Teaching From the Heart

Being a teacher is no easy job. Despite having the summers off and great job security, there often is no constant feelings of success or joy in the classroom. A single day can go from exhausting and futile to creative and enlightening. Parker Palmer is able to articulate the true lives of teachers in his article “The Heart of a Teacher”. He describes the highs and the lows, and looks within the teaching profession to analyse the true work of teaching.

I may not be far into post-secondary education, and I have not even begun to put a dent in the classes in which I will be required to take to become a teacher, but I already know that it is not what I expected. I assumed that I would be bestowed the secret powers of classroom management. At the very least I thought that there was a certain technique that all teachers were equipped with. When none of these expectations were met I find my answer in Parker Palmer’s words, “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” He taught me that ability to teach comes from within.

Parker Palmer also writes about the importance of connecting with your inner teacher. He speaks that there is an ability within you to teach without fear. I found this particular quote astounding:

“I am painfully aware of the times in my own teaching when I lose touch with my inner teacher, and therefore with my own authority. In those times I try to gain power by barricading myself behind the podium and my status while wielding the threat of grades. But when my teaching is authorized by the teacher within me, I need neither weapons nor armor to teach.”

I have had teachers who use this armour and wield these weapons. I have also armed myself this way in my job working with kids. I relate fully to what Palmer writes in regards to the disconnect. I will walk into work some mornings so frazzled and disconnected from myself that I fall into this trap. I threaten with words of punishment and timeouts, I protect myself with distance because I know the second I let my amour down this disconnect will cause me to crumble. Palmer has taken this squishy and icky feeling I experience and put it beautifully in the above quote.

My question for this reading is why do we disconnect in the first place from our inner teacher, and how do we minimize this occurrence? I feel that if I can permanently make my teacher self and regular self into one cohesive identity that it would make the classroom a better place for all.

Parker Palmer speaks about the heart of teaching, and that all teachers must keep their hearts open despite the risk of breaking. I often hear that teaching is one of the most unselfish acts that there is. As someone who probably has not experienced the joys of teaching I wonder what kind of appeal that lifestyle has? Can I be a successful teacher while still valuing my well-being?