"How many of our students have a history of being told they were slow learners or not good at math, ridiculed for asking questions, or made fun of when they responded incorrectly?... Our students may need healing before they can engage the subject matter at any heartfelt level."
Rev. Jane E. Vennard, Teaching—The Sacred Art: The Joy of Opening Minds & Hearts
Teaching-the Sacred Art helps us:
- recognize the challenges faced by both learners and teachers;
- acknowledge ways in which we do and don't have responsibility for what happens in our classrooms; and
- find the strength to keep engaging with our subjects and our students.
“When we gently review a day, a week, or a semester of our teaching with compassion and kindness toward ourselves, we are able to see what we might do differently another time and affirm that we did the best we could, given the situation.”
Chapter One discusses the nature of vocation and gives examples of teachers on very different career paths. The next chapter shows how creating a safe and supportive environment can bring out the best in both learners and teachers.
“Engaging students kindly can include being strict, demanding and challenging. Our authority is enhanced rather than undermined by a kind attitude, for students respect teachers who treat them with kindness.”
Chapter Three is about the importance of keeping our own sense of curiosity and wonder so that we can share a love of learning with our students.
Chapter Four encourages us to:
- listen as much as we speak;
- engage learners through finding a personal connection to the material; and
- promote discussion in our classrooms rather than debate.
This is followed by an explanation of the difference between authority and power; “claim[ing] authority, not to control [students], but to establish an environment of respect and caring that [is] conducive to learning.”
Chapter Six discusses how to recognize and transform our shadows. We all have unique shadows, but there are
“a few common shadows that many teachers share… striving for perfection, fearing interruptions and surprise, and believing our own and others’ projections.”
In Chapter Seven (Teaching Who We Are), Vennard quotes revered Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Hhat Hanh: “Our own life has to be our message.”
Each chapter ends with questions for “Looking Inward, Going Deeper,” which would be appropriate for journaling or discussion. You can see the full list of questions at skylightpaths.com. (Click on "Discussion Questions.")
Here are a few examples:
Here are a few examples:
-Recall a time you had to struggle to learn something you needed to know. What was it like to persevere? Did you give up? Were you tempted to give up? Did anyone encourage you? Try to rescue you? What did you learn from the experience?
-Have you had teachers who loved their subjects? What was it like to learn from them? What do you love about your subject and what do you love about teaching it?
-Describe how you claim authority in the classroom… How has your approach to claiming authority evolved over your years of teaching?
For more information, you can read an author interview about the book at www.skylightpaths.com. (Click on "author Q & A.)
A Path with Heart (recommended book)
The Importance of Mindful Teachers (interview)
Mindfulness for Teachers and Teens (interview)
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