Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2001 09:18:13 -0400 (EDT)
Random Thought: A Truth

Just had an interesting phone call at my home.

It started, "Hey, Dr. Schmier. This is Mandy. Remember me?"

"Sure. What's up that you're calling me this early at my house? Something wrong."

"Yeah. Sorry to call this early. I have to talk with someone. And, you were the first one to come to mind. You don't mind, do you?"

"No. That's what I'm here for. I'm listening."

Mandy was student whom I haven't seen in several years and had just ended her first year of teaching in the public schools. She just wanted to talk with somebody.

She was, to put it briefly, a tortured concoction of proverbial agony and ecstasy, of expectation and frustration, of smiles and tears, of excitement and disappointment. She talked about the students, parents, fellow-teachers, principals, vice-principals, paper-work, standardized tests, and on and on and on. Her voice continued to rise and fall like a stormy wave.

"This....wasn't....what....I....expected," she moaned with a near scream. I could feel her sense of uselessness, impotence, almost defeat that seemed to border on an anger. "My ed teachers with all their theories and books didn't prepare me for the real world of teaching. I thought I was a professional and I feel that I am treated as an amateur by everybody. No one seems to really care, I mean really care, about the kids. All they care about is their jobs, their image, test scores and grades and forms and all that crap. Remember the Popeye 'words of the day' you put on the blackboard? 'Youse gets out whats you puts in?' Well, everybody 'wants out' and nobody seems to 'wants to puts in'"

Mandy seemed to be an incarnate echo an op-ed piece I read the other day in the WASHINGTON POST by Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation.

"Everybody? Nobody? They? Does that include yourself?

She hesitated and then sighed. "Honestly, I don't know now. I don't know if this is what I want."

"What do you want?

"I want to be a good teacher. I want to make a difference."

"Then be one and do it."

"It's so hard."

"Of course it's hard."

And we talked.

"What should I do. That's why I called. Tell me what to do."

"You know better than to ask me that. You want advice: Remember THE CHAIR. Listen. Mandy, I really can't tell you what to do. Only you can do that," I answered with a non-answer. "Understand this: it's not a question of if it's going to be hard or if you're going to have problems. The question is how are you going to deal with them; how are you going to perceive them and respond to them. That's what makes the real difference among people, not the problems but their responses. If I have learned anything in the past decade as I struggled to become a teacher, it is one thing: there are no realities in the classroom; there are only perceptions. And, those perceptions are your reality. Whatever you want to see in yourself and around you, you will see....and you will fight to believe....and you will struggle to will look those "it's hards" or "it's not fairs" or the "why mes" in the eye and you will go out there and make it happen for yourself. Remember what Popeye the Sailorman said, "Youse gets out whats youse puts in."

I could almost hear her smile. And, she talked some more, a lot more.

"Thanks," she said, "Can I call again?"

"Sure. Any time."

         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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