautiful size 6 spirit inside me and when I find it nothing else will matter. I am struggling to walk and when those painful pictures of my kinfolk won't go away, my husband and the pictures of you giving me Tootsie Pops with a warm, loving smile on your face and words of support help me from losing my balance. I just have to keep taking those daily vitamin supplements you prescribed for me after you said we did a great job on our Broadway project and I said that I didn't think we could do it. I still have that that ratty piece of paper you quickly scribbled them on. Remember:

  • B1: believe in yourself
  • B2: you the best thing that has happened
  • B3: you are a blessing
  • C1: care about yourself
  • C2: celebrate yourself
  • C3: have courage
  • C4: take a chance
  • F: have faith in yourself.
  • A: you have ability
  • P1: you have possibilities
  • P2: you have potential
  • P3: you are a promise to be fulfilled

I am slowly recovering, the bruises on my soul are slowly healing, my confidence is slowly growing stronger, my performance in class is getting better, I challenge myself more because I believe I can do it more, and I'm starting to believe I have something I can give to children. I can give them the direction I didn't have and influence them to see that they are each very special. I don't know if I will make it, but it won't be because I'm taking one of those pills each day.

You know that let me look at the little things in life such as the birds singing. I see more and more what you meant when you told me that what I used to think were little, weedy, ugly, unimportant things like me are really big and important and beautiful and real things. I guess my disadvantage can give me an advantage to help other kids see that too. And if I can't do it as a SPE teacher, I'll find some other way of doing it. I'll stop by soon for a Tootsie Pop.

I think to recognize that we touch each other is particularly difficult in the atmosphere of the world of academics. The climate of cold, hard facts, distant analysis, creates an image that emotion is so undignified, so unintellectual, so unsophisticated, so unacademic. But, the absence of emotion is so unreal, so unnatural, however we may believe and act otherwise. Yet, we draw boundaries and mark off borders and color in areas--blue for among the intellect, yellow for the emotion, green for the spirit and and red for the body--as if people were walking atlases. We raise foreboding signs: "Emotion: tresspassers will be Prosecuted," "Beware! You Art Approaching the Border of Spirit! Do Not Cross." We divide, separate, distance one from the other. We become prisoners of our own thinking. We invented this separation and then find ourselves trapped within it. Yet, nature is an indivisible whole, and we are each an indivisible whole. These entities of independently operating intellect, emotion, spirit, and body are articial and arbitrary, but we have made they realities. But, you hear from people like Roberta and you can't help but change your perspective. The separation between intellect, emotion, and spirit is not what you thought, and you realize that whatever has happened has to do with a natural, indivisible. living wholeness.

I tell you that the meaning of any class must break through the narrow boundaries that confine being a teacher to merely, as one professor proclaimed, the cognitive. I don't disagree with Louis Pasteur pronouncement that "fortune favors the prepared mind." I just think it is an incomplete statement. But it is the prepared spirit as well that favors turning the unlooked for opportunity into fortune. Teaching in the classroom is being for someone else, struggling to make a difference each day in the lives of others. I tell these stories of students to tell you that teachers can have it over Diogenes. If you take your lamp and hold it high, you can that there are sights of students that banish any gloom and light up the darkness. Every student is as good as a promise and a promise that potentially can be kept. But, you can't see that clearly if your vision is out of focus.

"This is a watershed event of our times," I muttered to myself as I read and reread her beautiful note. Sure, it won't get front page headlines. The papperazzi won't camp out in the hallways. The TV networks won't break into their regular programming. But, the course of the waters were altered, however slightly, and so was the course of the future.

Nobodies? Not worth the effot? Waste of time? Ignorant? What you see, I guess, depends upon how clear your vision is, and whether you teach with more than information.

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" -\____

Return to The Complete Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to The Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to Arbor Heights Elementary School