Posted in Module 1

Reflection on Heart of the Teacher (Parker Palmer)

I always said, not just anyone can be a teacher, teaching has to come from the heart and soul of a person and not everyone is able to put their heart out there in that way. Reading this article was like reading thoughts I’ve always had but never herd or read on paper before. Parker Palmer describes a good teacher as someone that “[…] cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” I always wondered why this was never said in the faculty of education when they are training future teachers. It would be more efficient to help student teachers discover why they decided to become a teacher in the first place, helped them acknowledge their identity and how this will project in their teaching. Perhaps if we discussed these topics we would have less “bad teachers”.

Palmer had the best description for a bad teacher saying it’s like “their words float somewhere in front of their faces, like the balloon speech in cartoons.” This definitively describes every bad teacher I have ever had. You can always tell when someone just doesn’t want to be here, when they seem distracted or uninterested by what is going on around them. I personally have been fortunate enough to have had more good teachers than bad ones. Every single one of those good teachers were different but the one thing they all had in common was how they cared about their students. Their style of teaching may have differed but it didn’t matter because at the end of the day I wanted to learn as a result of how much I could tell they wanted to teach me. When I finally realized I wanted to be a teacher I remember thinking to myself it was thanks to all those good teachers I had that cared about me and my learning that made me want to do the same for other students. I thought to myself, maybe if there were more of us we would take over and there would be less and less bad teachers. However, what made a teacher a bad teacher?

I remember wondering as a child in the education system, did my teacher always hate her job or did something happen that made her hate it? If she always hated it why did she even become a teacher in the first place? The older I got, the more I learned about the convenient parts of being a teacher. How sometimes people become teacher for the wrong reasons and I wondered why there isn’t a way to filter those people out in the faculty of education. I remember my high school chemistry teacher telling us the only reason she became a teacher was because she wanted to start having kids and her other job required her to work too many hours. Other times, Palmer explains, “we became teachers for reasons of the heart, animated by a passion for some subject and for helping people to learn”, which to me are the right reasons, “But many of us lose heart as the years of teaching go by.” I never acknowledged how much teaching requires us to be vulnerable and “To reduce our vulnerability, we disconnect from students, from subjects, and even from ourselves.” With that being said, we must find a way to remain exposed to our students. At this training session for a job I got with a company called Voila Learning, they had an actor come in and do some improvisation with us. As random as this may seem, he taught us that as teachers we may face many challenges in our outside lives however, we must enter our classroom as if it were our stage. As teachers we don’t just take on a role, we must teach with passion from our hearts no matter what challenges we may be having outside the classroom.

As a student in university and a future teacher it was interesting to read about the academic bias against subjectivity and when Palmer says it “not only forces our students to write poorly (“It is believed…,” instead of, “I believe… “), it deforms their thinking about themselves and their world.” I realized how how true this was in our education system. If it weren’t for a lot of my education classes I would never have had to write reflections where I clearly state how I feel about a certain topic. Even writing this reflection and thinking about connections to personal experiences was an odd thing to transcribe into written words. In the past it was clear that “we believe that for every objective problem there is some sort of technical fix.” Palmer states that “teachers to master techniques but not to engage their students’ hearts—or their own.” This is where we see the difference between a good and bad teacher. My good teachers were engaging, they made not only my ears listen but also my heart. They were the teachers that knew the difference between power and authority. Palmer has taught me a great deal, reminding me that in the word authority is author and “authority is granted to people who are perceived as “authoring” their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts.” We must therefore go beyond the techniques they teach us in the faculty of education.Every teacher should learn from Palmer, as he explains “To educate is to guide students on an inner journey toward more truthful ways of seeing and being in the world. How can schools perform their mission without encouraging the guides to scout out that inner terrain?”

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