A spiritual side to teaching.

Bird Droppings April 4, 2023
A spiritual side to teaching.

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from oneself. Not about the absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior American Association for Higher Education associate and advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who was my principal. He recommended his book, The Courage to Teach, and I have given away several copies over the years.

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students?” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I have been teaching for fifty in public schools, working n training in industry, and seven years of teaching in private schools before IDEA set in about fifty years now in teaching and training. I have watched teachers burn out and some more of a fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting their all into what they do, and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there. I have watched creative teachers, starting as gangbusters, succumb to teaching blues and boredom. They come in full of zeal and borrow premade transparencies from their next-door neighbor within a semester because they no longer have the time to create new ones.

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

I have considered teaching an art form for many years, and I think it is a place where a person’s soul is laid open for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happen to be teaching. As Palmer indicates, if you genuinely want to connect with your students, you open your heart, and this is difficult for many to do. It takes a particular person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer, in his writing, discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect on John Dewey and his revelations of education as a social event and, more critically, a necessity.

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create a community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer

In my journeys in life, I use a word whose connotation is plural, discussing my journeys in life since I have been in several directions before where I am now. I have found that we find peace with ourselves in happiness and solace. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude, a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can reflect on my day or my day ahead and ponder sitting and listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot as sacred, and some will scuff how you can say it does not have a church or religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching, and these two words intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

Since I returned to teaching, it has been about respect and trust. I have done this by building relationships with students; in my opinion, that is one of the most critical aspects of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books; it is relationships. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand or even experience this knowledge. It has been nearly twenty years since I wrote a trust scale for a human development course I was taking. It follows a similar concept I had read about in Dr. James Fowler’s book, The Development of Faith. We start as trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. I was thinking about a new week ahead and a few days left this week; the positive and negative will come my way. I tend to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I hope each of you can take a moment to reflect, and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


3 responses to “A spiritual side to teaching.”

  1. Parker is one of my favourite people in life. I met him once and he exceeded my expectations of him as a human being. I have all but one book and refer to him frequently in my writing.

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