Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 08:23:07 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: My Sixth Word in My Dictionary of Good Teaching

It's that stupid fountain wall. Will I never learn. As I I heard an ominous "Hi, Doc" cut through the crisp air. I resignly put my delightfully sticky sweet roll aside. This time it was Kenny.

Remember Kenny from a few years back? He was the first year, secondary ed major, who had asked me for some "different" words that would guide him in his future teaching career. His assignment led to the compilation of "My Dictionary of Good Teaching" which now contains five words: "water," "read," "darkness," "Wilby," and "play."

"Haven't we gotten rid of you yet?" I asked with a smile.

"You did. Last semester. Just visiting. Say, good thing I bumped into you." I cringed when I heard that. "Must be fate. I was thinking about you."

"I can't wait to hear why," I interrupted with an air of mock fear

"How about some more words."

"Why did I know you were going to say that."

"Hey, it'll be a late graduation present. And, it's only mid-term. About it, another five? I loved those others. Read them all the time. They really help me. First one next week? Monday? Here's my e-mail. Gotta run. Make them 'good' and 'different' like the others. Bye."

"Monday? Wednesday," I yelled after him.

He waved his arm in approval without turning back. I think I'm going to give up doughnuts, sweetrolls, and that fountain wall. Anyway, I was mulling things around this morning. What could I come up with that would be what Kenny would think was a good one--and "different?" Then, as I hit the one and a half mile mark on the outgoing leg of my walk, I started having an inner conversation with myself:

"You don't want to do this," I moaned to myself.

"You have to," I admonished myself.

"Why? The world isn't going to come to a stop if I don't."

"You promised that you'll walk a little farther this morning."

"Three miles is enough."

"You've been doing that for a few days. Time to push."

"I'll ache."

"It's the only way you'll get back to six miles."

"It's cold and drizzly. I'll have a relapse."

"Four miles today."

I walked on. On the back two mile leg, feeling good about not having given into the temptation to be lazy and surrendering to the temptation to push myself, it started coming to me. I started thinking of this brief inner conversation and of a video of "Damn Yankees" I had watched the other night, of Joe Hardy, Mr. Applegate, and especially his acolyte temptress, Lola. And heard that alluring, tempting, salacious, seductive song of temptation playing in my head: "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets; and little man, Lola wants you." And, it hit me. Boy did I come up with a good one for Kenny: TEMPTATION.

Sound Satanic? Maybe more live devilish. Anyway I'm not ready to cast Kenny into Hell's seething sulphur pits of everlasting damnation even though I slightly felt that way at the fountain. And, don't call upon Daniel Webster to do battle with Mr Scratch for his soul. Hear me out. Whether we're looking at a dictionary or a religious scripture, we think of tempation in dark and negative terms as walking on a path in a direction that leads us away from true north, from good to evil, right to wrong, blessing to curse, virtue to sin.

So why am I conjuring up what at first glance seem to be negative and destructive images of a Siren or a Lorelei or a Lola for Kenny? Well, we all assume that to be tempted and to succumb to temptation is something bad. We assume it means to do something unseemly, evil, ungodly, nasty, criminal, sinful. We all assume that temptation has but one goal, and that is to stray off the path.

What if temptation isn't all that devilish; what if it was just the opposite? What if temptation can have another goal, and this is to lure, entice, and pull us onto and keeps us on the difficult path that heads in the direction of true north? What if temptation were to lure out our hidden strengths instead of catering to our weaknesses. What is if it enticed us away from our negative jealousies, anxieties, fears, resentments and toward secret positive potentials ? What if we are tempted not to let others or ourselves impose limits or silence our voices; what if we were tempted to walk around our fears of failing and of rejection; what if we were tempted to climb over our barriers of worry and burst through those obstructions of weakened self-confidence; what if we were tempted to lift these negative weights so we can be creative and imaginative? We don't ordinarily call these "what ifs" temptations, but they are.

We think of temptation as something in inopportune. What if we turn temptation on its head and make it into something that is opportune? We think of temptation as something that ensnares us. What if it was something that cuts through the entangling net? What if we just said "Yes" to the challenging temptations I am thinking about? What if it was helpful instead of harmful, an antidote instead of a poison, an ally instead of a foe, liberating instead of enslaving, fun instead of foul, constructive instead of destructive, joyful instead of sorrowful, success instead of failure, a "yes" rather than a "no," light instead of dark, assuredness instead of doubt, uplifting instead of despairing, good instead of bad. What if we are entice to accept the temptation of challenge, effort, commitment, perseverance, dedication, work.

