Palmer quote response


There is a lot you can pull from Palmer quote, and throughout the text, but the words I keep coming back to are “heart”, “courage”, and “community.”  As a student, I look at this as the core of our first days of student teaching and takeover in the classroom – weaving ourselves into the classroom community so that we can learn from the students and the teachers.  To use our hearts, in our teaching and how we interact with students, to open doors and build bridges for learning, inspiration, and empowerment.  And to have the courage to be vulnerable, and to stay vulnerable for the greater good of the classroom – to be an example for importance and the respect we should have for the community in our classrooms.  Everyday to connect with students and weave content into our lives, we have to wear our heart on our sleeves.  It has to be out there to be seen, to be believed, to be accepted by our students – and we have to create a classroom where it is respected.  Everything we do is ‘for the kids’, it’s how I’ve approached any job I’ve had – making these connections, having courageous (truthful) conversations and weaving a fabric of community.  I think a lot of it comes in response to my experiences in school, which was a stark contrast to this.

In my experience, I honestly can’t say if I had a middle school or high school teacher that taught in this way or connected with me.  I respected all of my teachers, as I was raised to do, but it never went beyond that.  I was always the outsider – whether it was a place I was put, a feeling I could never shake, or a place I stayed to survive, I can’t really say.  I never made the effort to speak with them or engage in conversations in or out of class, I never asked for help, and I definitely never hung out in their classes or spent time with them outside of my assigned class period.  Any efforts they made were either to ask if I had an older brother or an occasional personalized hello when I walked into the classroom, which I always responded with eye contact, a charming smile, and a “Hi Mr/Ms/Mrs…”.  I was pleasant.  I never expected more from them and they never expected more from me.  I was perfectly content with my ‘satisfactory’ citizenship marks because I was quiet, or because I didn’t raise my hand or participate in classroom discussions.

From my perspective as an MAT student and working in a high school setting, I do agree with Palmer, and making vulnerable connections with students about who I am and what I’m passionate about is something that I’ve always done.  But when I read the text from the perspective of me as a high school student I don’t know if I was as impacted.  I went to good schools, I had very knowledgeable teachers who were passionate about teaching and their content areas.  I had good teachers, great teachers, cool teachers, funny teachers, and a lot of teachers I can’t remember, but just because I didn’t connect with any of them doesn’t make them less of a teacher in my mind, or take away from what they taught me, or the connections they made with any of my peers.  My personal identity was so grounded in my cultural background and my family life that I don’t think it would have made a difference or impacted my education in anyway.  I’ve always stayed true to my own identity and my knowledge and confidence of who I was never wavered.  If anything, my experiences made me appreciate the opportunities I had in college to connect who I was with what I was learning – which probably wouldn’t have been as easy for me without some of the educational tools they taught me.

service project

Honestly, it has been a really long time since I have been in school. When I think back to k-12, there aren’t too many teachers that stand out that resonate with this particular passage. I have to dip into my undergrad experience to find a teacher that evoked a passion for learning that went beyond the classroom.
To finish my requirements to minor in Native American Studies, I needed to complete Federal Indian Law and Policy. It was a weighty subject. The professor running the class was Dr. Andra New Holy.  I had taken a few courses from her before and found the classes engaging and insightful.  The Federal Indian Law and Policy course differed in that we were required to undertake a service project while studying the laws and policies that shaped lives of countless indigenous people of all tribes, clans and nations.
I learned of the ward relationship Native Americans have with the US government.  The various tribes status as Domestic Dependent Nations. Studying the law that has made up the policies, greatly affected my psyche and motivated me to complete a service project that gave something back.  It was probably extremely naive, but we made an attempt in the Montana state government to pass legislation to ban the use of pepper spray in youth correctional facilities because of the disproportionate number of incidents involving Native American youth.  We traveled across the state to interview a juvenile parolee. He still bore the scars on his face from the repeated pepper spray incidents when we videotaped his interview which we later played as testimony at a Judiciary committee.  We contacted the media and wrote the editors of papers.
Through all this, Dr. New Holy cheered us on and provided support. The project went far beyond school.  We had been learning of all the injustices that our own government had been doling out since before it was a government.  She brought us to a place where the struggles of over 500 years continued to manifest themselves.  It should have been no surprise when the committee tabled the bill to ban the use of pepper spray in Montana youth correctional facilities. I choose Andra New Holy because she gave me the tools to push myself beyond the sphere of academia and into the harsh realities of a racist system where we made our heartfelt albeit feeble attempt to make a change for the better.  I believe that is powerful teaching.

Parker Palmer: Teaching with Heart

As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, the heart is the loom on which the threads are tied, the tension is held, the shuttle flies, and the fabric is stretched tight. Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart – and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be. The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community (kula) that learning, and living, require.”

~ Parker J. Palmer

What does this passage mean to you as a student?   In your experience as a middle school or high school student  was there a teacher who enacted this kind of compassionate teaching?   Was there a teacher who you connected with in this way?  Tell a story that reflects your beliefs about this passage.