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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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,852 ratings  ·  402 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] Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart, because they care dee
Hardcover, 199 pages
Published December 5th 1997 by Jossey-Bass (first published November 21st 1997)
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
The Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection where I work offered this as a summer group read for faculty and staff, and I'd meant to read it forever, so jumped in. Tomorrow we'll have a Zoom session with the author. There are a lot of good things to talk about and a lot of directions the discussions have led us in. I'm interested in hearing more. ...more
Kendel Christensen
Nov 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 28, 2007 rated it liked it
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
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
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
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
Carmen Imes
Nov 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Such a helpful companion for teachers of every age student in every field!
Jul 06, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Palmer is a little bit gushy about the great ineffable glory and torment of being a teacher, and I found myself skimming vast swaths of the book. However, I did find several important points to that I am trying to integrate into my thinking about teaching.

One is a frank acknowledgment that teaching is scary, that we can be so desperate to be liked by our students and to get them to learn that we can lose track of our own identities. We should not become over-invested in technique. Not every tec

Alex Johnson
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-reread
This book works on you rather than telling you what to do. Definitely not a book to tell you all the answers but a book to remind you why teach and how that can be done wholistically for teachers and their students. I'll have to revisit this one in a few years. ...more
John Martindale
I thought this an excellent book. Palmer mentioned how he wrote and rewrote the manuscript again and again, and it shows in a good way--it was 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 (and maybe even more) important than technique. Among Palmer's students who shared about their favorite teachers; there were those interactive types who encouraged
Tarn Wilson
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book years ago, and not until re-reading it did I realize how profoundly it shaped my teaching philosophy. Rich. Meaningful. Inspiring. Challenging. I think I should re-read every couple of years.
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 again. It helped me see ...more
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“We became teachers because we once believed that ideas and insight are at least as powerful as the world that surrounds us,” Parker Palmer writes in the early chapters of The Courage to Teach. We teach because we are called to “creativity on the service of the young.” We teach because this vocation, as Frederick Buechner described the word, is “the place where (our) deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” We teach because it is through generative connectedness with our students that we get ...more
Mar 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: changed-me, education
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
Carrie G
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
At last year’s ISA, Andy Paras and Patrick Jackson had us read Parker Palmer’s earlier work To Know as We are Known (1993), which I liked a bit better than The Courage to Teach (1998). Both books annoyed me even as I found them appealing. Courage, more than To Know has a preachy sales-pitch undertone that had me wishing for more story-telling and less expounding of principles. Still, every ten pages, I found myself noting something I wanted to keep as a memento or a reminder. For example, I like ...more
Jun 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book about the relational and transformational nature of teaching. This book open my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about teaching and learning. Slightly dated, but the basics are there for sure. I would be curious to see an updated version incorporating new research and cultural insights.

schools with the highest standardized test scores also showed a high level of trust in the school.

a strong correlation between relational trust and student achievement remains even after co
Michelle Kuhn
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, education
Very interesting teaching philosophy- interweaving spirituality and authentic selfhood into the education profession. Palmer urges teachings to tend to what he calls their inner landscape, convinced that good teaching can only rise from a genuine knowledge of self and a respect of your students' dignity. Instead of giving into the myth that teacher must display of power and authority, functioning as the objective arbiter of facts and information, Palmer suggests that the teacher "opens space ins ...more
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This text is very philosophical and not at all practical, which for better or worse makes it very unlike most teaching books. Read it if you want to mull over the question “Why was I called to teach and how do I teach in a way that honors that calling?” There are many quotable nuggets and plenty to think about. (Given current events, his reflections on the difference between social movements and fascist “pseudo movements” and failures in medical institutions stood out in the closing chapters.) I ...more
Nicole Means
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Every time I caught a glimpse of this book on my nightstand, Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” popped into my head. I wish I was crafty enough to come up with some deep metaphor comparing flying to teaching but after spending a day teaching, my brain is jello. No matter how many years as an educator, “The Courage To Teach” provides a much needed reminder to all teachers to keep trekking; despite the many obstacles we face, our students need us.
Jeff Colston
Jun 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
This book was definitely interesting! I did it alongside fellow teachers in a book study.

Many of the ideas were still pretty abstract for me, though, and hard to grasp, even after reading the paragraphs a few times.

He offers good insight into teaching from your own “identity and integrity” and I enjoyed reading especially the first few chapters. I think that it may be a bit more applicable to those who teach at the college level, but still somewhat applicable to K-12 teachers.
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Valuable reflection on the community and how teaching, learning and building of this community happens in a class setting. I appreciate the focus on the adult learning, though the language of pedagogy is used. Meaningful concepts backed up with author's experience in teaching and faculty development. ...more
Heather Richierich
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
It was long-winded without reason to be. I loved the idea that a good teacher is someone who brings themselves as a person into their classroom and isn’t necessarily the teacher who employs the best techniques.

I had trouble getting through this book- he lost me. I wouldn’t recommend it even though I liked his message.
Joshua Lawson
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
The Courage to Teach is not my favorite Parker Palmer book, but it does contain many important insights for anyone who is concerned with the future of public education in the West. For this reason, I would love to see my teacher friends read it, along with pretty much all of Palmer’s works.
Kristen Jane
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book helped me develop my understanding of teaching as a career. It helped me determine the importance of understanding self, understanding content, and understanding the relationship between being a “good teacher,” and knowing oneself. I am thankful for this book!
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
There are some solid gold nuggets in here, and it's suprisingly relevant for being published in 1998. At points, Palmer is repetitive and slightly bombastic but the useful content is worth it. ...more
John Buchanan
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent. A required read for teachers who love their vocation and, perhaps, for those for whom the going is presently difficult.
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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

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“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” 118 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.” 65 likes
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