‘Community of Truth’ In a Time of Uncertainty (Part 2)

As I continue to reflect on my role as a teacher in what may become, to some degree, the new norm of education, I also continue to mine the depths of Parker Palmer’s seminal book on what it means to be a teacher, The Courage to Teach.

A few more pearls of heart-led wisdom that Parker offers includes:

Knowing is a human way to seek relationship and, in the process, to have encounters and exchanges that will inevitably alter us. At its deepest reaches, knowing is always communal. p.55

This relational way of knowing–in which loves takes away fear and cocreation replaces control–is a way of knowing that can help us reclaim the capacity for connectedness on which good teaching depends. p.57

I need not teach from a fearful place; I can teach from curiosity or hope or empathy or honesty, places that are as really within me as are my fears. p.58

[The] concept of paradox. In certain circumstances, truth is found not by splitting the world into either-ors but by embracing it as both-and. p.65

The world of education as we know it is filled with broken paradoxes–and with the lifeless results: p.68

  • We separate head from heart. Result: minds that do not know how to feel and hearts that do not know how to think. 
  • We separate facts from feelings. Result: bloodless facts that make the world distant and remote and ignorant emotions that reduce truth to how one feels today.
  • We separate theory from practice. Result: theories that have little to do with life and practice that is uniformed by understanding.
  • We separate teaching from learning. Result: teacher who talk but do not listen and students who listen but do not talk.

Becoming aware of our gifts can help us teach more consistently from our identity and integrity. Acknowledging our gifts is difficult for many of us, because we are modest or because it is risky to stick one’s head up. But when we are reminded of and honored for the gifts we bring to teaching, it is easy for us to revert to the dominant pedagogy, even if it has little relation to who we are. p.72

But understanding my identity is the first and crucial step in finding new ways to teach: nothing I do differently as a teacher will make any difference to anyone if it is not rooted in my nature. p.74

My sense of self is so deeply dependent on others that I will always suffer a bit when others refuse to relate to me; there is no way around that simple fact. At the same time, I still have a self when relationships fail–and the suffering I experience is evidence of it. p.75

To become a better teacher, I must nurture a dense of self that both does and does not depend on the responses of others–and that is a true paradox. p.76

Teaching and learning require a higher degree of awareness than we ordinarily possess–and awareness is always heightened when we are caught in a creative tension. Paradox is another name for that tension, a way of holding opposites together that creates an electric charge that keeps us awake. Not all good teachers use the same techniques, but whatever technique they use, good teachers always find ways to induce this creative tension. p.76

Next Week? Palmer’s six paradoxical tensions


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