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10 thoughts on “The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life

  1. says:

    I think the genius of this book was just lost on me I really resonated with the beginning that talked about the teacher within and the unique subjectivity that each person can bring to the profession 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.But the core of the book, I just didn t have the mental patience at this time in my life to take the time to fully process and appreciate When he started the whole metaphysical debate about the nature of reality and how to establish genuine communities I just stopped reading At least for now, I need something tangible something I could do in class tomorrow to make a difference in my classroom.

  2. says:

    The one complaint I have, even though this is a book I keep near me all school year, is that it s a little bit too self helpy new agey mystical But, that aside, it s helped me to be a confidant teacher Palmer talks about how teaching is a profession where you HAVE to be yourself or you won t have integrity It s about letting who you are as a person inform your instruction Once you ve lost the ability to do that, it s impossible to do your job well Full of anecdotes from Palmer s own career.

  3. says:

    This book teaches teachers how to teach like the teachers they already are The personal can never be divorced from the professional We teach who we are in times of darkness as well as light pg 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 xii But at other moments, the classroom is so lifeless or painful or confused and I am powerless to do anythign about it that my claim to be a teacher seems a transparent sham pg 2 The subjects we teach are as large and complex as life, so our knowledge of them is always flawed and partial No matter how we devote ourselves to reading and research, teaching requires a command of content that always eludes our grasp The students we teach are larger than life and even complex To see them clearly and see them whole, and respond to them wisely in the moment, requires a fusion of Freud and Solomon that few of us achieve pg 2 Teachers make an easy target, for they are such a common species and so powerless to strike back pg 3 Technique is what teachers use until the real teacher arrives pg 6 Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher pg 10 Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students pg 11 The one loves teaching, the heartbreaking it can be pg 11 Identity and integrity have as much to do with our shadows and limits, our wounds and fears, as with our strengths and potentials pg 13 Part of the mystery of selfhood is the fact that one size does not fit all what is integral to one person lacks integrity for another pg 16 Many of us became teachers for reasons of the heart, animated by a passion for some subject and for helping people learnWe lose heart, in part, because teaching is a daily exercise in vulnerability pg 17 We became teachers because we once believed that ideas and insight are at least as real and powerful as the world that surrounds us 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 22 Consider speaking with the hesitancy that comes from speaking of sacred things pg 24 All heroes have feet of clay pg 28 Measuring the value of inner dialogue by its practical outcomes is like measuring the value of friendship by the number of problems that are solved when friends get together 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 38 We still face one final fear the fear that a live encounter with otherness will challenge or even compel us to change our lives This is not paranoia the world really is out to get us pg 39 Faced with the Student from Hell, I committed the most basic mistake of the greenest neophyte I became totally obsessed with him, and everyone else in the room disappeared from my screen pg 44 Self pity and projected blame the recipe for a well lived life pg 44 The Student from Hell is not born that way but is created by conditions beyond his or her control Yes one or two of them may have been sent here directly by Satan to destroy Western civilization as we know and love it But pg 45 Students are marginalized people in our society 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 But many of us have another fear that we rarely name our fear of the judgment of the young pg 48 Teachers age at a geometric rate my best guess is that most teachers reach midlife by the time they turn twenty nine pg 49 Knowing of any sort is relational, animated by a desire to come into deeper community with what we know pg 55 Fear is so fundamental to the human condition that all the great spiritual traditions originate in an effort to overcome its effects on our lives pg 58 My intent is to rebalance the scales But in a polarizing culture, it is hard to do that without slamming the scales in the opposite direction pg 64 In certain circumstances, truth is found not by splitting the world into either ors but by embracing it as both and pg 65 I ask each teacher to write brief descriptions of two moments in teaching a moment when things were going so well that you knew you were born to teach and a moment when things were going so poorly that you wished you had never been bornRemembering such moments is the first step in exploring one of the true paradoxes of teaching the same person who teaches brilliantly one day can be an utter flop the next pg 69 Every strength is also a weakness, a limitation, a dimension of identity that serves me and others well under some circumstances but not all the time pg 74 Teaching and learning require a higher degree of awareness than we ordinarily possess pg 76 The teacher s task is to listen for what the group voice is saying and to play that voice back from time to time so the group can hear and even change its own collective mind pg 78 Psychologists say that a typical group can abide about fifteen seconds of silence before someone feels the need to break the tension by speaking pg 80 The silences that interest me are the ones that occur midstream in a discussion, when a point is made or a question is posed that evokes no immediate response pg 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 situationsand there is no formula to tell me whether this is a moment for freedom or discipline or some alchemy of both pg 87 Community is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace pg 92 Of course, we cannot demand intimacy of each other and when we try, we only drive each other off, as many failed communal experiments have shown pg 93 Most of us will achieve genuine intimacy with only a handful of people in a lifetime pg 93 High school and college classrooms contain a broader cross section of people engaged in common work and often doing it with civility, media fueled political correctness wars notwithstanding than one can find in many settings pg 95 We lack reliable mechanisms for evaluating teaching, unless one believes that all varieties of good teaching can be crammed into the scales of a survey questionnaire 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 This sort of dissatisfaction may be a sign that real education has happened pg 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 This training transpires in a far off place