Copyright © 1997, Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Tue, 26 Aug 1997 07:23:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Random Thought: Too Much--reply

Boy my fingers are hurting from replying to the unexpected and overwhelming response to Tuesday's Random Thought. As I was deafened by those continuing bays of these dogs of August, I thought some more about that professor's message, about a heated discussion the RT triggered in which I am engulfed where I am being accused of being touchy-feely, mushy, naive, childish, self-congratulatry, oversimplied. But, I was also thinking about an evaluation a student whom I'll call Tom wrote in his journal whose words probably answer better those naysayers than anything I could write:

Hey, doc, I know you're going to read this. So, I want you to see a longer version of the sealed letter you have us write and I wrote to some student next quarter about you and this class. You know I came into this class as a cocky striaght A senior business major who felt stuck in a useless freshman history class I had to have because of a useless advisor's screwup. I had a "I dare you, you Sonofabitch." But I want you to know that in most classes, all classes to be honest, I have done everything I could to get a good grade and didn't really care all that much if I learned something. In your class, I found myself struggling to learn and not worrying particularly about the grade. And you know what? I didn't even realize that was happening and I didn't realize how much I was learning because I had so much fun doing each of the projects. "Fun Learning," that's what this class is all about, not just boring lectures, threats of tests, and stuff like that. It's becoming part of the subject and tying it to our lives, being trusted that we can become our own learners, giving control of the class to us. You gave me stuff to think about as I start helping my father run his business, something like "fun working." You can have fun and like your class be demanding and serious and keeping your feet to the fire. You taught me that if it's fun and rewarding, work isn't work, and you accomplish an awful lot. I don't thnk I'll ever forget Hamilton and federalism because of the commerical ad campaign project, or the struggle of women in colonial times after writing that piece of historical fiction, or the early nineteen century reform that we studied through the scavenger hunts or all the other informations we got into with the other hands on projects. I can never say that after a test in other courses. Minute for minute, day for day, I've learned more and will remember more information, and understand it more in this class than in all my other classes put together.

I don't think, I know, I will never forget the time you slapped me hard when I came to you arrograntly complaining to you about my other triad members and told you they were impossible and that I didn't want to rely upon someone else for my grade and liked to work alone and I didn't want my 4.0 to be hurt. You only asked me what my major was which you already knew. When I told you that I was a management major about to graduate with honors, all you said was, "well, start managing," and you walked away. Remember? I was pissed and called my father. He told me that being in business was not a grade or a degree, and that I better start listening to you. Boy was I pissed at him, too.

But, I have to admit now that I never had a class that did so much for me in one quarter. And, I know I'm not the only one. It would have been easier to have taken a class when I could sit back as usual, take notes, study for an exam and get a good grade,forget the stuff, and go out for a beer, but it would not have been better. Your class was fun, but you never demanded anything less than our best, and I thought it would be easy what with no tests and all, but I never worked as hard in a class. You're doing what none of my business profs had the guts to do. You've challenged us and yourself; you stepped outside the lines and made us do the same. Businessmen that don't have to guts to do that get passed by. This was a history class, and I learned a hell of a lot of history, but it was also a class in life, and I'm going to take into my dad's business a lot of what I learned in this class. My grade for you is a "B" for "bringing it home."

I share this message from Tom not to toot my own horn or to demand you teach with the style I use. I share this message as an unconditional rejection of the assertion that the real sin is caring too much or expecting too much. No, the real sin, I just told an new found e-mail friend is to limit "IS" and to give "CAN'T" a free rein both in the students and in ourselves. As my good friend, Neil Coddington--actually he often acts as a welcomed conscience, and sometime an unwelcomed one--recently told me, we devote so much time and energy pointing out the negative, trying to determine why someone cannot succeed rather than trying to find how success will thrive. How true. Anyone who proclaims "I can't reach them all," can't, and is just struggling to excuse and rationalize and validate not wanting or being able or being afraid to reach out at all. But, anyone who says, "I'm not reaching them all, but I want to" will struggle to find ways to do it.

Time and time again, I have found that my strong and unswerving beliefs in, caring about, and high expectation of both myself and each student have yanked me outside of the limits of my view of teaching and so many students' view of education, have stirred new passions in both of us, have offered us up new adventures, have handed us challenges to take risks, have led us into doing new and exciting things, have given me new and exciting ways of seeing and hearing those unnoticed people whom we pass by in both the hallways and classes and who pass themselves by everyday, and have taken us to new places in old classrooms. In these new places, stagnation and boredom and routine are forebidden. "Can't" is the worst of the curse words; "don't and "won't" are the greatest of sins. There the ghost of King Midas is running around touching so many students, slowly and painfully turning supposed waste into value, shadows into light, accursedness into sacredness. Everyday people turn into the extraordinary, the salt of the earth, hope of the world, glistening light of the future; their everyday sounds turn into music, their everyday items into sculpture, their everyday images into art, their everyday activities into invention, their everyday actions in heroic efforts, their everyday words into literature, their everyday struggles into achievement and growth.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
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