A DANGEROUS GAME, II

Someone asked me as a result of my last RT, just what’s the dangerous game I had a mentioned?  As I just told a few people, my answer was, “It’s a game of fear and anxiety in which you play with your self-esteem, your self-confidence, your self-respect, your self-satisfaction, your individuality, and your independence.”  I should have included “integrity” and “authenticity.”

To my friends of the Jewish faith, Susie and I would like to wish you a wonderful Passover.

Louis

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A DANGEROUS GAME

Here’s another something that flashed across my mind as I was talking with Richard Middle-Kaplan of Harper College:  If you’re afraid of what others will think and say, the solution is simple.  Sit; don’t do a thing; don’t say a thing; don’t chance a thing; don’t be anything.  But, keep this in mind, playing it safe is probably the most dangerous game you can play.  Personally, I’ve found that all satisfaction and fulfillment, all sense of accomplishment, as well as all meaning, comes from daring to begin and having the courage to continue.

Louis

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THEM AND US

I was briefly e-talking with Richard Middle-Kaplan of Harper College.  In the course of our short exchange, a bunch of stuff flashed across my mind.  Here’s the first of them:

If you want students to be serene, confident, fearless, happy, and accomplished, practice love and respect and belief and empathy and hope and compassion and sympathy.  If you want to be serene, confident, happy ,and accomplished, practice love and respect and belief and empathy and hope and compassion and sympathy.

Louis

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A CHANCE MEETING

 In response to my last reflection, one professor wrote in what seemed to be a demanding tone,  ”….let’s just stick to technology and pedagogy…..”

I wasn’t going to respond until an answer unexpectedly happened my way yesterday.  I was disobeying my beautiful Nurse Rachet and working, braced knee and all, the drive-through line of the synagogue’s corn beef sandwich sale fundraiser.  A black Lexus pulled up.  I leaned through the open window.  A smiling young lady leaned over holding two tickets.  I exchanged them for two sandwich boxes.  Then, as if not caring that cars were lining up behind her, she hit me square in my heart.  I wasn’t ready for it.  ”Dr. Schmier.  You don’t remember me, do you.  I was Sally Sax (not her real name) in your class twelves years ago.  You came to the hospital to visit me when I was really sick and missing class.  I was surprised to see you. I wondered why you came since I wasn’t a very good student.  You told me not to worry about a project presentation my community was making and to just focus on getting well.  You said, we’d work something out so it wouldn’t hurt me.  After you left, I cried.  For the first time that I could remember, I felt worthwhile.  I felt loved.  I felt I mattered because you showed that you noticed me that I mattered to you.  I decided right then and there to start believing in myself and turning myself into the person you believed I could be.  I still am.  And, I’m teaching what you taught me to my children.  I never said anything about this in my journals or to you.  So, I think it’s time to say, ‘thank you.’  I’d come out and give you a big hug if there weren’t so many people behind me.”

I just silently leaned on the door for a second, speechless.  The ache in my braced knee disappeared.  I could feel a tear forming.  Then, I said a quiet “thank you.”  It was enough.

With that, I backed away, she smiled and drove off.  When I told my Susie, she asked if I remembered Sally.  I answered, “No.”

But, I couldn’t get Sally out of my mind.  This morning, as I was reading David Brooks’ oped in the NY Times, and writing a comment, it hit me.  I remembered; and, I remembered that I could never figure out why Sally had suddenly blossomed after she came back from a week in the hospital.  Now I know.

So, to this professor, I say,  no.  I won’t.  I can’t.  I’m someone who speaks to people about living a deep, meaningful life, professionally and personally.  Though I’ve never have ignored technology and pedagogy, but I’ll focus more so on people.  Hippocrates said something to the effect that it is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.  It’s not different in the classroom.  We each have self-fulfilling views of both ourselves and students.  We shouldn’t see students merely as avatars of GPAs, stripped of their intrinsic worth of being a human being.  We are at our best when we present education as personal transformation and development rather than as ritualized test-taking and grade-getting.  So, I’m not just asking you to consider living and teaching according to the dictum of my “Teacher’s Oath.”  I’m begging you.  Technology and methodology are important, but not more than is tindividual person.  There are a lot of people like Sally out there.

