March 4, 2014
We're excited to announce that we have the final book cover for our forthcoming poetry book, "Teaching With Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach," edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner, sponsored by the Center for Courage & Renewal.
"Teaching with Heart" is full of poems and brief commentaries and stories sent in by teachers who are...passionate about the children they serve...
- Parker Palmer, Founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal
John Merrow, an education journalist who has reported for both NPR and PBS, has also expressed his high praise for this collection of poems that help to light the path to sustaining a teacher's passion and purpose.
I wish I could afford to buy copies of "Teaching With Heart" for all the teachers I have interviewed in my 40 years of reporting. My budget can't handle that. Instead, I recommend that all of us non-teachers buy copies of this inspiring book for teachers we know. You will probably want one for yourself too.
- John Merrow, Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour
Check out Merrow's full review of "Teaching With Heart" on his blog, Taking Note, where you can also read one of the poems featured in the new book, "Purple" by Alexis Rotella.
Pre-Order Teaching With Heart today at Amazon.com. Launch date is May 19, 2014.
February 28, 2014
Have you ever written a note to a long-time friend to tell them how much they mattered in your life?
Today we're celebrating the 75th Birthday of Parker J. Palmer, the Center's founder and senior partner. We asked one of his long-time friends to write a birthday message to Parker.
Please join us in celebrating Parker's birthday, work and legacy! Post your birthday wish to Parker over at his Facebook page.
And who else might you send a note to?P.S. Today's blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment newsletter. Subscribe here.
An Open Letter to Parker J. Palmer
February 28, 2014
I write to congratulate you on the arrival of yet another milestone birthday -- 75 and counting ... and counting, and counting. Your many fans and friends (Facebook and old fashioned) are counting on a steady stream of PJP birthdays until ... Until when? The poem ends? Let's just say until the end of time. Years ago you gave me a book entitled, Conversations Before the End of Time. Our ongoing conversation has been a touchstone for me since the day we met.
When Terry offered me the honor of this space in Words of EnCOURAGEment for a public greeting to you in celebration of this rather shocking event, I jumped at the opportunity to write on behalf of the legions who carry you with us every day: your voice in the rich opus of your writing, teaching, speaking (and memorable if not always melodic singing), your person in the inspiration of your death-defying antics on the Möbius strip.
Earlier this month, I sat in a circle -- the kind you taught me to trust -- with a dozen women artists, humanists and scientists who are intent on bringing all they can to the ecological challenges looming on the horizon. I emerged from that conversation inexpressibly grateful for your life's work.
As we humans come to terms with the reality of what we have wrought, we will need nothing less than all of what you have taught. We will need the personal courage to face the shadows within and beyond. We will need "communities of congruence" to help us nurture "a knowledge that springs from love," a knowledge, as you have written, that can "wrap the knower and the known in compassion, in a bond of awesome responsibility as well as transforming joy," a knowledge that can "call us to involvement, mutuality, accountability."
And this, in the end, is what it means to be human. You, my dear friend Parker, have shown us how to hold on to that fragile thread whatever storms may rage around us, to reach out, and keep reaching out, and keep weaving real connections.
So happy 75th birthday, Parker J. Palmer, from all of your fans, all of your friends, from all of us who carry your loving -- laughing -- presence, always, in our minds and hearts.
We send you our love,
Diana Chapman Walsh was President of Wellesley College from 1993 to 2007, and is now active on a number of boards including the Mind and Life Institute and MIT.
Give a gift today.
February 18, 2014
In honor of American Heart Health Month, we give you a different slant on the heart. In Parker J. Palmer 's latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, he calls us to embrace how profoundly interconnected we all are --- or can be.
In this video below, Parker describes each of the five Habits of the Heart:
- An understanding that we’re all in this together.
- An appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
- An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.
- A sense of personal voice and agency.
- A capacity to create community.
Download Parker's written description of the Five Habits of the Heart (PDF).
Love: Our work is grounded in love, by which we mean the capacity to extend ourselves for the sake of another person’s growth. Our work in community stretches us to understand, respect, and support each other, teaching us why learning to love is one of the most demanding disciplines we can choose.
Why love? Rightly understood, love is the value that undergirds our most noble human values. Love activates, empowers and encourages the growth of our other core values. Love is the ideal touchstone and the ultimate facilitator.
In our Circles, regardless of zip code, census tract or homeland, participants become neighbors. Love plants the seeds of friendship and guides their tending over time in the midst of rich and challenging human diversity. Love instinctively instructs our listening and shapes our deep voices.
