Tuesday, June 27, 2006


NOBLE VOCATION. Our son Jared says that he wants to be a teacher and will begin university this fall in pursuit of that noble vocation. His choice reminded me of the influence good and bad teachers have had on me. Do you recall your best teacher? Your worst? Each teacher seemed to have different strengths or capacities, different liabilities or vulnernabilities. Some of my best teachers are those whom I have never personally met, but have encountered creativity and insight and connectedness through their writings.

CRITIQUE OF TEACHING. I've been impressed with teachers who are able to positively critique and challenge the status quo in education and press for a renewal of the heart of teaching. Parker Palmer is one such teacher. I first encountered his insights on teaching and learning in To Know As We Are Known. Whether I am a preacher, a teacher, a coach, a parent, or a partner (or all of these), paying close attention to what Parker Palmer has to convey in a more recent book, The Courage to Teach (Jossey-Bass, 1998), may yield important possibilities for a recovery of teaching and education. Here's a favorite quote from Palmer's book:

WEAVING CONNECTIONS. "Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections amond themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves...The connections made by good teachers are not held in their methods but in their hearts--meaning heart in its ancient sense, as the place where intellect and emotion and spirit and will converge in the human self."

THE HEART A LOOM. "As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, their heart is the loom on which the threads are tied, the tension is held, the shuttle flies, and the fabric is stretched tight. Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart--and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be."

OUTCOME: THE FABRIC OF COMMUNITY. "The courage to teach is the courage to keep one's heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven in the fabric of commmunity that learning, and living, require."


  1. John, you probably already know about this -- but Parker Palmer has taken his "Courage to Teach" stuff that he has been doing around the country and is now trying to see if it fits congregations. It's along the lines of what he wrote about in "A Hidden Wholeness." Anyway...he is working with the Center for Congregations on a three year process for pastors and congregational leaders in a "Courage to Lead" workshops (several across three years) funded by Lilly. If you are interested you can check out the website. There is a woman down in Louisville area who is coordinating the stuff that will be happening here.

  2. I wasn't aware of this, Mike. Thanks for the head's up. If the info/process is accessible to non-professionals, it will be helpful. Our community of faith is planning to work through a variation of Ruby Payne's "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" in the fall. It might be interesting to see how these two views/approaches correlate.


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