In the introduction to the book The Courage to Teach, Parker S. Palmer wrote,
“…the territory I want to explore in this book: the inner landscape of the teaching self. To chart that landscape fully, three important paths must be taken—intellectual, emotional, and spiritual—and none can be ignored. Reduce teaching to intellect, and it becomes a cold abstraction; reduce it to emotions, and it becomes narcissistic; reduce it to the spiritual, and loses its anchor to the world. Intellect, emotion, and spirit depend on one another for wholeness. They are interwoven in the human self and in education at its best, and I have tried to interweave them in this book as well.” (page 4)
“I have no question that students who learn, not professors who perform, is what teaching is all about: students who learn are the finest fruit of teachers who teach. No do I doubt that students learn in diverse and wondrous ways, including ways that bypass the teacher in the classroom and ways that require neither a classroom nor a teacher!”
“But I am also clear that in lecture halls, seminar rooms, field settings, labs, and even electronic classrooms—the places where most people receive most of their formal education—teachers possess the power to create conditions that can help students learn a great deal—or keep them from learning much at all. Teaching is the intentional act of creating those conditions, and good teaching requires that we understand the inner sources of both the intent and the act.” (page 6)
“’Who is that self that teaches?’ is the question at the heart of this book—though answering that question in print has been more challenging than I imagined. In writing and rewriting this book many times over the last five years, I have learned how tempting it is to stay with the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ and ‘whys’: those questions are more easily answered in prose and translated into proposals for fundable programs!
But I have persisted with the ‘who’ question because it marks a seldom-taken trail in the question for educational reform, a trail toward the recovery of the inner resources that good teaching always requires. Real reform is so badly needed—and we have restructured education so often without reaching that distant dream—that we should be sending expeditionary parties down every trail we can find."
I have persisted for another reason closer to the bone: “Who is the self that teachers?’ is the question at the heart of my own vocation. I believe it is the most fundamental question we can ask about teaching and those that teach—for the sake of learning and those who learn. By addressing it openly and honestly, alone and together, we can serve our students more faithfully, enhance our own well-being, make common cause with colleagues, and help education bring more light and life to the world.” (page 7)
What I’m proposing as an experimental beginning to our book discussion is setting off three forums that invite personal sharing with the community about these paths.
This is the forum for Intellectual.
From Palmer: “By intellectual I mean the way we think about teaching and learning—the form and content of our concepts of how people know and learn, of the nature of our students and our subjects.”
Questions: What is your intellectual orientation to your teaching? What are you fascinated by, what area of learning is your focus in education, your love, your passion, your grand endeavor to illuminate? We can also refer to Palmer’s subtopic: Subjects that chose us.” (page 25) What subject area “chose you”?
Note: If you are not a teacher, you can substitute in the word "life" (or whatever you'd like) for "teaching" or "education".