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Topic: An Introduction to Louis Schmier
Replies: 2   Last Post: Jul 4, 1995 12:16 AM

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TPANITZ@mecn.mass.edu

Posts: 133
Registered: 12/6/04
An Introduction to Louis Schmier
Posted: Jul 1, 1995 9:51 PM
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Considering the nature of the discussion about cooperative learning
I thought I would like to share with this list something I received from
another list. Louis writes periodical story/observation pieces which are
based upon his observations. It runs about 5 pages so be patient.

Fun reading
Ted Panitz tpanitz@mecn.mass.edu

Date: Sat, 01 Jul 1995 06:17:29 -0400
From: Louis Schmier <lschmier@GRITS.VALDOSTA.PEACHNET.EDU>
Subject: A Random Thought: The Fun Of It All
Sender: "Forum for Teaching & Learning in Higher Educ." <STLHE-L@unb.ca>

Well, I just came in from an interesting walk wondering if mosquitos
and gnats sleep? I don't think they do. They, the 77 degree heat, and 97
percent humidity are an unholy trinity--even at 4:45 in the morning--that
ordinarily would make walking the darkened streets at this time of year
anything but fun and games. Yet, it was a sort of a strangely fun walk
this muggy, sticky, steamy equatorial morning even if my skin was quickly
getting a pale greenish hue.
I was giggling and at times laughing to myself almost the entire way.
With my chest convulsing, my stomach muscles tightening, and my short
chuckling snorts, everything was totally out of sync with my feet. I
couldn't breathe properly, my cadence was shot, and I was almost always
off balance. Stumbled once or twice as I lost my balance. But, it turned
out to be a delightful- -or at least bearable--walk. I had these dancing
images of groups of laughing students standing up in class and playfully
singing their ABCs. Others were cackling as they did twenty jumpingjacks
next to their desks. Still others were howling as they struggled to mimic
barnyard animals. Their moos, oinks, baas, and cock-a- doodle-doos
pierced not only the air, but their spirits as well. That will get them
for not getting the correct answer to the questions thrown at them by
other students during a game the students devised. But, Cheshire smiles
were everywhere. Then, there was the sight of tears of laughter rolling
down cheeks at the sight of Jimmy, a football player, in bonnet and dress,
broom in hand, as he portrayed a frontier housewife in a skit. I saw this
picture of the place rocking during the scavenger hunt presentation as
Andy stood up, fishing pole in hand, presented his symbol of Herman
Melville, miming fishing, futily fighting to reel in his catch, being
pulled into the water, and ending his presentation with a feign wipe of
his sweaty brow and saying "It's a whale of a transcendental fish story."
There was this vision of the place rocking with spontaneous and uproarious
laughter during a brain- storming and mind-mapping session as student
furious shouted out, screamed out, poured through the book, feveriously
writing on the blackboard, walls, and huge pieces of butcher paper.
Images flashed across my mind of students jumping, reaching, stretching,
for Tootsie Pops as they hurled through the air in their direction as
incentive, reward, prize, encouragement, nurture, support, pick-me- up, or
just for the heck of it. I saw smileys appear on student faces and tense
muscles relax as the music floated through the air at the beginning and
end of class.
I guess these images kept popping up as a lingering effect of
thinking about the child within. I think it was also the fact that for
the last few days I've been reading student journals and evaluations from
last term and the first journal entries from this term. And, I've been
noticing that the word to describe the class almost all the students used,
second only to "caring", was "fun." They link with other words and
phrases like learning, excitement, feeling good, picked me up, experience
the class. I remember one student sort of summing it up and writing, "I
did not want to miss one day of class, I looked forward to coming, because
it was so much fun to be there and have fun learning. It was some kind of
a turn-on The fun of it all made it a worthwhile, enjoyable and rewarding
adventure!"
After reading those journals I knew that I had truely had a friend, a
partner, a colleague, and compatriot to whom the students could turn to
help them combat the monster called fear, denigration, and tension. I
invite this buddy of mine into everyone of my classes to work with
everyone everyday. We team teach and the students team learn. We enter
class arm in arm, Tootsie Pops sticking out from our faces, smiling to the
tune of my boombox. No, we bounce, dance, sing, and skip cross the
threshold together. We're allies in our war against that ugly, evil
troll. My inseparable pal is beautiful, bubbly, animated. She's a good
fairy. Her name is FUN.
Don't be deceived by her quixotic manner; don't mistake her charm for
weakness, her joy for frivolity, her laughter for childishness, her
