Parker J. Palmer’s seminal book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life sent powerful thought waves through the teacher leadership community when it first appeared in 1998. It’s a book every committed teacher should keep handy on a nearby bookshelf for those days when the going gets especially rough.

As the school year begins for many teachers — new and not-so-new — we thought we’d share this 2003 essay by Palmer which he titled “Teaching with Heart and Soul: Reflections on Spirituality in Teacher Education.” It captures much of his thinking on the subject. He writes:

A spiritual crisis arises when we find ourselves in the grip of something larger than society’s expectations or the ego’s needs…. The challenge of such a crisis is always clear, though finding a way through never is: do we follow the soul’s calling, or do we bend to the forces of deformation around us and within us?

Challenges of this sort are well-known to many teachers these days as they seek some way to negotiate between the demands of high-stakes testing and the deeper needs of their students. So we have much to learn (about) that largeness called the life of a child…

Palmer is always worth re-reading. While you’re visiting his Center for Courage and Renewal website, explore other materials. Here’s a link to Stories of the Courage to Teach, essays written by teachers themselves. And here’s a recent interview with Palmer.

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