The Heart of a Teacher- Parker J. Palmer

Response to:
The Heart of the Teacher
Identity and Integrity in Teaching
By Parker J. Palmer
(1997)

Palmer portrays a convincing argument about the importance of ‘connected’ educators mindful of community. Specific instructional techniques are not more or less effective than another- it is all in the actual delivering of the material. If an educator is passionate, involved and excited about the subject they are teaching it usually does not matter how material is specifically taught. “Good teachers join- self, subject and students in the fabric of life because they teach from an integral and undivided self; they manifest in their own lives and evoke in their students, a “capacity for connectedness”(pg. 16) Drawing bridges between ones inner self and the outside world must be modelled if we are to expect students to relate it to their own lives and see information as relevant.

Teachers must be aware of their identity as “…we teach who we are”(p. 15). Mindfulness of what our strengths and weaknesses are must be noted and critical reviewed if we are to be successful within the classroom. “In fact, knowing students and the subject depends heavily on self-knowledge”(p. 15) ‘When we do not know who we are, we cannot know who are students are or want to be'(p. 15). We cannot differentiate instruction or boast inclusivity if we do not know what all individuals within the room need to succeed.

There is a need to spend a great deal of time enveloped in a few key areas. “To chart the landscape fully , three important paths must be taken- intellectual, emotional, and spiritual and none can be ignored”(p. 15). While Palmer speaks often of displaying and developing a personal and public self that is ‘connected’ to these three elements I believe it should be seen as an ‘important path’. Where is the mention of the vitalness of a physical dimension? What does a teacher have at the end of the day if they do not look after them self?

Left is an image taken from: (American Journal of Health Promotion, 1989, 5)
Each dimension, while unique is a part of the puzzle that as an educator and defines his/her professional practices. This is something that must be embraced by teachers and taught to students as ignoring any one dimension can result in ineffectiveness and holes within learning.

The Networked Teacher (left) is an an image created by Alec Couros. If I can expect to reach my students within The School of Global Media Studies I need to be connected with all the elements that will impact and enhance my practices each day. Teaching five 20 level curriculums while integrating technology is a task that will be ever changing and expanding. Connectedness with various technologies, while integrating community and ensuring I am caring for the 5 dimensions discussed above will work to ensure I am being effective in my practices.

Technique vs. style is an interesting argument as well. I have had teachers who lecture for hours and I was enthrawled and hung on every word. I have known educators who speak for 10 minutes and I am lost. Passionate, invested teachers are easier to learn from. That being said specific interests we have and how we relate to students and teachers will also have a direct influence on what we attain. Teaching is a science and the developments and changes in science, as in teaching, are never ending.

A glance in the mirror…
Who are we? What does it mean to know who we are?
If we look in the mirror we are first enthrawled by the ‘flaws’ we think we have.
But… who are we really? What makes us work well? What does not? What makes us happy? What hurts?
What do we teach? What do we leave out? Why would we leave it out?
We are the authors of our authority  and to teach individuals we must be individually aware.

Post Script
We must teach from the inside out.
Surrounding yourself with people that support you is so vital to longevity and zest.
-(That being said I believe working with people who approach thing differently can help further define our beliefs.)
No matter what role you are in, your heart is the one thing that stays constant.
The teacher in you stays with you regardless of your role.

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