“Dashing through the snow, on a one horse……” The temperature is in mid 20s out there. Last night we had snow! In Valdosta! First time in twenty years. All four flakes inundated us!! A blizzard!!! We’re buried. They sanded and salted the roads. Out came the tire chains. Everything came to a halt. The fire is burning in the fireplace! We’ll dig out later.

Seriously, we were lucky to be just below the snow line of the storm that came roaring through the Southeast. and to get no more than at best a very slight dusting of “heavenly dandruff” that’s already melted away. But, even if we had been hit by paralyzing inches of snow, nothing could have chilled me, not after a week of presentation of the “Dr. Seuss Project” by students in the four first year history classes, not after pre-Valentine snuggling with Susan in front of the roaring fire.

Forget the snuggling. Let’s get to the students. My goal is to plant the seeds of self, intrinsic motivation by designing a classroom experience that would provide each student with challenging and enriching opportunities to acquire the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to become autonomous, life-long learners. I want supposedly ordinary student to believe how extraordinary they are; I want them to realize that if they give themselves a chance, they can surprise themselves; I want them to untie their own “nots” in their “cannots” and kick themselves in their “cans.” In that design are the crucial words “challenging,” “enriching,” “attitudes,” “autonomous, and “life-long.” Notice what I did not say. I did not mention anything about control, untimely deadlines, test, quiz, exam, or grade.

Now, without pictures or physically being among you, how do I tell you the extraordinary things these supposed ordinary students are capable of producing and did in fact produced? How do I show you how creative these students, who supposed aren’t all that imaginative, are if given a chance? How do I show you what these students, who said they couldn’t write, wrote? How do I get you to understand that under the right circumstances these students can unwrap their “intellectual gifts” and “artistic talents” and their “unique potential?” How do I convey how these “I can’t” students “can” and “did.” How do I explain how these students made the “It’s impossible” possible?” How do I get you to experience what the students felt? How do I assure you that I will, without hesitation or reservation or equivocation, hold up the result of the efforts against anything the creme-de-la-crème would do?

Well, let me start at the beginning. To put it in simple terms, among other things, at the beginning of the semester, for the first two weeks, following the precepts of Abraham Mazlow, we lay down a foundation we call BREAKING BARRIERS, BUILDING BRIDGES, FORGING COMMUNITY. We build that foundation with class operational principles of respect, autonomy, connection, purpose, and personal mastery centered around the goal of attacking and overcoming inhibiting fear, debilitating aloneness, and paralyzing strangerness. First, we read together my “ACADEMIC OATH.” Then, we start putting aside those very unproductive and uneducational and unrewarding fear-inducing and threatening carrots and sticks by we taking a “SCREW GRADES” stance. I’ll whet your appetite by saying no more about that. We do an interviewing exercise called “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT ME?” It gives students connection with me. That is reinforced throughout the semester with daily, confidential student journaling that allows me to connect with them, and them with me. We do exercises called “THE INTERVIEW” and “TREASURE HUNT.” They begin to give students connection with each other. That is reinforced by creating racially mixed and gender mixed “Communities of Mutual Support and Encouragement” composed of three or four students who are initially strangers to each other. We do an exercise called “IT’S ALL ABOUT COMMUNICATION.” It gives students connection and helps them to start tapping and sharpening their emotional and social intelligences that Daniel Goleman discusses. That is reinforced by the requirement that the students in the communities communicate in some manner, shape, or form each day. We do an exercise called “IT’S ALL ABOUT COOPERATION.” The lynch pins of all this are three “HOW IT ALL WORKS” exercises at the end of all this “Getting to Know Ya” and “Forging Community” stuff. First, we do an exercise called “THE CHAIR.” It gives the students autonomy and ownership. Second, we do an exercise called “THE STORY.” It creates what we call THE ISSUE TEMPLATE that gives the students that essential “why,” that purpose, meaning, and relevance to all we do. And, finally we do an exercise called “I SANG.” It gives the students courage to take risks. Then, we put the Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences rubber to the critical skill road and the Teresa Amabile and Ed Deci’s autonomy pedal to the content–in this case history–metal with such projects as “Dr Seuss,” “Bruce Springsteen,” “Hollywood,” “Auguste Rodin,” “Salvador Dali,” “Madison Avenue” and “New York Times.” They fuel their tanks with creativity, imagination, self-confidence, courage, and self-esteem that comes out of them as crude and is slowly refined with ever increasing octane. Did I mention the additives of capability, ability, talent, and potential?

