Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 09:14:34 -0400 (EDT)
Random Thought: My "Musts"

I went for a walk this pre-dawn spring morning. It is spring, you know. Know how I know? No, it's not the surge of color emerging from the ground. No, it's not the fact that not too long ago we interfered with Mother Nature and made that artificial chronological earthquaking lunge forward. No, it's not that the winter darkness is slowly receding. Our south Georgia spring alarm clocks have gone off with the jolt of a loud, awakening buzz. It the mosquitos. The place is already abuzz with these bat-size buzzing suckers.

I am a morning person, a very early morning person. For me, like birds and bushes, one early morning hour is worth two during the rest of the day. With every step in the murky darkness, I see see crystal clear. My spirit has a sharpness that cuts through the south Georgia mugginess. I can step back and experience the joy of who I truly am. In the serene darkness of the morning I can see so clearly that it defies the shapelessness of the night. It's a place where I can quiet my mind and stir by soul, where the cluttering distractions which seem so overwhelming in the light are so insignificant and trivial and silly, where I can go deeper into the awareness of being here in this moment, where I can step away from the worries, the fears and the doubts. It is a powerful, refreshing, energizing place--this dark stillness--where, free from the frenzy chatter and clatter of the day. I can see that most of the day's frenzy and distractions are there because I let them swirl around me and distract me and prey on me. On the dark street, I can focus my awareness on what is truly important to me. I especially needed that this morning. The last fews days have been a lesson for me that the more tumultuous and uncertain the world around me is, the more important it is to nurture a real and abiding peace within me. When there is trouble outside me, it is more important than ever to have peace within. Misery serves no one, accomplishes nothing, creates no value. It is saddening, souring, weakening, ineffective, painful, and useless. Negativity adds to the darkness and makes the world a lesser place. Serenity adds to the light and makes the world a better place. It is effective, joyful, empowering, helpful, compassionate, sweet, kindly, creative and positively positive.

And, as I power walked my six miles at about eleven "clicks" (bragging time), it came to me that all this is at the core of my formula of "MUSTS" for teaching and learning that I been hunting the last few days. A student mistook the table at the Union where I was devouring a glazed doughnut for the fountain. Without going into details, she wanted "no more than ten SHORT (her emphasis) parts" of my formula for teaching. I asked her if I could give her a formula "for student learning." She agreed. This is what I am going to e-mail her today. My formula has little to do with the practicing. It has everything to do with the practitioner out from whom comes the nature and form of the practicing. My formula for learning has eight components:

First, each day I MUST create opportunity, and never lose an opportunity handed to me, to get to know these students and let them get to know me. I must be real, a real person. I must be genuine. I must enter into a personal encounter with students without presenting a facade or a front or a role. I can't be mere animated curriculum. I must be myself. I must not deny or hide myself. I must meet the student on a person-to-person basis.

Second, I MUST care and love. I must value each student's humanity. I must do so not so that I step in and own and control, but so I step back, release and provide freedom.

Third, each day I MUST go into class wanting to make a difference. I must make it my choice to do it, not because someone says I must, not because someone says I should. I do it bcause I feel an inner "must." Nothing I do will ever happen unless I give it a shot: nothing wanted, nothing attempted, no "dirtied hands," nothing achieved.

Fourth, I MUST believe I am going to make a difference, to make what I'll call "a positive" difference. What I see is what I get. When I look any students as a problem, I will get them. When, with those powerful four words of belief and faith and hope and love, I see a person filled with possibilities and opportunities, I will get them.

Fifth, each day I MUST look for and seize any opportunity to make a difference. I must invest my precious time in connecting, not distancing; in creating value, not devaluing; in trusting, not distrusting; in respecting, not disrespecting; in accepting, not rejecting; in praising, not condemning.

Sixth, I MUST pay close attention, intense attention, to students' feelings. It is vital to have an empathic understanding, to be aware of the processes of education and learning as they seem to a student. I must accept the legitimacy of his/her fears and hesitations, of his/her personals feelings and desires and motives, of the outside and distracting "noise" that mixes in and contends with the "music" of the classroom.

Seventh, I MUST be patient. Making a difference takes time and continue effort. There are no quick fixes, magic wands, miraculous puffs of smoke. Things come in time when you give the time and make the effort. It is tough to begin, I tell the students. I also tell them that it is just as tough to continue. Patience is strength at rest. It is high energy without high tension. It settles the turmoil. It turns the ugly into something beautiful. It gives meaning to the apparent meaningless. An artist knows all about this.

And finally, and most important, I MUST create a climate to make the student and myself feel good. The prime purpose of a teacher is to prime good feeling in each student. The weather of a classroom will largely determine whether anything else will work.

Must I always hit the mark with everyone? I'd like to, but I know the answer is "no." Nothing is a 100% formula. If, however, I want guarantees that my "musts" will become "wills," I'll be standing on the corner forever, doing nothing but waiting, and nothing will come my way. Falling short of the mark is always possible any time I take aim. Yet failing to hit the mark is a guarantee if I never take aim at all. A successfully businessman, whom I highly respect, once told me, those who achieve the most are those who attempt the most. Those who are told "yes" most often are those also who have been told "no" most often. It's a lesson a lot of us on our campuses need learn.

Gotta get ready to hit my garden. Putting in almost a thousand caladiums today. Colorful yummy!!

         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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