I think we too often pause to consider Lola with her get-rich-and-famous-quick-and-easy seduction because we don't have faith in ourselves, confidence in ourselves, belief in ourselves. We succumb to our weakness because we don't have the courage to go into our heart of hearts and put our strength, abilities, and talents to the test. I think, as it says in Psalms 51, we desire inner truth, to hear joy and gladness, to have a clean heart, but we don't dare go there. What if we were dared to go there? What if, as I said, if we were tempted to believe in ourselves and students, have faith in ourselves and students, trust ourselves and students. What if we succumb to our strengths to overcome our hesitations? What if we surrender to the temptation to resolve our conflicting desires to stay hidden and play it safe and stay in the crowd and remain imprisoned to the demands of what others want on one hand, and take a risk and stand away from the herd and be free and lead on the other?

Temptation doesn't happen just because we have that desire, for we experience lots of forlornly "if only" and "I wonder" desires that come and go. To be tempted and to succumb to the temptation are two different things. The temptation I see occurs not in the wanting, but in the doing. It's born as a desire, subtle and subconscious and silent or otherwise; it's slowly grows into action; and it leads to a fulfilled professional and personal and communal experiences! The temptation occurs, then, not when it's offer, but when desires captures us. For me, the temptation is a deep desire to be that person who is there to help each student become the person he or she is capable of becoming. Always go back to that first principle of mine, don't I. Getting interesting? Temptation, then, might be the pearly gateway to good.

So, yeah, I'm going to tell Kenny if he wants to be a good teacher, he has to give into and follow his temptations. He has got to give into that craving to make a difference, get captured by that drive to do something important, succumb to that ravenous desire to be of value, surrender to be the person of his inner dreams and visions, get enticed pass those stop signs, get lured into being unique. I'm going to tell him that he has to surrender to those desires to lead himself into temptation to become someone larger than himself, to live a life of accomplishment rather than one of comfort.

So, maybe I'm not nuts when I lump temptation, strength and courage all in one breath. Depends upon the temptation, doesn't it. What if you were being tempted to remove doubt, be fulfilled, feel satisfaction, to feel accomplishment, to make a difference? Wouldn't you give in? Unlike Lola's temptation, giving into my kind of temptation is an act courage and a sign of strength. And, of course, what I'm telling Kenny is all he has to do is tempt yourself.

Heck, if we're always giving into some kind of temptation, and we are, why don't we just give into those that will lead to achievement. So, I'm going to tell Kenny that if he wants to become a good teacher, tempt himself to appreciate the challenges, to look for the positive possibilities, to look for and find the buried treasure in each student, to work, to persist, to commit, to seek out the opportunities, to imagine the best, to experience the sadness that goes along with caring, to embrace the consequences, to reach, to wonder, to believe and to have faith and to have hope and to love, to be uncertain, to let go, to see adventures instead of struggle, to have fun, to find and spread joy, to enrich, to shatter the limitations, to welcome change, not to fear failure, to stretch, to dare, not to be wrapped up in comfort, to be forever "unboxed," to welcome problems as positive opportunities, to always be "un-rutted," to give, to smile and laugh and sparkle each day, to lively bring life to each student each day, to be honest and humble, not to get angry, to notice the vast and magnificent and beautiful in each student, to nurture, to be a friend, to be passionate, to have compassion, to grow, to develop, to succeed, not to fear, to make that golden connection with each student, to know each student is important, to fall in love with the mysterious and the unexpected, to surrender control, not to prejudge or judge, to be there for a student, to do whatever it takes, to achieve, not to ask for guarantees, to learn new skills, test out new ideas, to explore, to make each day count, to make no excuses, to take risks, to be selfless, to do something important, never to take the easy way, to roll up your sleeves and never throw up your hands or walk away, to be the person to help each student become the person he or she is capable of becoming. Oh, there are some many more of these kinds of temptations I can think of.

I have found that the longer I let these temptations stew and brew in my soul the more secure , stronger, and serene I become. I don't want to resist them. I want to be lured and enticed by them. I want to be on the lookout for them. I don't want to flee and avoid them. I don't want to over come them. I want them to overcome me. I want them to drag me away. I want to embrace them. I want to be a helpless victim of them. I don't want to battle them. I want to make them my ally and fight along side them. I don't want to keep these temptations in check. I want to recognize them for what they are and let them thrive.

Unlike Lola's temptations, they aren't easy ones and they won't take Kenny on the easy road. They will take him over bumpy potholes, into dangerous hairpins curves, on rattling rough pavement. To give into them, I can attest, will give him strength and security--and serenity-- make him proud and honest, find that teaching with loving kindness is amazing, and will change his heart and his actions. And, he will have a wonderful life of making a meaningful difference for the better.

         Make it a good day.


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

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