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The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
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The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,778 ratings  ·  208 reviews
"This book is for teachers who have good days and bad -- and whose bad days bring the suffering that comes only from something one loves. It is for teachers who refuse to harden their hearts, because they love learners, learning, and the teaching life." -- Parker J. Palmer [from the Introduction]For many years, Parker Palmer has worked on behalf of teachers and others who ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published June 8th 2010 by Jossey-Bass (first published November 21st 1997)
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Jul 28, 2007 Laurel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teachers and people close to them
The one complaint I have, even though this is a book I keep near me all school year, is that it's a little bit too "self-helpy/new-agey/mystical". But, that aside, it's helped me to be a more confidant teacher. Palmer talks about how teaching is a profession where you HAVE to be yourself or you won't have integrity. It's about letting who you are as a person inform your instruction. Once you've lost the ability to do that, it's impossible to do your job well. Full of anecdotes from Palmer's own ...more
This book teaches teachers how to teach like the teachers they already are.

"The personal can never be divorced from the professional. 'We teach who we are' in times of darkness as well as light." (pg. xi)

Consider a teacher's "heart-deep commitment that keeps them coming back to the classroom - their commitment to the well-being of our children." (pg. xii)

"But at other moments, the classroom is so lifeless or painful or confused - and I am powerless to do anythign about it - that my claim to be a
What I look for when reading a book about teaching is twofold; that it gives me ideas that I want to apply to my classroom, and it confirms the direction I have chosen in my life as teacher. The Courage to Teach supplied both.

Palmer clarified why we teach and linked that to why we learn. A good read for anyone who is a teacher or is thinking about becoming a teacher.
I got to meet Parker Palmer at a conference. He wasn't a very dynamic keynote speaker, but what an inspiration. I reread this book when I'm feeling overwhelmed by my job. This one sustains me.

So -- I just reread it for a project...some things feel dated to me, and impossibly idealistic, but then that is exactly what I love about Palmer and his book. He reminds me WHY I teach (taught) -- to be an authentic human. I am authentic when I am with students. I am real.

I was intrigued by his challenge t
John Martindale
I thought this an excellent book, Palmer mentioned he wrote and rewrote this again and again, and it shows in a good way, it is very well written. I loved the thoughtful way he worded things and the poetic nature of some of his pros.

Palmer emphasized the importance of the inner life of teacher, and how this is just as, if not more important as technique. He mentioned how the many students of whom he asked to share about their favorite teachers, expressed how it was the ones who were truly "ther
This book resonated in my heart more than nearly any book I have ever read, but with a caveat. While the themes Palmer discussed resonated with my heart, I didn't always find the specific example or the writing to be on par with the "truths" explored. The key truths for me were: Teach out of identity and core not technique. Fear and alienation are the enemies of effective teaching. Greater truths are often paradoxes. Trying to resolve paradoxes too quickly short-circuits learning. The tension fr ...more
Palmer writes eloquently & honestly about the challenges of teaching, especially why the current debate will not lead to any meaningful change. While some readers may dislike the reflection & introspection that makes up this book (Palmer disdains "technique talk" or "quick fixes"), this book really helped me sort out my anxiety & baggage from my own imperfect & difficult seven years in the classroom. It helped me see where I "lost heart," & better, how I can gain it back agai ...more
Kendel Christensen
I think the genius of this book was just lost on me. I really resonated with the beginning that talked about the "teacher within" and the "unique subjectivity" that each person can bring to the profession. I certainly feel like I have a unique perspective, and that my viewpoints and even personality makes my classroom unique (If I was given the freedom to unleash my style freely).

But the core of the book, I just didn't have the mental patience at this time in my life to take the time to fully pr
I just completed rereading this book in order to give my current review as a response to the material. I was swept up in the author's ability to create a poetic essence that can be a foundation for practical ideas. This style kept me fascinated and eager to reread the book.

It seemed there was a "conversation" in reading this book which enabled me as a teacher/student to grow and expand my own inner core as Palmer encouraged me to dare to move into a dance with other teachers and learners, instit
The whole idea of learning in community is new to me, but something I’ve been introduced to before reading this book. Our church, Life on the Vine, is a very community oriented church that has opened my eyes to that idea. I was, therefore, open to the ideas of the 2nd part of Palmer’s book which focused on learning in community. Our American culture places so much value on individualism that we limit ourselves incredibly.

