Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 1996 07:24:04 -0400 (EDT)
Curious that at this time as the darkened night sky is surrendering to dawn, I am this thinking about what this day will add up to at its end.
I like to teach as I like to live: intensely. I am the kind of person who loves his craft intensely and believes that an educational institution is a temple, not a factory. So many of us, however, are embarassed to talk about such things when it comes to education. Nevertheless, there is a spiritual dimension to teaching. It's the essence of what we do. If we don't hold on to that spiritual essence, if we don't see it and feel it and smell it, we won't come close to what we are all about. And when we lose hold on that, we get done in before we get it done, it becomes more gory than glory, the cathedral crumbles, and we become dulled-going-through-the-motions assemblyline workers in a factory.
I think as a teacher I should be a visionary, not merely an information transmitter. Yet, there's something deeper to that. I don't think my most important characteristic as a teacher should be merely to have a vision and a sense of mission. It seems to me that it's not enough to have a vision in the abstract but not in the daily practice of my craft. It seems to me that I must do what I believe; that from moment to moment, day in and day out, I must teach what I avow. That is, I must be a practitioner whose being and living must embody the practice of what I believe. My teaching must be a living example of my attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs. My teaching must take concrete shape in a way that makes the classroom a place of meaning and purpose and, above all, of faith. I say "faith" because I don't think most problems in the classroom are intellectual and academic problems of informing and performing. Most of the problems and pressures originate outside the classroom's visible subject and walls inside the walled-up students and myself. We so often forget that each person in the classroom, ourselves included, always brings his or her needs and humanity with him or her. By "faith" I mean believing in a student when there no reason to believe in him or her, or everything and everyone, including that student, tells you to believe otherwise. It means supporting and encouraging a student when even that student resists. It means getting the student to believe in him/herself even if no one else has attempted that. It means believing in ourselves and our mission and not relying on the opinion of others. It means bringing a candle into the classroom, into someone's life, as well as into my life.
There are times I think that we teachers often are among the most influential people that a student will come in contact with. So often I hear that it was a teacher who was that one person who made the greatest impression on someone. In my case, it was Bert Viault. He was my mentor and guide at Adelphi College who took me under his wing at a moment in my life when I was without direction. I never thanked him for putting me on what turned out to be a long, strange trip. That was wrong. I think I'll give him a call today. He'd like that.
But, think about that! When we are at our best we leave a legacy in a student's soul; when we make a difference in a student's life. We may not know how slight or dramatic our impact is on them; it may hard or impossible to see or to measure. We may not know it at the time. We even may never know it, for it may not blossom and bear fruit until years later. It is that influence, to make a difference, however, which makes teaching a worthy lifetime endeavor. That's what we should be all about, and that is what we should hold on to for dear life.
So, at the end of this day, what will it all add up to? Will I have brought a candle into the classroom and into someone's life, as well as into mine?
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" -\____