Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Wed, 21 Apr 1993

It's 5:30 a.m.. I just came in from a rejuvenating, four mile power walk. While traveling the streets I was thinking about leaving tonight to attend Parents Weekend at my younger son's school in Maine. It's called Hyde School. It's quite a place. He owes his life to it; we owe our lives to it. I'd like read you a statement about Hyde School:

" Hyde School, we believe in the questions. Who am I? What am I capable of? What's holding me back? How do I get where I want to go? These questions though sometimes painful, are signposts on a profound and personal journey, a journey to uncover and realize our unique potential. The way may be rocky but it's a path that none of us can take alone. Without the help of family, friends and teachers, some of us can get trapped in the questions, with no real skills for making sense of our demons and dreams...."

Why do I bring this up? Well, while I was walking I was thinking about a conversation I had with a colleague. We were talking about the character-based curriculum I have been developing in my classes. I mentioned to him that at the beginning of the quarter I had asked four questions to the 140 students in my three introductory history classes. The first question was: "How many of you think you're good, first-class students?" A total of 15 students sheepishly responded. Next I asked: "How many of you consider yourselves as mediocre or average students?" A total of 104 responded positively. Then, I asked: "How many of you believe you're capable of being good, first-class students?" A stunning total of 96 raised their hand. And finally, I asked: "What's wrong? Why aren't you trying to reach what you believe you're capable of becoming?" The answer was a silence and a hesitant mumble of, "I don't knows."

"So, what's your point," my colleague asked.

I told him that most of these students are not incompetent. They have great potential, but they are holding themselves back. For a whole bunch of reasons, they don't believe in themselves or are afraid of taking the risk of finding out about themselves. If only, I continued, we as teachers could help them find the way to change their attitude and values, they would unswervingly strive to develop whoever it is they are.

"You're crazy. You and I are professors, not social workers!" was his rebuff.

Aren't we? Or, shouldn't we be? I asked myself these questions as I cut through the darkness. As a personal answer, I think being an effective and meaningful teacher of any kind or at any educational level, means more than just being a master of a subject, being able to organize and emphasize information, being capable of clarifying ideas and pointing out relationships. If that is the sum of my teaching, then a tape recording, computer program, and /or a book can easily replace me.

No, if I am to deal, as I think teachers must, with the questions posed by the Hyde statement, I must concerned with more than the subject matter and developing only the student's intellect. I think that any definition of teaching must include both a desire and an ability to motivate students to motivate themselves. Shouldn't the primary concern of the teacher be with developing those attitudes and emotions which energize the intellect to perform? I have reflected long and hard, and I have decided that for me to be an effective and meaningful teacher I must be driven by a desire to help students tap their unrecognized potential by assisting them to find the hidden elements of their character. By character I mean responsibility, honesty, integrity, humility, "hard work", pursuit of excellence, pride, a willingness to help others. I cannot be the teacher I want to be unless I struggle to be a truly reasonable, open, caring, concerned, involved and imaginative human being.

In short, being a teacher means not just asking students to ask the questions raised at Hyde School, but helping them to struggle to find the answers for themselves and to use those answers to develop their potential. And if all that demands that a teacher be a counselor or a confessor or a social worker in addition to being a professor, so be it. But, that is what makes teaching a calling rather than just a profession or a job.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
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                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
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