I also found myself in agreement with the ideas he present
I have read and re-read this wonderful volume--both on my own and in conjunction with educator colleagues from several schools. I have highlighted and re-highlighted many passages. This book really bears re-reading well. To me, that attests to its lasting value.

One of my favorite excerpts, for instance, is this one (which falls on pp. 107 - 108 of Courage to Teach):
"When we are at our best, it is because the grace of great things has evoked from us the virtues that give educational community its
I agree with a lot of what Parker Palmer has written in this book. Teaching is not a magic wand; One can't just quickly conjure up a lesson without thinking of oneself, the subject, and the students' needs in the class. The book was extremely difficult for me to read. "We must find an approach to teaching that respects the diversity of teachers and subjects, which methodological reductionism fails to do." I had to reread and reread to figure out Palmer's meaning. Much of the book was written wit ...more
So I opted to take an online professional development class in which this book was the text. I really wanted to like the book and author because he is a fellow cheesehead. The first chapter was okay as it dealt with the ideas of what makes a great teacher, how your topic found you, passion, etc. Chapter 2 dealt with fears: fears we had as students (fear of failing or looking stupid in front of our classmates); fears we have as instructors (fear of looking stupid in front of the class or not bein ...more
Megan Knippenberg
Even though this is a book geared toward those in higher ed, I still found sections applicable to the elementary teacher.

Some of my favorite thoughts:

"We teach who we are." ~p.2
"Teaching holds a mirror to the soul." ~p.3
"Good teaching requires self-knowledge." ~p.3
"Technique is what teachers use until the real teacher arrives." ~p.6
"The more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be." ~p.11
It is essential to teach from an "undivided self." "In the undivided self, every major thread o
This book was useful to me in validating my philosophy on teaching and on providing thoughtful stories/strategies (rather than techniques). It was less useful in its new-agey, hippy-dippy, self-helpey take on things; I tended to gloss over those despite being a spiritual person myself (and one who even reads self-help books on occasion).

Loved the focus on identity and integrity as the major requirements for teaching. Also the differentiation between a student interacting with a subject through a
Parker Palmer is one of my favorite authors and people. I had the privilege of first meeting him in Wisconsin when I invited him to speak to the graduate learning community I was teaching. He spoke to the group, then traveled to a small book store, Buffalo Books, in Montello, Wisconsin to do a book signing for us.

My next meeting with him was a few years later at a "Courage to Teach" workshop in Kalamazoo, MI. I will never forget his image and advice of helping and supporting others. He describe
Heather Morgan
Occasionally Parker J. Palmer can be wordy, and his concepts delivered in a cumbersome prose. Most often, though, his crystalline insights on teaching from a whole heart describe both the research and practice of sound pedagogy. Two concepts are particularly salient and lifegiving: education that does no violence to the teacher or the learner, and teaching from authenticity and integrity rather than fraudulence and fear. His storytelling and Quaker variety of discernment make it an engaging read ...more
This is a re-read from my early days at teaching. I admit that, back then, I didn't take much in and wound up feeling more anxious than I started. On my second reading, ten years into my career, I took in more and only felt slight anxious. Progress, I think.

What Palmer is really good at is reflecting on the spirituality of teaching, particularly on reflecting on the impact of fear on teaching. That sounds funny, of course, because most people see teachers as authority figures and they are, but
Pashew Majeed
The Courage to Teach
Parker J. Palmer

Review and Reflection by Pashew Majeed

Reading any book, I usually take notes. During reading this book, somewhere on my notebook I wrote. Read page 19 over and over again. That was in the outcome of the unique thought and reflection of the writer who fascinated me within in a way that I was obliged by the thought to read it again and again, not because it wasn’t understandable but rather because of its excellent, unique and wel
This book is challenging. It challenges us to carefully reflect on who we are as teachers; why we teach; how we teach. His writing is challenging to me as it is full of long philosophical reflections, quotes from poems, and spirituality. Thankfully he offers many examples, which brings the discussion down to a more interesting and applicable level. I like these pages the best.

