Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sun 10/10/2004 6:44 AM
Random Thought: What does it take to be a teacher: An Interview, Part II

Well, I guess the segments of the interview by student which I shared with you weren't all the parts he used. I received some more of the transcript yesterday. And, I would like to share wit you what I just received:

"I wish I could be like you someday."

"Wish for someone you can be."

"Who's that?"



"Sure. I teach who I am. So, you will teach who you will become. Teaching is an inside-out job."

"What are you talking about?"

"In the days when I wore ties and jackets and suits and all that academic costuming, my salesman at a men's store where I got all my clothes, once told me that if you wanted to know the real quality of a jacket or any piece of clothing, turn it inside-out and look at how the material is cut and sewn together. You can use the finest material, he once told me, but if its cut and sewn shoddy, it's schlock. It's no different with teaching. Why don't we understand that, for better or worse, whatever we wish for we must work hard at being, work just as hard or harder than at doing. Wishfully clicking the heels of ruby slippers isn't going to make anything come true, nor will wishful singing to the evening sky from a starlit window sill. Whatever we do and wherever we go on the outside, our inside, we, are there guiding, directing, influencing, determining. If you want to take risks, be fearless; if you want to be respected, be respectful; if you want to be feared, be controlling; if you don't want to be engaged, be distant; if you want to be frustrated, be impatient; if you want to be hopeful, offer hope; if you want to be believed, be believable; if you want to be trusted, be trustworthy; if you want to beautify, be beautiful; if you want to be appreciated, be appreciative; if you want to be honest, be authentic; if you want to be heard, hear; if you want to be understood, be understanding; if you want to care, be caring; if you want to be loved, be loving; if you want to be a mover, be on the move; if you want to be adventurous, be different; if you want to make a difference, reach out and touch; if you want life in the classroom, live it."

"But what about methods and techniques and strategies?"

"I'm not dismissing them, but there's a more important 'how.' They're the skeleton, but it's the 'feel' that gives them direction, purpose, meaning, and is critical to their effectiveness--or ineffectiveness."

"Feel? That spirituality again?"

"Mark Twain was wrong. You can do something about the weather. The teacher controls the climate in the classroom so that the student inhales clean, fresh, and invigorating air or toxic fumes. I'm saying your effectiveness as a teacher is rooted in the mood you create in and out of the classroom. We can criticize with harsh words and offensive gestures that belittle, humiliate and wound. Or, we make sure that the words which come out from our mouths are positive and beautiful. Good moods, good work; bad moods, bad work. Good moods are lubricants; bad moods are grinding sand. Good moods enhance flexibility, imagination, creativity, and satisfaction; bad moods stir up second guessing, anxiety, rigidity, and dissatisfaction."

"Wait a minute. Don't you evaluate students when they've done something wrong?"

"Ah, it's how I act and the words I use that are critical. I don't use negatives and I don't sneer. I never angrily proclaim a blanket "Wrong!" I'll display a kind disappointment. Ill always find a positive on which a student can build and ask him or her to do again whatever he or she was suppose to do; I'll always ask if he or she gave it everything he or she had; I'll always say that he or she is disrespecting him-/herself; I always say he or she is better than that, and so on."

"Why do you do it that way?"

"Intentions are important. They impact on the words you use and the gestures you make, and they, in turn, have a powerful impact on a students attitude and performance. I'm not there to blindly take off points, diminish, be inconsiderate, be unreasonable, be unsympathetic, discourage, frighten, tear down, or weed out. I'm there to nurture, support, encourage, respect, empathize, understand, listen, direct, enhance. I once said that any teacher who can't go 24 hours without saying or thinking a negative about students has lost control of his or her heart and tongue no less than someone addicted to nicotine or alcohol or a narcotic has surrendered control."

"Are just words that important?

"They're symbols of your attitude and beliefs. They're powerful, and most people's armor to protect themselves against them are as thick and strong as aluminum foil. They are verbal sticks and stones; they do break bones; they do do harm; they do wound; and, they are soothing salves; they do heal. Let me put it this way. Each student is like a hitchhiker. You can stop and give him or her an emotional lift or you can stop and emotionally hijack him or her. How you, I, and each student feels affects our performance and what they, we, will achieve. Hey, go to prepare for class."

"I've got to run, too. Can I call you again."

"Sure, but before you leave, I've a reading assignment for you. Read two books. The first is Daniel Goleman's PRIMAL LEADERSHIP. The second is Joseph Telushkin's WORDS THAT HURT, WORDS THAT HEAD. They both nail it with the first page!"

         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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