called graduate school, whose purpose is so thoroughly to obliterate one s sense of self that one becomes a secular priest, a safe bearer of the pure objects of knowledge pg 102 At its best, the community of truth advances our knowledge through conflict, not competition Competition is a secretive, zero sum game played by individuals for private gain conflict is open and sometimes raucous but always communal pg 106 Truth is an eternal conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline pg 106 The things of this world call to us, and we are drawn to them each of us to different things pg 108 We are whiplashed between an arrogant overestimation of ourselves and a servile underestimation of ourselves, but the outcome is always the same a distortion of the humble yet exalted reality of the human self, a paradoxical pearl of great price pg 113 I am well aware that the marriage of knowing and the sacred has not always produced admirable offspring But the history of education will show that spirituality is no worse than secularism in its propensity to sow bad seed pg 114 Access to the mysterium tremendum is not a staple of my daily experience, so I cannot depend on a steady stream of muminosity to renew my teaching pg 114 It is possible to respond differently to surprises, to allow one new idea to generate yet another in us a process sometimes called thinking pg 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 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 131 It is said that all of us together are smarter than any one of us alone pg 131 Like most professionals, I was taught to occupy space, not open it after all, we are the ones who know, so we have an obligation to tell others about it Even though I have rejected this nonsensical norm, I still feel guilty when I defy it A not so small voice within me insists that if I am not filling all the available space with my own knowledge, I am not earning my keep 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 En route to a new pedagogy, there will be days when we serve our students poorly, days when our guilt only deepens pg 135 My students will learn much when I turn their eyes from always looking at me and help them look at one another pg 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 TruthHow quickly do I need to do the smiting Can it wait pg 137 Drama does not mean histrionics pg 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 Students are dependent on teachers for grades but what are teachers dependent on students for 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 144 There are no formulas for good teaching, and the advice of experts has but marginal utility 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 about ourselves and our craft pg 146 Though we teach in front of students, we almost always teach solo, out of collegial sight as contrasted with surgeons and trial lawyersSurgeons operate under the gaze of specialists who notice if a hand trembles, making malpractice less likely But teachers can lose sponges or amputate the wrong limb with no witnesses except the victims pg 146 Consider how academic freedom often looks like this My classroom is my castle, and the sovereigns of other fiefdoms are not welcome here 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 148 I am especially touched when young teachers, who believe their struggles are unique, find relief in the revelation that older faculty still struggle with problems of their own 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 lifea 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 152 When people are willing to feel a bit foolish among colleagues, the payoff in self understanding can be considerable pg 152 Quick fixes make the person who shared the problem feel unheard and dismissedWe must remember a simple truth the human soul does not want to be fixed, it wants simply to be seen and heard pg 156 We humans have a curious conceit that just because we have said something, we understand it pg 160 Leadership involves offering people excuses and permissions to do the things that they want to do but cannot initiate themselves pg 161 Only in the face ofopposition has significant social change been achieved pg 170 I begin to see here a movement mentality, in which resistance is received as the place where everything begins, not endsNot only does change happen in spite of institutional resistance, but resistance helps change happen pg 171 We inhabit institutional settings, including school and work and civic society, because they harbor opportunities we value But the claims those institutions make on us are sometimes at odds with our heartsThat tension can be creative up to a point It becomes pathological when the heart becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of the organization pg 174 Had Rosa Parks sat there calculating the odds of making history, she might well have moved to the back of the bus pg 175 176 In deciding to live divided no , the individual goes beyond criticizing an institution and becomes self critical as well pg 176 People involved in movements often have friends far away than they have at home the reform agenda that is so inspiring on a national scale turns out to be threatening locally pg 181 Visibility is not easy because it may bring recrimination But when we declare our values in a visible and viable way, we will sometimes be amazed at the way allies gather round 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 The only way to minimize the shadow and maximize the light is to expose the movement to public critique and to take that critique seriously pg 182 The outcomes of most movements are modest They rarely resemble nirvana, Most movements do not overturn the prevailing order but make incremental adjustments to it pg 187 Integrity, as the cynics say, does not put bread on the table pg 189 It has occurred to me from time to time that No Child Left Behind is a scheme to create such massive failure in public education that privatization would become an appealing option to Americans pg 194 The mission of the profession must never be confused with the institutional structures in which it is pursued The fact that we have schools does not mean we have education pg 204 The institutions are neither external to us nor constraining, neither separate from us nor alien In fact, institutions are us The shadows that institutions cast over our ethical lives are external manifestations of our own inner shadows pg 206 We do not live by science alone To survive and thrive, we also rely on the knowledge embedded in our feelings In fact, science itself begins in the hunches, intuitions, and bodily knowledge that lie behind testable hypotheses pg 208 Whatever our data source is, the key question is always the same How much of what I claim to know can be verified from viewpoints other than my own, and how much of it is my projection pg 210 Therapy done by amateurs is usually an especially ugly form of psychological violence pg 210 Our students need to see how we, their elders, deal with these vagaries of fate while refusing to sell out either our professions or our own identity and integrity And they need to see how, when we fail and fall down, as everyone does, we manage to get up again pg 211 Opening one s mouth to challenge what is wrong is a way to stay sane pg 212

