Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A CAPACITY FOR CONNECTEDNESS

Parker Palmer, one of my favorite teachers, offers this insight into teaching

NOBLE VOCATION.  Thinking of Father Larry Voelker, I’ve been reflecting again on 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 vulnerabilities. Some of my best teachers are those whom I have never personally met, but I’ve encountered creativity, 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 among 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 community that learning, and living, require."

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