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Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice
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Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  21 reviews
"Radical Presence" is a book about our lives as well as our work, suggesting that the "secrets" of good teaching are the same as the secrets of good living: seeing one's self without blinking, offering hospitality to the alien other, having compassion for suffering, speaking truth to power, being present and being real. These are secrets hidden in plain sight. But in an ag ...more
Paperback, 64 pages
Published April 9th 1998 by Heinemann Educational Books
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a tiny book with a lot to think about. I will have to purchase my own copy as it is something I can see going back to. We are forming a faculty-staff contemplative/mindfulness group on campus, and are considering this as the first group read; I think it has potential!

First ideas that jumped out to me:

-On creating space in the classroom
"Writing exercises... can create a spacious moment: at the beginning of class to find a spiritual center, in the middle, to brainstorm; and at the end, to
...more
Jennifer
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love that I went into this book hoping--perhaps expecting--to unearth "tips, tricks, and techniques" for contemplative pedagogy and that, of course, quite quickly, O'Reilly brought to my attention that being present while teaching only happens through the practice of being present.

This book arrived at just the right moment, as sabbatical--and the space to contemplate that it afforded me--has upended my habitual ways of thinking about teaching and learning. O'Reilly's candid, often amusing desc
...more
Jeremy
Mar 13, 2018 marked it as to-read
Forward by Parker Palmer. Both Palmer and O'Reilley are Quakers. O'Reilley was an English professor for about 30 years.

Related essay here.
...more
Kelly Sauskojus
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a runner for the best book I’ve read this year for sure...
Kim
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
Feels very similar to Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach, but it's much based on Zen Buddhist practice. In the Foreward O'Reilly writes, "The 'secrets' of good teaching are the same as the secrets of good living: seeing one's self without blinking, offering hospitality to the alien other, having compassion for suffering, speaking truth to power, being present and being real."
Her central question is: "I would like to ask what spaces we can create in the classroom that will allow students freedo
...more
Heidi Larew
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This was a nice read with some refreshing perspectives. I especially enjoyed the chapter "Listening Like a Cow," and in the mornings as I drive past cow pastures in my community, I reflect on this quiet still approach to listening. ...more
Paul
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Full of wisdom that, one feels, has been hard earned through a lifetime of teaching and questing for what that means. Here is a nugget: "The issues of life are not problems to be solved but mysteries to be entered.." attributed to Thomas Merton. ...more
Phil
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really didn't know what to expect with this very little book. I had decided to pick it up, largely because O'Reilley's name keeps popping up in the contemplative teaching movement materials which I have been reading the last couple of years. I'm glad I finally got around to reading her and wonder why I waited so long.

Describing herself as having a Zen Buddhist mind (or non-mind), a Catholic heart and a Quaker backside, O'Reilley reflects upon her experience as an English prof and the transfor
...more
Katy
This is a very short (thus the low rating) collection of very personal essays about teaching. In each essay the author explores a question at the core of teaching--how to keep the class alive, how to bring the metaphysical into the classroom, how to make one's subject matter meaningful. The book should probably not be read cover to cover, but rather should be pondered and left to percolate. ...more
Dahiana
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I first bought this book I though it could be bigger, as with more pages. But it only have 48 pages to read. I like the idea of the silence and some methods that the author put on place in her practice as a teacher.

It is a tiny book, but men I mark a lot of good ideas to think about.
Shauna Jones
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes messages come right when we need them. This book is one such message for me.
Jessie
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Read this, All Teachers! This 50-pg book will be a longtime companion for my teacher-self; it articulates things I've vaguely felt about teaching but didn't know how to say, and it points me toward a fresh way.
From Pg 46: “I am saying, if you don’t have time to breathe, if you are run off your feet, try spending twice as much time as you usually spend on a task. It may rest you very nicely. I try to light the candle sometimes over my freshman essays (resisting the obvious temptation to set them
...more
Kelly
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a vision of teaching that resonated deeply with me: teaching as a way for me to know myself, for my students to know themselves, and for us to make meaning out of the world together, better. She focuses on holding space, making space for silence and for doubt and for student needs and for teacher needs. I felt inspired to reenter the classroom with a fresh heart.

I immediately started rereading when I finished. This reads like William Alexander Percy or Forster or Rumi; it is to be e
...more
Amanda Kingston
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
“To teach is to create space... These are revolutionary words, because most of us think only in terms of filling space.”
•••
I’ve emailed with her a bit and never met her, but Mary Rose O’Reilley’s work and writings have mentored and guided me so much not only as a teacher but as a human being. In this, she offers a perspective that views teaching as a contemplative practice in which silence, depth, and vulnerability are essential to the classroom. She pulls in the work of other scholars, Buddhist
...more
Sarah
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've probably read Radical Presence five or six times by now--it's only 49 pages--and each time, I've gained some kind of utterly necessary realization about my teaching and my life. It always (and generously) offers me an immense reassurance and a crucial reorientation. ...more
Ann
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Short, sweet, and lovely. Great to read someone who is so honest about their teaching.
Ann
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is so cooky, but I LOVED it. Reading this made me feel like I do after a morning yoga class, refreshed, and ready to start the day.
Rachel
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
What a gift. A short read that nourishes the reader with every line. I feel different, more observant perhaps, after reading this. A must for all teachers.
Sani Danladi
About to read ...
Karen
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
A fun book about teaching philosophy!
Siobhan
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Love this book. I've purchased and given away at least three copies. I quote it all the time. Helps me understand the link between academics and my personal life. ...more
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52 likes · 19 comments
“Attention: deep listening. People are dying in spirit for lack of it. In academic culture, most listening is critical listening. We tend to pay attention only long enough to develop a counterargument; we critique the student’s or the colleague’s ideas; we mentally grade and pigeonhole each other. In society at large, people often listen with an agenda, to sell or petition or seduce. Seldom is there a deep, open-hearted nonjudgmental reception of the other. And so we all talk louder and more stridently and with a terrible desperation. By contrast, if someone truly listens to me, my spirit begins to expand.” 3 likes
“If we remember that the German word for holy (selig) is the root of our word silly, we may be forced to make some pertinent connections.” 1 likes
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