Parker Palmer takes us on his journey towards a teaching and learning philosophy; his ultimate goal is to start a moveme
Scott Wozniak
Parker Palmer discussed the inner aspects, the mindset and character qualities, required to be a great teacher.

This is a profound book, carefully written and humbly presented. It is geared directly for college professors--that's what he does--but is easily applied to teachers in other settings, from kindergarten to corporate trainers.

Perhaps his core idea, from which all the other ideas branch off, is that you are the message. Not only is it better to teach explicitly from your life, it's impo
I finished the last page of this book and said, "Thank God! I've finished!" And that accomplishment came only from sheer determination and force of will. What a disappointment! I started this book mid-January when I was starting to get the mid-year, I-just-can't-do-this-anymore blues. "The Courage to Teach" - it sounded uplifting, encouraging, renewing... just what I needed at the school year's half-way point. Instead, what I got was a bunch of philosophical ramblings. Ok... that's a little hars ...more
Reading this book feels like some combination of having a stirring conversation about teaching and eavesdropping on the author's insights from years worth of therapy sessions. I have a knee-jerk, cynical response to vague uses of the word 'heart' and 'spiritual' and phrases like 'speak your inner truth.' But when I did my best to stay open-minded and not get too distracted by his new age-y diction, I found most of the book quite interesting. I think he successfully introduces a lot of psychologi ...more
I was expecting some kind of "teachers are special" and "education is super-spiritual" book. Boy, was I wrong. Palmer gets so much right (IMHO) about the social nature of education, the reality of fear in the classroom, and the necessity for attention to a subject that transcends the self. I really appreciated this statement: "Involvement in a community of pedagogical discourse is more than a voluntary option for individuals who seek support and opportunities for growth. It is a professional obl ...more
I really liked most of Palmer's ideas but the prose was not very interesting. I thought the text got a bit redundant and his real-life examples boring to read. Maybe I had issues because I struggle to read many education philosophy type books but I had a lot of trouble connecting with the book. There are many powerful insights and I do think it's important to discover your inner self and conduct yourself with integrity, but I felt like oftentimes Palmer kept repeating some of the same ideas over ...more
Should be read at the start of a career, and reread periodically...for affirmation, inspiration and reflection.
I've been participating in a bi-weekly faculty discussion about Palmer's book this semester, and it has been just what I needed. I didn't realize how much my sense of self had become linked to my identity as a high school teacher, so the move to teaching college had left me a bit adrift. This book and our discussions helped ground me in the aspects that remain true regardless of my students' grade-level. I highly recommend it for anyone in education; however, the concept of the undivided life is ...more
Teaching in today’s society is a skill and a demand. Teaching is a skill because it requires will power, focus, and determination. It is not easy being a teacher and unfortunately there are not as many teachers in schools today that there should be and this what makes it very much a demand in society.
However, even though it is a demand, the process of becoming a teacher is a very complex one because for one to become a teacher, they have to have the intuition to do so. In the book called The Co
I struggled through on this one with the promise in the introduction that it might "renew" me in my teaching field. It did no such thing and in fact bored me with philosophical rhetoric not applicable to the elementary world. A more appreciative audience might be in the realm of universities or therapy. I did come away with a few golden nuggets: I liked "if we want a community of truth in the classroom, a community that can keep us honest, we must put a third thing, a great thing, at the center ...more
Debbie Blane
I am about half finished with this book. At some point I may go back and finish it but for now I am done.

P.J.P. shares some good ideas and wisdom -- I particularly liked how he spoke of having mentors for a long time and then not having any. He realized finally that he wasn't having them because he was no longer an apprentice and it was time for him to mentor others.

I am having some trouble with this book because from my viewpoint he is really talking about the holiness of vocation and not only
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Parker J. Palmer (Madison, WI) is a writer, teacher and activist whose work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of eight books--including the bestsellers Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness--his writing has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award (previously won by Margaret Mea ...more
More about Parker J. Palmer...
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life To Know as We are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring

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“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” 62 likes
“I want to learn how to hold the paradoxical poles of my identity together, to embrace the profoundly opposite truths that my sense of self is deeply dependent on others dancing with me and that I still have a sense of self when no one wants to dance.” 28 likes
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