In our highly politicized and commercialized society, words are exploited to influence our behavior as consumers and citizens. Love is a word that inspires attention, beckons cherished memories and long deferred dreams alike, and alerts critics. By default the skeptic, the cynic and the wounded hearts silently whisper "what's love got to do with it?"
Love has everything to do with Courage. As a community we know that the root of the word courage is cor, the Latin word for heart. In its earlier forms, the word courage meant "to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart," or "to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart." Love heals, reconciles and opens our broken hearts and carefully softens hearts hardened by the harsh realities of leading, serving and living. Love practiced encourages the conditions from which courage emerges.
I am reminded of the relationship of Kanga and her son Roo. Kanga was not known for her courage but if Roo was in danger, she was the most courageous of them all. Winnie the Pooh knew the simple truth that courage comes from love. Ask civil rights pioneers or human rights devotees across this shared planet and many will echo the insight of beloved Mother Teresa: "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Our Circles equip us for mastery of the small things that honor the human soul and liberate dormant human gifts.
What new name will we give love in the face of continuous deformation and distortion? Or do we dare stand our ground and commit ourselves to the tedious cultural labor of the reframing, redefining and reclaiming of what love is in our society and this world.
Agape love is the core value of the quest for Beloved Community. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of three kinds of love: eros (romantic love), philia, (friendship love) and agape which he described as an understanding, redeeming goodwill for all; an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, creative and seeking to preserve and create community. We also often cite Dr. King's wisdom on power and love: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Our ways of being present with and to one another must not be reduced to a sentimental journey. Our journey is about love and the realized power to effect change for humanity's good.
As we observe this day by exchanging valentines, cards, flowers and other tokens of affection, may we be mindful of the value beneath the sentiment. May we love as if our lives and our world depend on it. Happy Valentines Day Beloved Community.
Estrus Tucker is a facilitator and member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Courage & Renewal. He is also an independent consultant and keynote speaker specializing in small and large group facilitation, focusing on personal, professional and community renewal, transformation, healing and reconciliation. Estrus currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Tarrant County Workforce Development Board, National Center for Courage & Renewal Board, Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation (University of Mississippi), Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP), Brite Divinity School Board of Visitors and the International Assoc. Of Human Rights Agencies Board. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran and an ordained minister active in interfaith and ecumenical initiatives. Estrus is the 2012 recipient of the International Assoc. Of Human Rights Agencies’(IAOHRA) Individual Achievement Award for his work and leadership in support of creative civic engagement and transformational leadership in Mississippi; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Cape town, S. Africa and Texas. His mission is to inspire practices that promote human dignity and nonviolent engagement, in service of a world that works for all.
The February 2014 Educational Leadership publication is focused on building school morale and offers several articles reflecting on how to cultivate positive spirits in a school staff. The timing is superb… I note on my calendar at the beginning of February every year to brace for the mid-year slump. While I’m convinced it has a good deal to do with the lack of daylight and cold weather here in northern MN, I also agree Megan and Bob Tschannen-Moran that “bolstering school morale is a primary school improvement strategy” (pg. 38). School leadership teams need to assess, plan for, implement action plans to address, and progress monitor the emotional pulse of the larger school team just as an effective coach of an athletic team or the director of musical must do. An emotionally flat team simply cannot perform well while one wrapped up in the positive synergy of real, results oriented school improvement can knock it out of the park.
As I skimmed through the many rich articles in this timely journal I was surprised that I didn’t stumble into a favorite author that I’ve blogged about many times before – Parker Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach. I especially like Parker’s lens on the heart of a teacher because he gets well beyond gimmicks and secret santa activities and dives deep into what makes us educators tick. He understands and explains the very personal side of this profession and leaves the reader feeling like there is indeed someone who can explain the emotions that run through a teacher’s veins. That real sense of being heard and being understood lies at the foundation of morale doesn’t it? In my experiences, when we teachers feel like we belong and are part of a team of passionate people working toward the same greater good morale issues seem to go away. When teams can articulate how they disagree and agree, when we care for the person more than being right on an issue, and when we demonstrate deep respect for the expertise of a colleague even in the face of tensions, individual and collective morale soars. Parker Palmer’s pulse on why we care so deeply in this work and why we need to be so careful as we engage in improvement conversations is extremely enlightening to the work of a Professional Learning Community and to the work of a leadership team struggling with how to address the morale of an entire staff. It’s just a deeper issue than setting goals and bringing donuts to a faculty meeting…
Parker Palmer is the founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal, an incredible resource and opportunity for personal and professional renewal in this ever demanding line of work. Here is Parker reflecting on the connections between teaching and leading in his book, The Courage to Teach…
And here is the story of a teacher life changed by the work of Parker Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal. I invite every educator to take a good pause and focus in on your inner life as a teacher. Here lies the real roots of morale, emotional health, and the passion to burn the midnight oil for our students.
