“The Heart of a Teacher” Reading Reflection

Parker J. Palmer’s “The Heart of a Teacher” examines the concepts of identity and integrity, as well as the central role they play in our jobs as teachers. He explains that “we teach who we are … and knowing [oneself] is as crucial to good teaching as knowing [your] students and [your] subject” and that we cannot teach without giving a part of ourselves, as the truly captivating and enthusiastic teachers have completely dedicated themselves, their life, and identity into being a teacher. They love what they do, and from the standpoint of a student, it is quite obvious. While Palmer recounts some of his great teachers, who are unique and different, with methods and techniques of their own, I felt the need to stop and remember some of my most memorable teachers. Each had their own quirks, but they fully embraced them and were better teachers because of it. I cannot imagine that I would have chosen to study as a Secondary teacher with a Social Studies major had it not been for my high school history teacher, who used humour, passion, and occasionally hilarious re-enactments of historical events to teach and captivate students in a subject that otherwise would put many to sleep. Likewise, had it not been for my AP English teachers throughout high school who aimed to prepare us for the most difficult exam in our high school careers by teaching us the required content but by working together as a teaching collaboration building on each other each year to teach us the lessons beyond the literature. They taught me that the score on the page is not as important as the lessons learned and the personal growth achieved. These teachers, as well as nearly a dozen more than I can count, put their heart and soul into what they do every day, these teachers are the type of teacher I strive to be. On the other end of the spectrum, I have experienced teachers in my education where it was clear that teaching was not truly their calling, but continue teaching because they had paid for a degree in it. As a student, these teachers also taught me valuable lessons, such as the importance of finding what you love to do, but also through their constant criticism of my classmates and myself taught me to second guess myself, sometimes fearing criticism which is meant to be constructive, and in some instances, caused me to body shame myself. I cannot say that they intended this harm on all of their students, but it definitely reminded me to make sure that teaching was what I truly wanted to do. Palmer presents this exact same idea as my educational experiences when he expresses that “[a] vocation that is not [yours], no matter how externally valued, does violence to the self—in the precise sense that it violates [your] identity and integrity on behalf of some abstract norm. When [you] violate [yourself], [you] invariably end up violating the people [you] work with. How many teachers inflict their own pain on their students—the pain that comes from doing a work that never was, or no longer is, their true work?” The message in this article is clear, in a society which values privacy and disconnect between our professional and personal lives, teachers must break this barrier and intertwine the two because we cannot be great at either as teachers without allowing our whole selves to be central in both aspects of our lives.

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