Teaching: A Mirror to the Soul

I‘m learning to build in time for the unanticipated yet inevitable things that happen on the way to reaching one’s goal. Like today’s blog for instance. The intention was to write earlier and more often to get in the groove for NaNoWriMo next week, Instead, I wasted 7 minutes logging in elsewhere then waiting for the page here to load despite the fact that I’d copied the quote I’m using for today’s prompt and was all ready to paste it and let fingers fly. Helas, even my mind doesn’t work as fast as my mind works. Yeah. Chew on that for awhile. o here tis:

Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge—and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject. -Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

This was sent in preparation for our now-annual departmental retreat. One change I’d make in the above quote is to suggest that the ‘reality’ that confronts us is a cumulative enterprise. Perhaps collaborative would be a more effective word choice but it suggests more control than most are willing to account for. Confronting reality, on the other hand, feels closer to the experience as oppositional as it often appears even if the opponent is the self.

My filters are operating as seemlessly as those of others but sometimes, I imagine mine are doing so awarely. It took some time to acknowledge their existence, let alone attempt to recontour them, but suffice to say it sometimes happens that I am aware of the limits my past experience and present choices place on the experience we are sharing in the classroom, bricks and mortar or online,

I checked the clock. Bad idea. I’ve got three minutes left in my ten and have barely gotten to the core of the quote – at least my entry point in it: inwardness. To say that mirrors can be challenging would be an understatement. To say that the convolutions of our inner lives are running the teaching-learning show would be an over-simplification. My mind goes at once to the oppression and then, I back off from sheer exhaustion thinking, don’t get me started. 422 words in 13 minutes. I’ve gotta crack 600 and do that three times a day if I’m to be a winner at NaNoWriMo.


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