Courage is so often claimed by bold and heroic acts, but as a young teacher it was Parker Palmer who named the more complicated internal struggle in his book, Courage to Teach. Palmer asks the powerful question: Where does reality and power reside in our culture? The external world is the place that is most notably valued in our modern world. As an educator, too often that can mean focusing on the outward aspects of learning, such as performance and production for both the teacher and student.
Palmer named the idea that your internal world, and inside work you may or may not be doing, will be reflected in your presence, demeanor, and capability to be a good teacher. Then he gave examples, naming failures and fears that were all too familiar, and my hopes that my earnest bravado and goodwill alone would see me through, faded. Teaching is a spiritual practice, because living a life of intention is a spiritual practice; you cannot teach well without paying attention to both your authentic self, your purpose, and the people you hope to serve in the moment.
“The human heart does not want to be fixed, it wants to be seen and heard.” -Parker Palmer
People do not need or want you to fix them. Holding this idea foremost in our interactions, shifts our purpose in each other’s lives, placing us as companions and sojourners, and removes the fear of not being able to perform well or know enough to be in relationship. And after our isolation during the pandemic, just being with people again takes will, intention, and courage, yet it is key if we hope to reweave the social fabric we depend on.
Good teaching, good companionship is an act of hospitality towards ourselves, our community, and our future. We are a multi-generational people embracing a spiritual path as elders and as young people together.
May you find the courage to honor your internal world, be a good companion to other human heart. And if you are looking to practice, try volunteering in religious education. Even if you have only one Sunday to offer, consider becoming an RE ambassador for just one Sunday. Together we can be the brave, multi-generational people practicing living lives of intention.
Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson, Minister of Religious Education