Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 10:45:16 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: Who Makes a Difference?

Wow! What a walk this morning. The horned-shaped amaryllis did more than trumpet just a hint of spring. It was a show to behold, a sight to feel: the cool, muting fog softening and blurring sharp edges allowing the splotches of purples, reds, lavenders, pinks, and oranges of Azaleas to flow into one another; the clumps of wisteria blossoms dripping from trees like globs of purple paint as their vines wound around trunks and branches like pythons; the pine pollen giving everything a golden dusting; slowly greening lawns and blackened streets and dark rooftops spotted by a blizzard of lazily falling flakes of "Georgia Snow"--soft, white petals of dogwood flowers plucked from the branches and thrown about by a balmy breeze; choraling birds; the nourishing softened light coming over the horizon.

As I walked through this impressionist painting, I was thinking about one of those chain up-lifting letters that I occasional find in my mailbox. This one was about people whom we remember, people whom we remember because they made a difference in our lives. And, that got me to thinking about what are the qualities of those educators who make a difference and who will be remembered. As I left tracks in the light blanket of "Georgia Snow", I came up with these qualities:

Educators who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials. They know title, position and acclaim don't buy class in a class. They are the ones with the concern for each student as a wonderful human being. They fight not to leave anyone behind. They understand how important each person is and deserve their individual attention.

They understand that concern does not necessarily come at a convenient time or in easy ways. They understand that concern takes as many forms as the individual needs of individual students themselves.

They understand that no hope is the only false hope. They know "it" all can't be done in a day, a term, a single class.

They know that many students, like many faculty, act annoyed or angry because they feel powerless, disrespected, unnoticed, and voiceless; that under a student's hard shell is a human being who wants to be appreciated. Sometimes all a student needs is an ear to listen and a heart to understand. And, no matter how serious an education may be, sometimes a student just needs a friend with whom to act foolish and laugh and smile.

They know that to ignore a student doesn't either make that student go away or change him or her.

They are always alert and sensitive, knowing that a "passing" comment or "innocent gesture always sticks. So, they know that the "little 'insignificant' stuff" that goes on in a classroom everyday can have grand consequences.

They understand they are not value free and that educational institutions are moral forces.

Educators who make a difference are not Greek playwrights; they understand that spiritual exhaltation is a more serious subject than spiritual affliction.

They understand that students will put in more effort to find joy and a sense of accomplishment than to find fear and unhappiness. So, they students pleasure from learning, adventuring, discovering. They understand that bitter is not the same as better.

They move slowly so they see, hear and feel the details.

They are slow to criticize, slow to judge, slow to condemn, and slow to be defensive.

Educators who make a difference are people of unending second chances and know that the opportunities to reach out and touch are always there and never lost. They have patience and "cool it" when they reach the boiling point.

They do not surrender to negatives about a student.

The bottom line and last word is that educators who make a difference understand that the bottom line of teaching, the last word of teaching, is helping people, is building up fellow human beings, showing respect for each person.

Educators who make a difference know that the first mission of the teacher is to make the soul dance. They are like a a dawn of hope, a nourishing light coming over the horizon. .

Make it a good day. 


Louis Schmier           
Department of History    
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA  31698                        /~\    /\ /\
912-333-5947                       /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
                                  /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

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