  4. says:

    I agree with a lot of what Parker Palmer has written in this book Teaching is not a magic wand One can t just quickly conjure up a lesson without thinking of oneself, the subject, and the students needs in the class The book was extremely difficult for me to read We must find an approach to teaching that respects the diversity of teachers and subjects, which methodological reductionism fails to do I had to reread and reread to figure out Palmer s meaning Much of the book was written with too much fancy rhetoric The long and short of his message is, Teachers should have a passion for a subject that they deeply care about That passion is what that teacher is all about, who he she is A teacher has to remain true to this passion while learning the techniques that respect the subject, the teacher, and the students Teachers should encourage students to voice their opinions and speak for themselves Mutual inquiry between the teacher and the student is the best teaching community.Another important community is the community of teachers, looking at their own classroom practices with new lenses It is in this community where teachers can explore their strengths and weaknesses with ease, knowing that what is said will remain in confidence When teachers meet to together, their dialogue is valued and their ideas are stretched and tested It is our commitment to the conversation itself, our willingness to put forward our observations and interpretations for testing by the community and to return the favor to others 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 In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold 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 have been exploring for a long time what good inquiry looks like I wish that Palmer would have written about the practice of asking questions that open an inner space to receive another person a space that closes down when we are worrying about how to fix someone or preparing the next comment we want to make It s obvious that Parker J Palmer is brilliant I understood and agreed with his ideas, but got lost in the rhetoric I am hoping that his guide to teaching with courage is clear and that I can use some of his thoughts to practice with a group of my own 2nd, 3rd year teachers.

  5. says:

    I got to meet Parker Palmer at a conference He wasn t a very dynamic keynote speaker, but what an inspiration I reread this book when I m feeling overwhelmed by my job This one sustains me.So I just reread it for a projectsome things feel dated to me, and impossibly idealistic, but then that is exactly what I love about Palmer and his book He reminds me WHY I teach taught to be an authentic human I am authentic when I am with students I am real.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 i m strugglingAt my best I almost feel like a studentthat I m there, learning with my students This will keep me thinking for a long time.He ends his book with a discussion of the stages of a movement His examples are the Civil Rights movement, and women s rights, but you can clearly see he s thinking of education reform Stage 1 individuals make an inward decision to live divided no Stage 2 These individuals discover each other and form communities Stage 3 Communities go public Stage 4 Alternative rewards emerge to sustain the community and put pressure for change on institutions.I can see it happeningI can see it in my own life, in finding others who sustain me, and in finding my voice The book stands the test of timeand it reminds me I was at my best when I taught with my heart open Good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.

