Saturday, September 21, 2013

Becoming an Authentic Teacher Instead of a Machine That Produces Test Scores

How can we avoid becoming robots in the classroom and in our school offices when all the talk is data, data, and more data? When all the educational buzzwords are the same words and language used to describe mechanistic processes, it is easy to lose sight of education as a process involving real people with real inner lives. To avoid becoming these automatons of a lifeless education system, we do need to take time to work on the inside too. No matter what your religious persuasion or lack of, teaching is ultimately an act of integrity and courage that pours as much from our hearts as our heads. How many times a day do I find myself caught up in messiness of administrating, only to lose touch with what's inside?

Yesterday, I shared much of  the following with my staff in my weekly email update. Parker Palmer, author of the inspirational book on teaching entitled, The Courage to Teach, talks at length about the importance of teachers, and I would add administrators, to being in touch with the teacher within. Teaching is an authentic, powerful experience that requires a level of authenticity. To be authentic, we must listen to the teacher inside us.

In an essay, entitled "Heart of a Teacher" Palmer asks the question:

"How does one attend to the voice of the teacher within?"

With this question he encourages teachers to make sure they tend to what's inside too. He says we can only touch students' lives when we ourselves are on "speaking terms" with this teacher within. To do that, we need to take occasions to listen inwardly. 

How can we learn to listen inwardly to the teacher within? This weekend, here's a few things to try:
  • Find some time for solitude and silence. We all need time to sit quietly and in silence so we can learn to hear the voice of the teacher within.
  • Meditative reading. We need to take the time to read things that inspire us, and that give volume to the voice of the teacher inside all of us.
  • Walking in the woods. This weekend take a hike, well, don't take that the wrong way. Take a walk in the woods. Give yourself time for inner reflection after spending the entire week of interacting outwardly.
  • Journal. Take some time this weekend to write. Give that teacher within a voice.
  • Finally, find a friend who will listen. There's nothing like a compassionate friend to help you reconnect to the teacher you are inside.
Palmer talks a great deal about the importance of teaching coming from our identity and integrity. We must be authentic with ourselves before we can ever be authentic with our students. This weekend take some time to get on speaking terms with your teacher within.

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