For a week, inside class and outside class, while I was there, while I wasn’t there, they doing “jig-saw,” and “reporting out” of issue papers, pouring over the textbook, reading, drawing, printing out, arguing, downloading, teaching each other, investigating, helping, learning from each other, discussing, thinking, creating, ingesting, digesting, talking, cutting, coloring, pasting. Was it perfect? No. Will everyone come around? No. Remember this a refining process. You don’t pump high octane racing fuel out of the ground. This is process. This is a refining process. This is a weaning off process, and it’s the first project. It’s an unlearning of old habits and a learning of new ones. That takes time, encouragement, support, patience, empathy, perseverance, commitment, faith, hope, belief, and love–tough love at times. Frustration, anger, resignation, cynicism have no place in class. No, we, I, don’t get to them all. But, that’s another story. Anyway, I don’t play any of the “100%,” “Perfect,” and “You Can’t Get To Them All So Why Try” games in the first place.

So, what were the rules of the Dr. Seuss project? Well, they were issued formally on 1/28; and, they were deliberately and precisely vague:

1. Drawing from the Issue Template, the members of each community will reach a consensus of what issue runs through, ties together, explains, and makes sense of (1) the individual issue papers already written and submitted and (2) what is happening during the period and in the areas covered in chapts. 18 & 19 2. The members of the community will write collectively a consensus issue paper. That issue paper will be sent to me via Blazeview no later than Monday, midnight, Feb 8 3. The community will teach the entire class about that issue in the form of a Dr. Seuss-style book that the members will collectively create.

4. The book will be half-poster board in size 5. It will be 24 pages in length with all 24 pages being used (front and back count as two pages) 6. You must create a thematic book cover. However, the outer and inner sides of both the front and back cover do not count as part of the 24 pages.

7. I will let you use class time on both Tues. and Thurs of next week (2/2 & 2/4) to work on the books IN THE CLASSROOM.

8. Presentation of the books, by volunteering or lottery number will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 9 when the books are due.

Then, I give them their rein. They know better than to ask me “what do you want” or “how is this” or “Is this okay.”

Students, like all of us, want reward for their efforts. But, the reward they crave most, that is most effective, that has the most meaning, is praise of a job well done, positive–I repeat, positive–feedback, and useful information. I, their peers, give that by instantly evaluating each book immediately after it is presented. I was so excited this weekend as we finished presenting Thursday and Friday, that I sent out my “Seuss-ish” encouraging praise of each and every one of them either as a “keep it up,” “you raised your own bar,” or a “see, you can do it:”


You used your imagination;

You used it by the ton;

You used your imagination

You had a lot of fun.

You used your creativity;

You used it more than just an itty-bitty;

Creativity! Imagination!

You let them both be found;

You let them both resound!

You gave yourself freedom

You felt your gleedom

They’re in you, you know.

You can find them–

You just have to care to dare to go get ’em.

You did!

You do!

Oh, up, up, up you flew.

you rode high,

you rode up in the sky;

you did soar

on glorious clouds galore

up there you found magical things;

up there you got on and flew high on your creative wings.

Do see?

Do you believe me?

you entered a new world

as your creativity unfurled

you saw new sights

from those soaring imaginative heights

you are in new lands

when you just take things in your hands

Oh, yes

You sweared;

you strained;

but you gained

Oh, yes

you sneered;

you veered;

but then you cheered

Oh, yes

you fretted;

you sweated;

but how you did get it

Oh, yes

You did fight it

But you got excited

And how you got delighted

Oh, yes

Now you know

You’re not just so, so

Did you see,

your faces lit up with glee

Your hearts felt the delights

at the wonderful sights

Each of you out there

Each! of! you!!

Each of you is more than just fair.