Louis

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MISTAKES

I was doing the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle this morning cursing this distracting and restricting hip-to-ankle harness on my left leg from serious arthroscopic knee surgery.  Part of the puzzle’s solution was a quote from Thomas Edison.  He once said, “”I have not failed.  I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”  We academics would do well to heed him, to see that failure is not a sign of weakness, that it is not an indication of incompetence, that it is not a black mark on the personhood or professionalhood, that is a mark of strength, and that it is an act of learning.

 We wouldn’t do a damn thing, we wouldn’t try something new, we wouldn’t experiment, we wouldn’t change’, we wouldn’t grow, if we looked for or waited until we could do something so well all the time that we wouldn’t make a mistake or that no one could criticize us.   No matter what we say and no matter how hard we try, none of us is perfect and can be a perfectionist.  We’re all fallible human beings, our resumes and titles notwithstanding.  And, to paraphrase Confusius, our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in learning from, rising above, and going on every time we inevitably fail.  If we could do that, than an “oops” suddenly morphs into an exciting and illuminating “aha.”  Alas, in our academic climate, so few academics learned that, and fewer still have helped students learn that.
Louis

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TEACHING AND LOVING

I read something posted by a mid-western e-colleague.  One thing he wrote got to me, “I love to teach because I’m so dedicated to my discipline, but those students…..”

You know, so many people say, “I love to teach.”  To them, as I did with this professor, I ask, “Do you love each student?”  ”Are you dedicated unconditionally to each of them?”

You see, loving to teach is one thing.  To unconditionally love each of those to whom you teach is quite another thing.  To be “dedicated to your discipline” is one thing.  To unconditionally be committed to each student is quite another thing.

If your idea of what teaching is all about doesn’t get you to unconditionally believing in, having faith in, having hope for, and loving each student, if each–each and every–student doesn’t matter or isn’t important to you,  if all the students see is your scholarly resume and don’t feel sincere compassionate and caring leadership, you should stop grading yourself on a generous curve and the students on an uncharitable one; you should question yourself, not the students.

Louis

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AC, PART II

In the name of AC, I wish we could banish these very real, negative, shackling statements from our classroom and campuses:
Student:   “It’s not me.”  ”I don’t like to do that.”  ”I’m not comfortable with that.”  ”It’s hard.”  ”I can’t do that.”   “I’m not used to that.”  ”I don’t have the time.”
Prof:        ”It’s not me.”  ”I don’t like to do that.”  ”I’m not comfortable with that.”  ”It’s hard.”  ”I can’t do that.”   “I’m not used to that.”   ”I don’t have the time.”

Louis

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AC: “ACADEMIC CORRECTNESS”

We all talk about the “joy of learning.” Well, if we’re serious, and if I could, I would banish two sets of fear-ridden, stifling, enslaving questions from our campuses in the name of AC: academic correctness.

Student: “Is this important?” “Is this going to be on the test?” “Will this affect my grade?” “Why do I have to take?” “What do you want?”
Prof: “How do I grade that?” “What if it doesn’t work?” “What will others think and say?” “Will this affect my getting tenure?” “What do you want?”

Louis

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I.C.D.B.T.

I was developing a special decal that was a play on one of my “Schmier’s Word For The Day” that I still have hanging over my computer. It never came to pass, for I came up with the idea during what unexpectedly proved to be my last semester in the classroom. I had planned to give it to any student who with more than a modicum of hubris proudly pranced around like a peacock “I’ve done my best” or sighed defensively “But, it’s the best I can do.”  The decal was going to read:  I.C.D.B.T.!   Can you guess what the initials mean?

Louis

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Self-obit

Well, as you all know, a good part of central and north Georgia have been getting hammered by ice and snow for which they are unprepared.  Here in much warmer South Georgia, while I was waiting with snow shovel in hand to clear my walk of the two flake snowfall, I heard of people up the road having died because didn’t know how to survive the ravages of this white stuff either in their homes, on the sidewalks, or on the roads.

 That got me thinking about Linda Ellis’ “The Dash.”  It’s a poem in which she writes about that short line representing a person’s lifetime chiseled in a  tombstone between the dates of birth and death.  At the end of her poem, she asks, ” So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash…would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?”  

I always say, even in reluctant retirement, I will live my life and forget my age; I will, as I have been doing, do something with my life that outlives my life.  I was thinking about my “dash,” what I have done with my time on this earth and what trace would I leave behind for having been here.   So, wouldn’t it be interesting to write your own obituary?  Or, write the eulogy you would give at your own funeral?  Or, at least, write the inscription to be chiseled on your tombstone.  What would you write?

Louis

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