Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon 7/5/2004 4:23 AM
Random Thought: Be A Spider

Do you know what is the most spiritual thing anyone can do on a college campus? No, it's not lighting incense candles, or humming while sitting in a yoga position, or meditating, or having a formal religious gathering. It's simplier than that. It's being a spider. It's weaving a strong web of connections with others. Caring is the practice of making those connections with everyone, all the time, everywhere. And, mindfulness, awareness, attention, and respect for each person are critical ingredients for caring. Like a spider web, any time or place or person is a good starting point for being aware, for respecting, for caring, for connecting. Like a spider web every place, every action, every person, every time is so related to every one and every thing else. Each is an essential strand in the web; each is nourished and supported and reinforced and influenced by the other. We have to decompartmentalize everything that is so fractured, compartmentalized, separated, and distanced on our campuses: schools, colleges, departments, walks of people. We have to practice to watch for the moments and places and activities where separation exists and then weave connecting strands to bring them together.

On our campus we're starting a new, spidery program called, "I Caught You Caring." It's a strand in the web. For my taste it's too passive; it's too "employee" restricted, and it's too little faculty oriented. I am nervous about it because it seems to be one of the many well-intentioned, unnoticed, even dismissed programs nestled in the hidden nook of the Office of Training and Development. I truly hope I am wrong. Whether asked or not, I will personally work to make sure I'm wrong. I think it is that important.

You know if I was to write an attractive and alluring brochure for our campus, I would write a simple statement: "We care! We just don't say. We live it!" No pretty fountains. No manicured lawns and gardens. No immaculate laboratories. No Morris Agency co-eds. No spit and polished athletes. Just those burning words: "We care! We just don't say. We live it!"

By "we," I mean every person, every member of the college community, and I mean everywhere, every time. And then, I'd enlist everyone help to make sure we each would make good on that statement. I'd make it a public theme with fanfare worthy of a triumphant parade. I'd shout it from every rooftop. I'd have it emblazoned in every hall of every building. I'd have eye-catching posters papering the campus in every conceivable place; I'd put flyers in everyone's mailbox; I'd send out constant urgings and reminders on e-mail; I'd have a "I Caught You Caring Fest;" I'd broadcast a "I Caught You Caring" program on the campus radio and television station; I'd take ads out in the campus newspaper; I'd have banners furling in the breeze; I'd have training programs; I'd have 76 trombones; I'd have recognition ceremonies. It is that important.

You know, if you wish to kill a student's appetite for learning, don't care, don't care about them, and don't be caring. If you wish to silence a student, instill fear. If you wish to paralyze a student, pierce his or her heart with a sharp "You're wrong!" or "You aren't....!" or "You can't!" or "You'll never be!" If you wish to cower a student, show him or her that he or she is not worth your time and effort. If you wish to drive a student away, just show he or she is not wanted. Works all the time. I've never seen an instance where negative and uncaring people are motivating or inspiring. The true teachers are the true believers. They're upbeat. They see the invisible and see the possibilities that are yet apparent--and live those possibilities.

I've said this to a number of people, but I think it bears repeating over and over and over again. Now some of you might think what I am about to say or have said are a bunch of platitudes. I think they're in a way a bunch of beatitudes:

We have to have a care for, love for, a hope for, belief in, and a faith in each and every student. Each and every student has a unique potential, an inner greatness. We should not treat poor students as poor students, average students like average students, and honors students like honors students. We should treat all students like the noble and sacred human beings each is. I say patiently treat students as great people and they will show themselves to be great.

In journal entry after entry, in evaluation after evaluation, I find that what impresses students the most is that they feel someone truly cares about them and connects with them--and makes no embarrassed bones about it publically. That's all any student wants, and many of them probably don't even know it or admit it any more than we do. They want to feel wanted and worthy, just like each of us. They want us to care and be caring. They want someone to notice them, to respect them, and listen to them; they want someone who will help them inspire themselves; they want someone to influence them, support them, encourage them to be what they deep down desperately want to believe they can be.

That's what I think our nascent "I Caught You Caring" program it all about. It says that we need spiders on our campus who will weave caring, connecting webs.

We desperately need spiders on our campuses who will throw out strong strands to touch the unnoticed, send out threads to wrap around the unwanted, spin a a filament to stick to the lonely. We need spiders who will knit a slivery lace that meshes together the otherwise separated and isolated, that overcomes the asocial or even anti-social way we line the students up in rows, that closes the distances between lonely seats, that turns heads to look in each other's faces rather than at the napes of necks, that allows them to see others and makes them think others see them with more than their eyes, that denounce as blasphemy everything that allows each of them to stand apart from others in the classroom, that converts cut-throat competition for recognition and into supporting and encourages cooperation, that metamorphoses strangers into friends.

We need spiders our campus who will weave caring, connecting webs.

We need caring and connecting webs so that students will not feel mediocre or worthless, will not hide in silence or aloneness. I once said a long time ago that students who feel isolated, or isolate themselves, who feel unwanted perform at lower levels. Anything which promotes isolation and perpetuates loneliness is debilitating. Walls may protect, but they also restrict and imprison. Webs promote a sense of caring and supporting connectedness that can be releasing, exhilarating, supporting, encouraging, and in some cases healing.

We need spiders who will weave caring, connecting webs.

We need spiders who will send out those strong, silvery , silken strand of caring, respecting, trusting to create a classroom and campus-wide web that into which everyone is drawn and woven together; that proclaims to each student, "You are a part of us. I, we, want you in here. We need you as much as you need us. You belong here. And we care."

We need spiders who will weave caring, connecting webs.

We need spiders who will contest anything that distances people from each other and keeps everyone at a hand's length from each other. We need spiders who will applaud everything that establishes an mutuality between everyone in the classroom, creates supportive feelings for each other, and validates a linking among each other. Weave a web and say, "It's OK to reach out. We're here for you."

We need spiders our campus who will weave caring, connecting webs.

We need spiders who will bring people together in a caring way that overcomes barriers, builds bridges and creates community. We need spiders who will weave a supporting and encouraging web that offers a sense of being comfortable around learning, of feeling supported, fed, nurtured, and informed by it; that offers a feeling of being charged, electrified; that instills a feeling of soaring freedom; that provides a feeling of being changed, enlarged, expanded, stretched, or happy; that bestows a feeling of being at home, warmed by the dancing flames of fulfillment, mesmerized by the crackling sparks of growth and development, and comforted by the glowing embers of just human thought in general. Be a spider, weave a web and you will see each student reaching much higher than they ever expected to be able to do alone.

We need spiders our campus who will weave caring, connecting webs.

Be a spider and you will find that such a simple idea as "community," of caring and sharing, has powerful impact and a dramatic effect for so many. Then, again, there's nothing stronger than the strand of a spider's web.

         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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