Each of you–each of you–can get far

If you just raise your bar

Step by step

Day by day

In a very good way

Each of you can get there

If you silence the Grinch of don’t and won’t and can’t



Enough for now. The students are working on their issue papers for chapters 18-21. On Monday and Tuesday, they’ll find out both what their next project is and the places they can go.

Well, I can go on and on with this subject. I’ve gone on too long already. More later.


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About Louis Schmier

LOUIS SCHMIER “Every student should have a person who wants to help him or her help himself or herself become the person he or she is capable of becoming, and I’ll be damned if I am ever going to let one human being fall through the cracks in my classes without a fight.” How about a snapshot of myself. But, what shall I tell you about me? Something personal? Something philosophical? Something pedagogical? Something scholarly? Nah, I'll dispense with that resume stuff. Since I believe everything we do starts from who we are inside, what we believe, what we perceive, and what we do is an extension of ourselves, how about if I first say some things about myself. Then, maybe, I can ease into other things. My name is Louis Schmier. The first name rhymes with phooey, the last with beer. I am a 76 year old - in body, but not in mind or spirit - born and bred New Yorker who came south in 1963. I met by angelic bride, Susie, on a reluctant blind date at Chapel Hill. We've been married now going on 51 years. We have two marvelous sons. One is a VP at Samsung in San Francisco. The other is an artist with food and is an executive chef at a restaurant in Nashville, Tn. And, they have given us three grandmunchkins upon whom we dote a bit. I power walk 7 miles every other early morning. That’s my essential meditative “Just to …” time. On the other days, I exercise with weights to keep my upper body in shape. I am an avid gardener. I love to cook on my wok. Loving to work with my hands as well as with my heart and mind, I built a three room master complex addition to the house. And, I am a “fixer-upper” who allows very few repairmen to step across the threshold. Oh, by the way, I received my A.B. from then Adelphi College, my M.A. from St. John's University, and my Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have been teaching at Valdosta State University in Georgia since 1967. Having retired reluctantly in December, 2012, I currently hold the rank of Professor of History, Emeritus. I prefer the title, “Teacher”. Twenty-five years ago, I had what I consider an “epiphany”. It changed my understanding of myself. I stopped professoring and gave up scholarly research and publication to devote all my time and energy to student. My teaching has taken on the character of a mission. It is a journey that has taken me from seeing only myself to a commitment to vision larger than myself and my self-interest. I now believe that being an educator means I am in the “people business”. I now believe that the most essential element in education is caring about people. Education without caring, without a real human connection, is as viable as a person with a brain but without a heart. So, when I am asked what I teach, I answer unhesitatingly, “I teach students”. I am now more concerned with the students’ learning than my teaching, more concerned with the students as human beings than with the subject. I am more concerned with reaching for students than reaching the height of professional reputation. I believe the heart of education is to educate the heart. The purpose of teaching is to instill in all students genuine, loving, lifelong eagerness to learn and foster a life of continual growth and development. It should encourage and assist students in developing the basic values needed for learning and living: self-discipline, self-confidence, self-worth, integrity, honesty, commitment, perseverance, responsibility, pursuit of excellence, emotional courage, creativity, imagination, humility, and compassion for others. In April, 1993, I began to share ME on the internet: my personal and professional rites of passage, my beliefs about the nature and purpose of an education, a commemoration of student learning and achievement, my successful and not so successful experiences, a proclamation of faith in students, and a celebration of teaching. These electronic sharings are called “Random Thoughts”. There are now over 1000 of them floating out there in cyberspace. The first 185, which chronicles the beginnings of my journey, have been published as collections in three volumes, RANDOM THOUGHTS: THE HUMANITY OF TEACHING, RANDOM THOUGHTS, II: TEACHING FROM THE HEART, RANDOM THOUGHTS, III: TEACHING WITH LOVE, and RANDOM THOUGHTS, IV: THE PASSION OF TEACHING. The chronicle of my continued journey is available in an Ebook on Amazon's Kindle in a volume I call FAITH, HOPE, LOVE: THE SPIRIT OF TEACHING. There a few more untitled volumes in the works..

One thought on “DR SEUSS-ISHNESS

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