Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Tue, 5 Dec 1995 20:01:25 -0500 (EST)
A Random Thought: Feeling in the Classroom

I wrote this by hand a few days ago in a hotel room. It has taken me this long to translate the cuneiform called my hand writing:

Feeling! It's curious that I am struggling to write about something I don't have at the moment. My stiffened, numb, blued fingers much less in my reddened, frozen nose have yet to thaw out. I just shivered back into my hotel room here in Madison, Wisconsin, after foolishly walking blustering, pre-dawn State Street and braving the inhuman cold of a wind-chill factor of 9 degrees without any long johns or a pair of gloves. At least, the weather is inhuman to this ex-patriated yankee whose blood has been thinned by age and thirty years of basking in comforting warmth of the sunny South.

Anyway, as I was losing all sensation in my extremeties, in my struggle to keep my body young--tomorrow it the warm workout room and boring treadmill for mee--I was thinking about a conversation we had in class last Thursday just before I left for the wintery wilds of Wisconsin Aas part of the end of term session of closure I always incorporate into my classes.

In the middle of our give-and-take, a student blurted out, "Hey, Schmier. What do you feel about teaching?"

I replied with something like, "Well, I think...."

"I don't mean what you think about it," he intrrupted. "How do you feel when you're in a classroom?"

"Well," now a bit unsure what he was asking and watching my words, "I feel you are....."

"No," another student stopped me, "he doesn't want your opinion of us."

"Then, I'm not sure what he's asking," I admitted.

"What emotions do you experience when you come into a classroom or just before?"

Luckily, this exchange came at the very end of the class and I promised I would have an answer, a list of words if you will, when I came back on Monday. On the planes, It was especially helpful thinking about this conversation for keeping my mind off the uncertainty of whether I would survive to return with my answer as we bounced into Madison on that matchstick plane called a communter flight flying through a sleet/rain storm.

What do I feel, what do I experience as opposed to what do I think or do. Hmmmmm. Now that was an interesting question they stuck me with. Feel, not as an expression of opinion of or leveling of blame at something or someone out there, but as a fact, an inner reality, an experience, an emotion. That student's question certainy touches a belief that is core to my understanding of an education. Namely, feeling may be the essential element of teaching.

I have a sense that there was something more involved in teaching that merely subject. A category-defying mystery under the craft, energizes it, informs it, guides it beyond subject matter and technique. The mystery is what is going on in the inner realm of feeling. In the classroom not too many of us respect the power of feeling. Yet, it has been my experience that the most vital level of communication between the teacher and student , among students, is a non-verbal one, a non-intellectual one, an non-informational one. It's touching through a wordless statement or gesture. Yet, it is often negelected, seldom discussed, and more rarely developed as a classroom skill or technique, or even more so as a learning skill. But, if teaching and learning are human endeavors, if they are interpersonal and interdependent activities, wouldn't they require more than technique, technology, and information? Wouldn't they require relating to people, to onesself, interpersonal skills if you will?

I think it's feeling that allows a teacher to be so flexible that he/she can tolerate ambiguity, play with a problem, approach a problem from a ne[Aw angle, see the students in new ways, and use a variety of means of expression: poetry, drama, visuals, gesture, movement, art.

I think it's feeling that allows a teacher to see the richness and complexity of the individuals in any given classroom. It takes creativity and imagination to design words that fight dependency, that encourage personal initiatve, that challenges, that stresses risk-taking, support experiementation, that emphasizes student resourcefulness, that experiences problem solving, values self-expression words that connect in some way imagination, emotion, reflection, creativity, and action, and which allow the student to dream new futures.

I think it's feeling that let's the teacher see more than meets both the eye and ear, for feeling is often an unspoken and unwritten language of its own that's more insightful than words. It's a language of silence, a language of listening, a language of tone, a language of seeing, a language of clothing, a language of movement, a language of custom and manner, a language of......

So, here the list of words I remember that started dancing through my mind which symbolize the feelings I have as I go to and am in the classroom. If I survive the flights home, I'll give them to the students to ponder:

			   Tootsie Pop
As I look over this list, I don't think I remembered all the words that swirled in my head as the wind swirled about and buffeted me, and I don't think they are grammarically correct. But, that's not the point. However wonderful words may be, they are not the feelings themselves; they are symbols, but they are not the feelings the words symbolize. Nevertheless, the feeling and responses conjured up not only change, growth and development, but make whatever occurs in the classroom fuller, deeper, more meaningful, more personal, more individual, more human.

Those feelings, when demonstrated, expressed, and felt--whether aloud or silently--are the most beautiful sounds in a classroom--and make both teaching and learning an Event.

Have a good one.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
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