Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

January, 1996
Subject: On Courage, a reply to a reply

I know you wrote me off-list, castagated would be a better term, flamed in e-mail terms, but I think it warrants an on-list response. I'm really sorry you think me arrogant, high-and-mighty, self-righteous, and meddling, and that I am self-congratulatory and self-promoting when I share my Random Thoughts. I don't mean to be. And, please to not take this message as a flame, for it is not intended as such.

I admit that there are times I want to say, to scream, "why is it so difficult for our colleagues to....." But, I just say to myself "take it easy, Louis. You've been there. You know the pain it took to get here. You have to be careful, be more tolerant, or at least understanding, of others." That's why I have a policy of never lighting backfires if I am flamed or engaging in a flame or adding a flame to a firestorm. Now, you and others may pounce on this admission of fraility and fallibility, but I WOULD BE arrogant and self-righteous if I did otherwise. There are times, a few I hope, that I slip up. I find myself sometimes having less patience than I should though I try to bite my tongue and lip. People who are called educators who protect themselves and their vested interests at the expense of students and do to students what their conscience is or should be ashamed of anger me. I get rattled by self-described educators who just meander around cashing in their paycheck and waiting for that three month summer vacation. Teachers who gaze into cyberspace rather than in students' hearts worry me. Teachers who look at computer screens and ignore the face of each student frustrate me. I am concerned with teachers who lovingly clutch their subject instead of caringly embracing their students. I wish teachers see what I see and hear what I hear and feel what I feel: that each student is lit from within, that each is the most beautiful picture in the world, that each is the most beautiful sounding instrument you can hear. I get disappointed when I hear that teachers don't see that each student counts as much as a single note on a symphonic music score or each brush stroke on a canvas.

That may be a bit unfair, and I have to struggle to understand that each person is unique in his/her own way and has his/her own personality, that each person has his/her own beliefs and values, strengths and weaknesses, hang-ups and up bringing, training and experience, fears, and routine. At times, I have to catch myself and step back to realize that if anyone wants to change or is to change, such change is difficult and takes time. I have to be aware that if I am with strong conviction, I shouldn't ever walk away muttering in something of an arrogant huff, "what's the use", but I should engage them and use the power of persuasion and discussion and debate to convert them or at least to consider the possible legitimacy of my ways. We all tend to migrate towards a routine in our way of thinking, living and working. I feel I am a better person and a better teacher if I'm challenged and forced by myself and others to explore new avenues. I don't want my life or my teaching to grow stagnant and my heart to dry rot and my mind to fossilize any more than I want my muscles to get flabby. Sometimes I forget what anxiety it takes, what difficulty it took me, to venture out, expand my horizons, broaden my experiences, tackle something new, see the untold and unseen possibilities. Habits, comforting and safe and predictable as they are, take time to break whether they are habits of studying, teaching, learning, self-perceptions, or perceptions of students and colleagues.

And so, as I just told someone in England, I cherish my experiences as special memories. And, I don't think it is selfish and pompous--to use your words--to do so. If a student's light is out or is flickering, isn't it our responsibility as teachers to try to kindle or rekindle it and blow it into flame? I know I need all the help and support and encouragement I can get. I think others do so as well whether they know it or not, whether they admit it or not. You know, we all owe someone who has stepped in and help when he/she has seen us staggering under a heavy physical, emotional and/or academic load: a friend, a teacher, a family member, whoever. They've shared their strengths and experiences, bolstered us up, walked with us, lit the way. Shouldn't we do, or attempt to do, as pay back--as a thank you to those who have been there when we needed them--any less for students and others? I hoard those stories as sacred memories. They tell me what teaching is all about. They are pick-me-ups when I am down and need encouragement. I think they can be for others on this list as well. They tell me that teaching is about making a difference in someone's life and helping someone get a chance. I hope they do the same for others. I know the personal stories and experiences related by others on this and other lists do that for me.

By the way, Kim just called. It's been 10 days since she has had a drink and I have bitten or picked at my nails.

Have a good one.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
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