  6. says:

    Palmer is a little bit gushy about the great ineffable glory and torment of being a teacher, and I found myself skimming vast swaths of the book However, I did find several important points to that I am trying to integrate into my thinking about teaching

    One is a frank acknowledgment that teaching is scary, that we can be so desperate to be liked by our students and to get them to learn that we can lose track of our own identities We should not become over invested in technique Not every technique is right for every teacher This flies in the face of evidence based teaching in physics but while pre and post testing with large groups can prove certain techniques that should be successful for most teachers, this ignores the unique things that we can do that work well for me and my students that may or may not work for anyone else As teachers, we can embrace the techniques that reinforce our integrity, and not be worried about the rest

    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 I really like the idea of all of us approaching the subject together, with the instructor, not a source of knowledge or an ultimate authority, nor a sometimes distant guide on the side , but an active participant who serves to model our approach to knowledge in our field

    This book is widely recommended amongst academics who care about teaching, and I will probably recommend it to others, though I personally am practical minded and probably got a lot out of Advice for New Faculty Members by Robert Boice.

  7. says:

    What I look for when reading a book about teaching is twofold that it gives me ideas that I want to apply to my classroom, and it confirms the direction I have chosen in my life as teacher The Courage to Teach supplied both Palmer clarified why we teach and linked that to why we learn A good read for anyone who is a teacher or is thinking about becoming a teacher.

  8. says:

    This book works on you rather than telling you what to do Definitely not a book to tell you all the answers but a book to remind you why teach and how that can be done wholistically for teachers and their students I ll have to revisit this one in a few years.

  9. says:

    I thought this an excellent book Palmer mentioned how he wrote and rewrote the manuscript again and again, and it shows in a good way it was very well written I loved the thoughtful way he worded things and the poetic nature of some of his pros Palmer emphasized the importance of the inner life of teacher, and how this is just as and maybe even important than technique 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 Unsurprisingly, students delighted in the fun loving educator, yet the very serious teachers also were among the students favorites What was consistently true of those teachers they loved, was that the teacher was truly there and was enthusiastic about the subject matter The point taken is that the teaching style is not the most important factor, rather it s the teachers love for the topic of study 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.I liked that Palmer shared about the failures, his insecurities and the many things he learned during his years as an educator He had some excellent thoughts on teaching from our identity He has a chapter about about the influence fear has upon the teacher and the student and how they need to be brought to light and dealt with He has a chapter on paradox that would have made G.K Chesterton proud I really did relate with a lot in the first section of his book Its definitely a book I want to return to and remember I really liked his reflections on knowledge, which seem to me very in line with William James understanding of truth 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.The firmest foundation of all our knowledge is the community of truth itself This community can never offer us ultimate certainty not because its process is flawed but because certainty is beyond the grasp of finite hearts and minds Yet this community can do much to rescue us from ignorance, bias, and self deception if we are willing to submit our assumptions, our observations, our theories indeed, ourselves to its scrutiny.In rejecting the objectivist model, I have not embraced a relativism that reduces truth to whatever the community decides, for the community of truth includes a transcendent dimension of truth knowing and truth telling that takes us beyond relativism and absolutism alike The clearest and most compelling naming of that dimension is found in a couplet by Robert Frost We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the Secret sits in the middle and knows Frost honors the transcendent secret of the subject at the center of the community of truth, a secret that is equally obscured by absolutism, which claims that we can know the full reality of things, and by relativism, which claims that things have no reality save what we know The subject knows itself better than we can ever know it, and forever evades our grasp by keeping its own secrets.If this were no the case, the process of knowing world have long ago come to a halt Why did we not settle for the pre Socratic view of the nature of the physical world or the medieval view or the view of early modern science Why are we pressing, even now, on the view we hold today Because at the center of our attention is a subject that continually calls us deeper into its secret, a subject that refuses to be reduced to our conclusions about it.

  10. says:

    I read this book years ago, and not until re reading it did I realize how profoundly it shaped my teaching philosophy Rich Meaningful Inspiring Challenging I think I should re read every couple of years.

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The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life download The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, read online The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, kindle ebook 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 0665c32d4503 This Book Is For Teachers Who Have Good Days And Bad And Whose Bad Days Bring The Suffering That Comes Only From Something One Loves It Is For Teachers Who Refuse To Harden Their Hearts, Because They Love Learners, Learning, And The Teaching Life Parker J Palmer From The Introduction Teachers Choose Their Vocation For Reasons Of The Heart, Because They Care Deeply About Their Students And About Their Subject But The Demands Of Teaching Cause Too Many Educators To Lose Heart Is It Possible To Take Heart In Teaching Once 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