Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000 09:35:05 -0400 (EDT)
Well, the days of "wow" are coming quickly upon us. The semester is about to begin. As I was walking on a new route late this morning, thinking about some personal family stuff, I bumped into a long-time colleague going to class whose office is in a building I rarely enter and whom I haven't seen in quite a while. Her face said it all before a word passed her lips. She looked at me incredulously and asked with surprise written all over her face and voice, "You still here? I thought you had retired and were gone."
"Nope," I answered. "Still here."
"Why," she asked looking for my straight-jacket. "Doesn't this work and these students get you down?
"Down?....Work?.....No!" I asnwered with a joyful smile in my returning inflection, "I know people have been telling me that it doesn't make financial sense to stay around here, but it makes perfect spiritual sense to me. I love the students. I love what I am doing. Why would I want to give up something that I jump up and go to with a 'yes' every day?"
"Spiritual sense? Jump up and to go. Well, it gets me down," she frowned. "I can't wait to retire from this work and get out here."
I smiled a nice smile and started walking again, thinking to myself, "You already have."
As I continued on my walk, those two words of hers, "down" and "work" started thumping within me.
Let's take that first downer of a word, "Down." On those very rare occasions when I feel a disheartening moment approaching, I just get myself back up and get up for and to teaching. The point is I use what I call "point to point" teaching. Those few dispirited moments I see as turning points to invigorate my spirit. I use them to take myself to learning points that go on to become power points of teaching. And now, if ever for even so much as a second I feel self-pity and dejected about any teaching situation, I now will just think of my new found friend, Susan Tipry-Deter. If you ever want to meet an inspiration!!!!
It didn't take five minutes when I first met Susan at a conference last week in Vancouver for her to show me that I no longer have a right to be down much less stay down. Talk about courage and determination! She has every right to be down. She was an extraordinarily physically active person and a successful model. I'll just say that she has been fighting a winning war against MS for nearly two decades almost by sheer force of will. The MS may have stopped her active life in its tracks, but not ultimately her active living. She doesn't know it, but her mere presence teaches anyone who takes but a glance that if you're knocked down, it doesn't mean you have to be knocked out. Her muscles may be weak, but her smuscular pirit allows her to walk on. She is still a beauty! She reaffirmed and taught me in conversation after conversation that any set back is a set up, that any wild nightmare can be broken and tamed to be ridden like a dream.
It's the same with me and teaching. Teaching, which until a decade ago was closer to a nightmarish rut, is now a galloping and driving dream. Why would I want to rein in the dream; why would I want the dream to stop? If it did, that would be a nightmare.
Now for that laborious word, "work." I think of work as something I have to do. There's something of a "I wish I could be somewhere else," stuck-in-a-rut, routine, slogging, sighful, dour, resigned, "oh, well" attached to that word. If you see teaching as work, it then becomes a routine you have to do and do and do and do and go to and go to and go with a heavy trudge and a heavy heart and with no real spirit. In that state of mind, your attitudinal immune system is weakened and you are susceptible to the debilitating infections of "but," "if only," "what now," and "what if."
Now, with the equivilant of about thirty-five years in the University System I can retire quite comfortably any time I want. So, obviously teaching is not something I have to do and where I have to be. It is, therefore, not work for me. What is it? It's play! Serious play, to be sure. Nothing routine about it. Certainly enjoyable, meaningful, exciting, rewarding, fulfilling, and overflowing with purpose and vision--if you feel more comfortable with those words.
To me, "play" is something I want to do, that I enjoy doing where I want to be, that I smile inside and outside about. When you enjoy your work, when you have fun at it, it's not work.
If you see teaching as play, serious play, serious fun, it is something you want to do. Just think of it: if the work of teaching is something you want to do, something you love to do, something you're happy at doing, someplace where you want to be, then it's not work. If you say verbally and non-verbally, "I'm happy to be here. I look forward to being here. I feel good," teaching is surely fun, enjoyment, excitement, reward, fulfillment. Then, your inclination will be to dance and skip rather than trudge and slog; then you'll exclaim and proclaim rather than complain and blame. That's how teaching is for me. I don't separate my teaching as work from my play. Teaching, for me is a merging of work and play. I mean what could I do that combines work and play so firmly and inseparately that it's not work?
If, however, you don't love teaching, if you don't love each and every student, if you don't truly look forward to it, if you see teaching as work, how can you be happy with it. And if you are truly not happy, how can you be good at it? When you aren't sharp, it's dull and you're dull. And, that just won't cut it for you or the students. Let's be honest, as I just told some people, you can't jump a dead battery with a dead battery. Your engine will turn over and rev, and you'll turn over other engines, only if you're charged up.
So, what is it for you: TGIF or TGIM, "Thank God It's Friday" or "Thank God It's Monday?"
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History http://www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta State University Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~ \ /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" -\____