Inspiration and Perspiration

Inspiration and Perspiration

We all nearly worshiped her. Mrs. D, as we called our director, led with no-nonsense jeans, glasses and checked blouses during after-school rehearsal by day, then transfigured into a goddess with Farrah Fawcett hair, flowing chiffon dress and fragrance infusion by performance night. Mrs. Daniel, our hard-working paragon of inspiration, taught me just about everything I know about learning.

And theater.

In fact, I learned so much under her tutelage and passionate commitment to both excellence and joy, that even today, I can teach acting, I know how to direct scenes. I didn’t have to study it in college. Twenty-five years after the fact, theater is one subject area I tattooed on my soul.

Eileen Daniel knew something other teachers didn’t. She understood that to command our respect, she needed to both challenge us (naturally) and to inspire us (the more subtle and crucial). She did it in a variety of ways. She worked as hard as we did (always had a hammer in her hand or a script open). She gave generous feedback yet didn’t hesitate to call us to higher standards. She believed we were capable of more than any other adults in my life. If the set needed painting, she would turn over the project to teens, give the supplies and drawings and then let them do the work.

The theater program was so successful, we had football players leaving the team to be in the plays because that’s where students were both


Each spring, our theater department hosted a banquet where awards were given for excellent work. There was a pair of awards that I especially liked. Mrs. D called them the 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration awards. She recognized intrinsically that these went together.

In Brave Writer, we want to remember how critical inspiration is to the perspiration of hard work. If you are spending a lot of time grinding through math or history or writing, ask yourself if you’ve contributed a dose of inspiration today. You only need 10%. Six minutes for every hour. That’ll get the job done.

For every ten minutes of sweat, there should be one minute where you devote yourself to inspiring the troops. All these provide relief from hard work.

  • Music
  • Cookies
  • Writing together
  • Telling a joke
  • Taking a break
  • Going for a walk
  • Reading a sample that goes with the hard work
  • Appreciating the beauty of a well-crafted sentence
  • Celebrating a small success (like handwriting your name in cursive for the first time)
  • Noticing the way fractions in math relate to fractions in cooking

And remember, you need to work as hard as your kids do. If they see you working, they’ll respect you more. When you sprinkle the day with inspiring colors, tastes, moments, sounds, and achievements, they’ll see the dynamic at work: 90% perspiration is created by 10% inspiration.

The Homeschool Alliance

One Response to “Inspiration and Perspiration”

  1. Bob Miller says:

    I was also one of her students. Do you know where she is?
    Bob Miller Agoura ’71