Copyright © 1997, Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sat, 27 Sep 1997 07:58:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Random Thought: The Greatest Is Love

Last Monday was a nice day. It was an awesome day. It was a disturbing day. It was a profound day. It was an educating day. It didn't start out that way. I had returned a week earlier from an exhilarating two days of offering master teacher presentations to students, staff and faculty at North Carolina State University. For the past week, I and the students in the three classes we have together have been engaged in a group of exciting "getting to know ya" excercises as we struggle to break old classroom habits and start forging a learning community. I should have been on a high, but I was lower to the ground than I want to admit. I was smiling on the outside, but my smile inside wasn't as sincere and strong. Besides my angelic Susan, only one person noticed it--Kelly. Kelly, whose experiences I had shared almost two years ago; Kelly, who I hadn't seen in a year; Kelly, who had taught me about the power of caring; Kelly, who almost two years ago taught that nothing we do or say is impersonal; Kelly, who was about to teach me again.

It started with a soft, familiar "Dr. Schmier," coming off to my left as I headed to my office. I turned. It was Kelly. The sunshine suddenly got brighter, the morning slightly warmer, the air fresher, my spirits higher, my smile broader. We embraced like long lost friends. We talked about things. I asked how things were with her. "I'm here," she proudly and confidently replied. That said it all to me. She asked me how things were going with me. Except for a 2,000 lb gorilla called house rennovation going wild, "good," I replied. I told her about my son, Robby, beginning to find his way, about my excitement in classes, about just returning from NC State and having touched a student, and preparing to go off to an international conference on teaching.

"Then why don't you look like you're flying as high as you should? What's happenin'? And don't you shit with me." she perceptively warned.

"Oh," I slightly sighed, I guess going off to other conferences and giving these presentations on other campus sometimes gets me down. I do all this stuff at other places and here I'm generally ignored. I guess this is one of those days I'm stupidly letting it get to me. "

"Stupid is right," she snapped back. "Ignored? By who? What are you talking about? Let me put you in your place. You're listening to the wrong people," she sternly reprimanded me.

She looked square into my eyes. "You know," she said in a shift of mood, her voice now quiet and soft and emphatically pleading for me to listen, "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. You hear what I'm saying? I'd be dead! Real dead!! No one ever really cared what was goin' on inside me, but you. Nobody really saw into me but you. Hell, no one really saw me. Not those people who said they were my friends, not one professor, no one. They didn't really care if I was here or not, or lived or not. They all disrespected me. I was nothin' to them no matter that they said or did. I was just a name on a roll in a grade book. People come by words and wanting to do things easy. It's the doin' of things that means something. They really didn't care if I smoked or not or did what. I'd be dead if it weren't for you." She turned towards me with glassy eyes, "I thought I could change my ways and keep my old friends. I heard you saying I couldn't. You were right. To get back, I had to give up everything and change everything. I did because you said I could and was worth doing it. You know, two of my six friends from that time are dead now!" she quietly whispered with an tearful agony that nearly shattered by eardrums and resounded through by soul. "I'd be the third. I'd be one of them if you didn't show me that I was worth loving and I could soar. I'd be a dead loser lyin' in a grave instead of being here a live winner. I love you for that. You listen to that!"

Someone walked by, breaking our trance with a smiling yell, "Hi, Dr. Schmier. How about throwing me a Tootsie Pop."

I pulled one out from my pocket and hurled it in an arc to him.

"See what I mean. There's more than a Tootsie Pop in his askin'. That's who you better keep listening to and don't mind those others. You have touched people on this campus in ways you don't know. You know only a part of the good you've done and probably will never know it all. If I hadn't told you, you would never have known how taking that picture with me for a button started changing my life in spite of me and saved me from being a dead pothead. Titles? Awards? Being ignored by other professors? And all that stuff? Shit! Let me tell you something. You're a smart man. You have all these degrees and you have written all these books and you've gone to all those places. But, you listen to me. Don't you ever forget that they ain't nothing compared to the love you have for each student right here on this campus whether you know them or not!! If you don't have true love for each student, you're nothing no matter who you are and what you do!! You hear me??"

Tears came to my eyes. "Thank you," I quietly said.

We hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. "I love you," she said, "for loving me. Now you go and love some other student who needs it, and think on what I said."

I have been for the last few days. And, during my walk this morning this is what I came up with:

If I lecture eloquently, but don't have compassion for each student, I am not a teacher;

If I am spirited in the classroom, but I am blind to the spirit of each student, I am not a teacher;

If I love to go to teaching conferences, offer workshops on teaching, but I don't have love for each student, I am not a teacher;

If I write books and articles, but am not interested what I write on each student's heart and soul, I am not a teacher

If I have all these degrees, but I don't truly care one degree for each student, I am not a teacher;

If I have organized my classes completely, but I don't see the goodness in each student, I am not a teacher;

If I creatively and imaginatively present the subject material, but I don't imagine that the real subject is each student, I am not a teacher;

If I know the essence of my subject, but I don't truly struggle to know the essence of each student, I am not a teacher;

If I focus only on the active, loving, motivated, vocal, confident, skilled student and do not see the unique qualities in the passive, unloving, unmotivated, quiet, less skilled student, insecure, and perhaps frightened, I am not a teacher;

If I am firm, expect discipline, require hard work, but I am not kind, respectful, flexible, and understanding, I am not a teacher;

If I show great interest in my subject and great disinterest in each student, I am not a teacher;

If I impart students with a sense that learning is merely taking a course, doing an assignment, passing a test, getting a grade, acquiring a degree, I am not a teacher;

If I invest my life in my research to secure renown and tenure, and invest little in the life of each student, I am not a teacher, have secured very litte, done little of importance, and leave little behind.

If I am filled with subject and prestige, but am empty of care for each student, I am truly unfulfilled and am not a teacher;

If I am enriched by my research and experiments, but feel distracted by dealing everyday with students, I am not a teacher;

If I see wonders in my research, experiments, but do not see wonders in the classroom, I am not a teacher.

Kelly is right. Fame fades, presentations are forgotten, articles become seldom read, books go out of print and fall apart, pens and pencils get used up or lost, positions are filled by someone else, people die, but the love of a teacher for a student is never replaced, changes the world, makes the world a better place, and flourishes eternally. Yep, of organization, preparation, presentation, knowlege, prestige, position, award, title, and love for each student, Kelly reminded me to see once again that the greatest is love for each student."

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
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