Reflecting on a Year of Teaching

The following was published in my ePortfolio for the annual merit review in 2016 at my university in Boston. MA.

The Last Word

 The following is a quote from the book:

The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker Palmer

As I have come to understand my students’ fears, I have been able to aim my teaching in a new direction. I no longer teach to their imputed ignorance, having rejected that assessment as both inaccurate and self-serving. Instead, I try to teach to their fearful hearts, and when I am able to do so, their minds often come along as well.

A good teacher is one who can listen to those voices even before they are spoken-so that someday they can speak with truth and confidence.

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The above quote fairly well sums up my reason to be in the classroom and to put in all the hours required to fulfill my own purpose in teaching. This purpose has grown very slowly over the years, as I have used my protective ego to bolster my own confidence, and have discovered the absolute folly of such self-deception.

I am not there yet. I am still too nice, too forgiving, and sometimes too generous. I am far from my ideal—setting the stage for students to more fully trust their own curiosity in a way that allows them to flourish as writers and thinkers, if not precisely in my classroom in any single semester, then surely later on out in the bigger, fiercely competitive world.

My own ambition to move ahead is my commitment to playing the long game. This is my own risk level and if I don’t live that way, then that can be felt in the classroom. Encouraging risk from an inauthentic self is transparent to students, and fails in that long game.

Little by little I do less for approval and more for challenge. From one semester to the next I vow to bring more challenges so that they just might remember some day in the future they will not die if they get a B. They will never know true joy without resilience, elasticity, and an ego porous enough to know they don’t know much at all anyway.

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