skipping for casualness, her excitement for absurdity, her playfulness for
silliness, her beaming smiles for immaturity . She and her dancing,
singing, skipping family of playful, uplifting pixies named laughter,
excitement, play, joy, serendipity, surprise, glee, merriment, smile,
giggle, chuckle, and chortle are as powerful as boulders hurled from a
Roman assault catapult. She and giggle can breach thick guarded walls of
isolation; with a chuckle she can leap over putrid moats reeking with
fear; with a laugh she will enter and refresh defensive redoubts foul with
self-doubt; with glee she will bring light into the darkened rooms of
worthlessness, with a chortle she will electrify dead circuits of hurt,
and a guffaw will blast open up the strongest locked doors of insecurity.
Fun floats around the class around dapping a shoulder here and
there with her sparkling wand, daintly saying, "Oh, yes you can", "See the
wonder of it all", "Go ahead", It's safe in here", "Take it easy", "Don't
be afraid", "Let go." And when that malicious monster of fear and tension
growls, with an easy wave of her exorcising hand, with a deceptively
delicate voice, she says to that pimpled, twisted imp, "Shoo, shoo, you
naughty ugly little thing. Leave these good people alone." And
surprisingly, it starts to move backward, fear in its blood-shot eyes, and
slink away. Once that monster slithers out the room, we start learning.
Having fun in class comes naturaly to me. Without it, I feel too
stuffy. I feel dead. The students look dead. The lights are out. More
than once I have been criticzed by colleagues for not being serious.
"Acting like its kindergarten." I take that as a compliment. It is not
given as one. I get the feeling that they feel that there's something
wrong, inept, unprofessional, amiss, frivilous, insignificant, if you're
happy. Authority and knowledge equals seriousness. Laughter equals
childishness, spontaneity, uproariness, insignificance. Outlandish clowns
make us laugh, not professors. A classroom is not a circus. We'll role
in the aisles at Steinfeld, but the class room is not a place for leisure.
We pay Red Skelton to make us laugh with Klem Kediddlehopper, but the
class room is not a theater.
So many teachers are convinced that students must suffer, to
paraphrase Hamlet, the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune of
learning, that students have to wear hair coats, flay themselves, whip
themselves, suffer, suffer, suffer. Must they endure intellectual and
emotional asceticsm as proof of their devotion and academic piety; they
must isolate themselves the joys of life as some sort of intellectual
cleansing ritual. If they are enjoying, if they are laughing, if they are
smiling, they are ne'er-do-well-revelers. They are childish; they are
kindergartenish; they are immature.
There's an all too prevailing attitude that say there seems to be
something not quite right about the student and teacher who are happy or
there's something a bit unintellectual in a classroom that rocks with
laughter. I almost get the feeling that all too many people think there
must be something wrong with a classroom where students so enjoy
themselves that they refuse to miss a class or where teachers and students
are sad the class comes to an end. They must be, as the line goes,
frivilous blockheads, without a grain of common sense in their bodies,
without a fibre of seriousness in their body.
So many teachers take themselves so serously. They walk into class
with almost a scowl on their face, a sense that their face will shatter if
they make the slightest smile. After all, education is serious business;
it's nothing to laugh about. No kidding around in here, education is
serious business. There's nothing
to make fun of or light about, education is serious business. Serious,
serious, serious!! Yet, do you know what the stdudents most
criticize faculty for in the journals I've read and discussions I've had
on my campus, at conferences, and on internet? Aside from being so
uncaring of them, it's making the class, as one student said to me in an
e-mail message, "as hypnoticL
and dull and monotonous and uncaring and cold and repeating and boring and
lifeless and stuffy
and laughless and mindless and funless and joyless and mechanical as this
sentence so that it's almost impossible not to go into hybernation."
Why are seriousness and enjoyment so often believed to enemeis of
each other? Why was I reminded only last week that education is "serious"
(there's that word again, the "S" word) and "important", and I shouldn't
be so "casual" and "childish" about it; why was it suggested by some of my
peers on the internet that my classes shouldn't be kindergarten? Why are
so many of us wont--maybe afraid--to allow this good fairy into our
classroom? Are we too rational in our classes, too serious, too
organized, too ordered, too controlling, too precdictable, too
mind-dulling, too taken with ourselves? Maybe. I'll leave it to
sociologists, philosophers, psychologists and theologians to discuss. But
