Copyright © 1997, Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 07:40:19 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Random Thought: I Was Just Thinking That....

Tuesday, February 25th. About five in the afternoon. Just south of Dublin, Georgia, heading home. Stuck in a long, two-lane traffic jam." Accident ahead. Looks like I'm going nowhere fast for a while. I had leaned back in my seat, closed my tired eyes, and listened to "Beggar At The Feast" from _Les Miserables_ as it drifted through the car. How appropriate. I've just come from emotional, intellectual, academic, personal, and spiritual--as well as the unending culinery--feast. For the past three days, I have been gorging myself at the no-fat national First Year Experience conference at the University of South Carolina. I met rejuvenating people who have put their money down on students, whose scrumptious ideas and programs rest on the unshakeable belief that each and every student has a sacred worth. The last plenary speaker, William Willimon, Dean, Duke University Chapel, really grabbed me. I can't get out of my mind and my spirit his proposition, echoing Aristotle, that it is impossible to learn anything important and meaningful from someone who is not your friend, from someone who doesn't join with you in a respecting relationship of community on the journey, from someone who is distant from you and/or disdainful of you.
Sat up, took out a pad from the glove compartment, turned off the engine, and started randomly jotting down stuff that has been swirling in my head like a vortex for the past couple of hours. I was just thinking that....

maybe the true character of a teacher is shown by the extent to which he or she reaches out to teach and teaches to reach out to the "least" in the class;
the real miracle in the classroom is not in the technique or the teacher, but in the most powerful message any teacher can deliver. It has little to do with the subject matter or words, and it cannot be restricted to the confines of the cubical classroom. It is the resounding statement shouted out by example to a person to whom it's has been at best whispered and at worst denied: "YOU....ARE....VALUABLE!
one major responsibility of the teacher is, as John Gardner said, to help the students turn their heads so that they can look ahead instead of behind. I would add that we teachers also have the obligation to change our taste in music so that we will listen more to the triumphant chorals of their unique potential rather than to the dark dirges of their past;
the uniqueness of each student is in his/her "unique-IS" rather than in his\her "unique-ain't;"
how you see students, as Irene Honey of the University of Colorado once told me, depends on whether you look down at them, look at them, or look with them; how you communicate with students depends on whether you talk down, talk at, or talk with them. Neat;
how you see students depends on how you first see yourself. I think our deepest prejudices are about ourselves;
excitement with each student can never get worn out if it is worn in;
Cathie Hatch of Bemidji State University is right. We really are not teaching until we see the sparkle in the students' eyes, not the sparkle in ours. Yeah;
when you have touched a student, altered a life, changed eternity, you have achieved immortality. You don't become extinct because you have become forever a part of someone else;
Vanesse Brown-Stevenson of the University of South Florida hit one of those nails on the head when she said in passing that so many of us teaching in higher education have yet to realize that we are not teaching graduate students in those undergraduate courses;
it's not really fair that students pay tuition and we only pay lip-service. It really is amazing what garbage students take from faculty, staff, and administration;
a good teacher wants to nourish the student, not merely fatten his or her reputation; wants to do important things, not only to be or look important; wants prolong a student's college career, not just lengthen his or her resume;
for a teacher--or anyone for that matter--there are no words like ";"
how Scott Morrow impassionately said over dinner that a teacher has to be careful not to be so spectacular, not to speak so brillinatly and loudly, that the students are deafened to the words he/she speaks and blinded to what he/she is struggling for students to learn;
Doug Williams of the University of South Carolina, with equal passion, realizes that his voice is not the only one in the classroom and that the good teacher never speaks so loudly that the students don't have, don't see, and don't learn to use their own voice;
we can never forget the deep humanity present in the silence of the classroom. That silence says more than words. We should listen to it intently and pay close attention to it, for that silence had little to do with being dumb or unprepared;
teaching, like playing a musical instrument, is not just performance--a method here, a lecture there, a technique anywhere--as it is also emotion, feeling and sensation;
the real greatness of a great teacher is not in transmitting information; it is to get students to see and move to realize their own greatness;
and I would add my two cents by saying that the great teachers are not the ones who are the most brilliant, but the ones who most sincerely care and love each student.

Traffic is starting to move at a slow crawl....

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
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