Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Tue, 2 Nov 1993

I ask my students to journal voluntarily, reflecting about themselves, others, me, the operation of the class, and life in general. I journal along with them. I don't collect the journals; I don't read them; I don't grade them. As a sidebar, at the suggestion of the students, next quarter I will start making the journals mandatory, collect and read them each week. At the beginning of each class, I ask if anyone has a journal entry he/she wants to share with the class. It's a way for us to share with others our feelings and attitudes, to come out from behind our walls, to act as role models for the more reluctant members of the class. I read entries from my journal to the class as well. No one volunteered to read an entry today. So, I read one of mine. Then, as we were about to end class, one student, a female African-American, called out that she wanted to read two entries from her journal. She said that she felt "you all ought to hear what I'm thinking." We sat down and listened. It proved to be worth being late for the next class.

At first, we all thought she was talking about a new boyfriend. I soon found out how wrong I was. She caught me way off guard. When she was finished, I was stunned, speechless, my eyes a bit glassy. We all left the class without a murmur. I was hesitant about writing about her entries even though she gave me permission to do so. A little voice whispered in my ear, "Louis, if you do, you'll get your butt pinned for tooting your horn." I listened at first to that voice and sent personal messages to a select few. But, another voice was making me uncomfortable. "Coward," it screamed. "You believe in what you are doing. Don't you trust your colleague's out there? There's a lot of academic learning and personal growth going on here with what you are letting the students do. Her entries reflect that. Let everyone else see that. What the hell is wrong with the celebration of teaching?" After receiving the advise from those few to whom I sent the message, I've decided to risk the heat and send it out. It's a testament to the brilliant light that can flood a classroom, a campus, the world, if only we care enough to help the student turn on the inner glow that lies within all of them. Here's her entries. I think she was courageous in sharing them. I'm thankful she did. They are pearls that encourage me, uplift me, and tell me the effort is worthwhile:

      When I first walked in class I saw many different people. 
      When I saw dark faces a sigh of relief came over me.  I
      felt comfortable with people that looked similar to me. 
      In high school it started out that way but then I began
      to change.  It is so easy to talk to people of the same
      race but it takes a little more to talk to people that's
      different.  Although I learned a lot about people in my
      high school the same cycle occurred when I got in
      college.  The more I sat in the class the more I began to
      talk and interact with people different from me.  Now I
      sit in class with all of these people not looking at them
      as being black or white but as being people.  We are all
      unique and have similar goals and objectives.  I know
      that if we disagree we can talk about whatever and we can
      agree to disagree.  In this class I have learned a lot
      about myself.  If I seem to be extra happy in this class
      it is because of the people in the class.  I am happy
      because I know many years ago I wasn't allowed in a class
      full of people not of my race.  I think that I am
      privileged to be in this class with all of those unique
      people because I know I can learn something from each one
      of them and they can learn something from me.

She then added an original poem:

      There's a new man in my life now.
      I see him every day.
      He makes me feel so good inside with the words he say.
      I talk to him about my thoughts.
      He never tells me I'm wrong
      He's always encouraging me, making me feel so strong.
      If there is a day when I'm feeling confused,
      He guides me in the right direction acting as my muse.
      I'm not sure if he knows the way I feel.
      But, he makes me feel special; he makes me feel real.
      He not only teaches me the things I need to know,
      He teaches me how to understand, how to learn, and, most
      important, how to grow.
      Please don't get me wrong.
      This new man is not my lover.
      He's one of the best teachers I know, not like any other.
      This unique man's objective is very clear to me.
      It is to help and encourage me to be the best that I can be.
      Because he is so caring in my heart he'll always be near.
      This man has done a lot for me, this man named Dr. Schmier.

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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