The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life

The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life

It is for teachers who refuse to hardentheir hearts, because they love learners, learning, and theteaching life."- Parker J.

Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what good teachers always do -- give heart to our students?In The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer takes teachers on an inner journey toward reconnecting with their vocation and their students -- and recovering their passion for one of the most difficult and important of human endeavors.

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I certainly feel like I have a unique perspective, and that my viewpoints and even personality makes my classroom unique (If I was given the freedom to unleash my style freely).

xi) Consider a teacher's "heart-deep commitment that keeps them coming back to the classroom - their commitment to the well-being of our children." (pg. The students we teach are larger than life and even more complex. 6) "Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher." (pg. 16) "Many of us became teachers for reasons of the heart, animated by a passion for some subject and for helping people learn...We lose heart, in part, because teaching is a daily exercise in vulnerability." (pg. 20) "Good teaching: comes in many forms, the imprint of good teachers remains long after the facts they gave us have faded, and it is important to thank our mentors, no matter how belatedly - partly because we owe them gratitude and partly as a cosmic counterpoint to the apparent ingratitude of our own students." (pg. 33) "As a teacher, I am at my worst when fear takes the lead in me, whether that means teaching in fear of my students or manipulating their fears of me." (pg. 36) "When a class that has gone badly comes to a merciful end, I am fearful long after it is over - fearful that I am not just a bad teacher but a bad person, so closely is my sense of self tied to the work I do." (pg. 37) "As soon as we admit pluralism, we are forced to admit that ours is not the only standpoint, the only experience, the only way, and the truths we have built our lives on begin to feel fragile." (pg. 45) "In unguarded moments with close friends, we who teach will acknowledge a variety of fears: having our work go unappreciated, being inadequately rewarded, discovering one fine morning that we chose the wrong profession, spending our lives on trivia, ending up feeling like frauds. 85) "We want our children and our students to become people who think and live freely, yet at the same time we know that helping them become free requires us to restirct their freedom in certain situations...and there is no formula to tell me whether this is a moment for freedom or discipline or some alchemy of both." (pg. 96) "Students who have been well served by good teachers may walk away angry - angry that their prejudices have been challenged and their sense of self shaken. 96-97) "Experts, people trained to know objects of knowledge: in their pristine form without allowing their own subjectivity to slop over into the purity of the objects themselves. 115) "One of the most vital needs our students have: to be introduced to a world larger than their own experiences and egos, a world that expands their personal boundaries and enlarges their sense of community." (pg. 122) "Though we persist in believing that competition is the best way to motivate people to learn, students are far more motivated by the fact that their individual learning enables them to contribute to the communal inquiry - or at least not embarrass themselves by letting the group down." (pg. 135) "Our resistance to opening rather than filling the space is compounded by the fact that if we decide to change the way we practice our craft, it takes time to make the transition - and while we are in transit, we are not very good at what we are doing. 137) "I feel that challenge most urgently when a student says something utterly untrue - and everything in me wants to rise up and smite this falsehood with the Sword of Truth...How quickly do I need to do the smiting? 140) "The real threat to community in the classroom is not power and status differences between teachers and students but the lack of interdependence that those differences encourage. If we cannot answer that question with something as real to us as grades are to students, community will not happen." (pg. 142) "When we can say 'please' because we need our students and 'thank you' because we are genuinely grateful for them, obstacles to community will begin to fall away." (pg. If we want to grow in our practice, we have two primary places to go: to the inner ground from which good teaching comes and to the community of fellow teachers from whom we can learn more about ourselves and our craft." (pg. 147) "There is only one honest way to evaluate the many varieties of good teaching with the subtlety required: it's called being there." (pg. 151) "Though teaching sometimes feels like a linear flow of experience from one session to the next, it is actually an intricate patterning of life...a kind of creative chaos we can learn to enjoy." (pg. 151) "I sometimes ask people to fill in the blank: 'When I am teaching at my best, I am like a __________.'" (pg. 181) "There is so much 'soul force' in making the decision to live an undivided life, and so much reinforcement when people who have made it come together, that the shadow of self-righteousness is almost certain to emerge.

I agree with a lot of what Parker Palmer has written in this book. A teacher has to remain true to this passion while learning the techniques that respect the subject, the teacher, and the students. To be in the truth, we must know how to observe and reflect and speak and listen, with passion and with discipline, in the circle gathered around a given subject." I loved this Hasidic tale: "We need a coat with two pockets. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are." A community of learners will help us find our true selves, and help us discover ways we need to grow "ourselves and our craft." Palmer talks about teachers asking good questions.

I was intrigued by his challenge to think of the metaphor that most closely describes your teaching: "When I am teaching at my best, I am like a ____" Palmer's personal metaphor is a sheepdog -- a Border collie. Stage 4 -- Alternative rewards emerge to sustain the community and put pressure for change on institutions. The book stands the test of time...and it reminds me I was at my best when I taught with my heart open.

I loved the thoughtful way he worded things and the poetic nature of some of his pros. Among Palmer's students who shared about their favorite teachers; there were those interactive types who encouraged discussion, and yet also educators who only lectured with no room for questions. Students will sense whether or not the teach enjoys the subject and sincerely desires to help the students discover, learn and love it as well. Palmer wrote: "As far as I can tell, the only "Objective" knowledge we possess is the knowledge that comes from a community of people looking at a subject and debating their observations within a consensual framework of procedural rules. I know of no field, from science to religion, where what we regard as objective knowledge did not emerge from long and complex communal discourse that continues to this day, no field where the facts of the matter were delivered fully formed from on high.

However, I did find several important points to that I am trying to integrate into my thinking about teaching. Another important idea that I took away from the book is the "subject-centered" classroom, in contrast to the teacher-centered or student-centered classroom.

While some readers may dislike the reflection & introspection that makes up this book (Palmer disdains "technique talk" or "quick fixes"), this book really helped me sort out my anxiety & baggage from my own imperfect & difficult seven years in the classroom.

  • English

  • Education

  • Rating: 3.96
  • Pages: 224
  • Publish Date: November 21st 1997 by Jossey-Bass
  • Isbn10: 0787910589
  • Isbn13: 9780787910587