the dour attitude which too often pervades our classrooms seems to be all
the more reason to have chainr-breaking fun in the class room. When
someone's presentation is dead, when their movement and demeanor resembles
the stiffened pace and glazed stare of the zombie, there's a sense
something is wrong. Fun is the springtime that awakens everyone from that
dead-of-winter hybernation the student decribed.
I'm no psychologist and I'm sure untold number of studies have
been done on this, but it has been both my personal and professional
experience that fun us probably one of the most human revealing
experiences I know. It's been my experience that unless the students are
having fun, they can't have a deep and sincere relationship with
themselves, with each other, with me, or with the subject. In the
classroom, fun breaks the straight jacket of convention, the dulling
predicitablity of routine, and boring expectations of behavior. It's a
stimulant, an activator; it keeps you awake and alert. But, I think
having fun is, to paraphrase Victor Borge, the shortest, most human, and
most equalizing distance between professor and student, among students. It
brings people together.
I and students are having fun in class! My God, how academically
blasphemous, heretical--and foolish! We stand before the Inquisition
accused of being intellectual apostates! But I say this: I have found
that the bonds of caring are easier to establish in an environment of fun
and joy. When we laugh we open doors and demolish separating walls. We
feel closer to one another. We're more comfortable with one another.
Whenever we and the students are happy, we're all less stressed, more
open, more capable of seeing things, more willing to risk doing new
things.
I think that fun, humor, laughter, joy are wonderful tools that bring
comfort into a classroom, that they are intimately related to student
well-being and learning. I think that there is something sane about being
just on this side of foolishness, something sound about being just on this
side of riot, something really rational about being just on this side of
inanity, and something productive about being just on this side of chaos.
Fun lets the me and the student overcome inhibitions, relieve tensions,
and raise alertness. We break out of the straightjacket of convention,
hypnotic routine, dulling boredom, boring predictability. They can touch
spontaneity, and serendpity. In so many, too many, of our classrooms,
there is painfully little joy displayed and experiences.
Having fun does not mean taking learning too casually. It does not
mean learning is not occuring. To the contrary, it's almost as if fun is
an aspirin to the pain of learning, a relaxant of the tightness of
education. I think having fun is the strongest force towards learning.
It's not just a medication; it's a powerful aphrodisiac.
With all the bonding and trusts exercsies I use at the beginning
of class and Athroughout the quarter, I think the environment of natural
maddness, natural spontaneity, of having fun while learning, does more to
bring the students together in caring, trusting, warm, jouyous, and
productive relationship. I have noticed the during those moments when
students laugh, they are more relaxed, more involved, their guard is down,
the material seems more connect to them, and they learn more. I sense
that fun brings people closer. The students are more open, their vision
is sharpened. Fun is a a natural pick-me-up. When students are having
fun they seem more willing to let go, take a risk. Something as simple
thing as sucking on a tootsie pop opens a slit through which they can peek
inside to believe in themselves, find the sweet resourcefulness, find
creative uniqueness they can rely upon, and daring to dream. I can't
quantify it. It's just what they write in their journals and what they
feel. I remember one student writing that the fun offered her saftety to
take a chance to open up and to open up to learning. "I had no idea what
I am capable of," she claimed. "Having so much fun at learning gave me a
sense that I was invited to the ball and that it was safe to give it a
whirl and try to dance and discovered I could roll on that floor better
than I thought I could." That's what I observed, and it's what I feel.
Should I be firm, serious, keep my feet planted on the ground, keep
my head out of the air? We're having a lively blast while other students
are being bored to death. We being songful, laughing and dancing all
along the way while others are being so wearisome; we're learning with
abandon. Maybe the key--the real secret--to learning is an occasional
chuckle, by a good guffaw, a good belly laugh. It keeps the child in all
of us alive and playing.
Have a good one.
--Louis--

Louis Schmier (912-333-5947) lschmier@grits.valdosta.peachnet.edu
Department of History /~\ /\ /\
Valdosta State University /^\ / \ / /~ \ /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698 / \__/ \/ / /\ /~ \
/\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\





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