School leadership teams – are your action plans for staff morale and climate focused on donuts and parties? Or… are you leading your staff through a journey of renewal that authentically connects the inner life of a teacher to our everyday work? I know what I would be more excited to follow and support.
May you be encouraged this February!!
This article was originally posted at Principal Thoughts, the blog of Chris Lindholm. Chris currently serves as Superintendent of the Pequot Lakes, MN school district. Chris is passionate about leadership and tightening the alignment between education research and education practice.
February 4, 2014
As Parker writes in A Hidden Wholeness, "All of the great wisdom traditions want to awaken us to the fact that we co-create the reality in which we live. And all of them ask two questions intended to help keep us awake:
"What are we sending from within ourselves out into the world, and what impact is it having 'out there'?
"What is the world sending back at us, and what impact is it having 'in here'?
"We are continually engaged in the co-creation of self and world -- and we have the power to chose, moment by moment, between that which gives life and that which deals death.
"We can survive and thrive amid the complexities of life by deepening our awareness of the endless inner-outer exchanges that shape us and our world, and of the power we have to make choices about them. If we are to do so, we need spaces within us and between us that welcome the wisdom of the true self -- which knows how to negotiate life on the Möbius strip with agility and grace."
In this video, Parker J. Palmer shows us how to travel with awareness on the Möbius strip toward wholeness.
How will you negotiate life on the Möbius strip?
Today's blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment newsletter. Subscribe here.
January 30, 2014
Like President Obama, Parker J. Palmer is concerned with the State of our Union. But unlike the President, when Parker spoke publicly about his concerns this week, his prescriptions for the future didn’t include policy measures or executive orders. Instead, Parker shared the Five Habits of the Heart essential to revitalize our democracy with guest co-host Chris Wahl and Kate Ebner on Visionary Leader, Extraordinary Life (hear podcast below).
Parker explores the Five Habits more thoroughly in his most recent book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. If the American people cultivate these Five Habits, Parker believes we can find a way forward through a time of bitter partisanship and mistrust and towards a more vibrant and effective democracy. The Five Habits of the Heart are:
- Understanding that we’re all in this together
- Appreciation for the value of otherness: appreciate rather than fear the stranger who looks and thinks differently than us
- An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways instead of fleeing from it and viewing tension as something that needs to be relieved
- Sense of personal voice and agency: an ability to affect change in a meaningful way
- Capacity to create community
Each of the Five Habits of the Heart are key qualities for citizens of a democracy, but appreciation for the value of otherness is the most important. We often herald America’s “melting pot” quality as a strength, but too rarely appreciate this diversity on a micro-level. This Habit’s call to action is to shift from seeing differences as polarizing to seeing creative possibility in the tension of difference. If we could do that, then our strength as a country truly would lie in our differences.
Enjoy this podcast of Parker Palmer talking with Kate Ebner, host of Visionary Leader, Extraordinary Life on VoiceAmerica Business, and her guest host, Chris Wahl. You can also listen at VoiceAmerica Business online or on iTunes.
Greg Sunter (January 21, 2014)
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.
—Mary Oliver, Lead
Just two weeks after hearing the good news about Facilitator Preparation program coming to Australia – and hurrying home to tell my wife, our lives were turned upside down when Amanda was diagnosed with an inoperable grade III brain tumour. In less than six months, my wife of 21 years was dead.
The fact that today I can write those words so baldly and also speak positively about a future full of hope is due in no small part to the inner work that I have done – shaped by my experiences of Courage & Renewal.
In 2010, I got the opportunity to attend a couple of Courage & Renewal retreats with Janet Smith in Australia. I’d attended a Courage To Teach® retreat several years earlier and for four or five years I had been using many of the principles and practices of C&R through my work running retreats for teachers in Catholic schools in Brisbane, Queensland.
After the Courage to Lead® retreat in 2010, I was convinced that I wanted to become a facilitator of C&R retreats and started exploring what would be involved to undertake the Facilitator Preparation Program in the U.S. – no easy thing from Australia! When I attended another retreat in August I was delighted to discover that there were plans afoot to offer a Preparation Program in Australia. That’s when I travelled home to excitedly tell my wife, Amanda, that I might be able to undertake the program in Australia.
My experience of some of the touchstones of Courage work proved invaluable in navigating the journey of death, loss and grief:
- the challenge to be present as fully as possible;
- the challenge to speak truth to one another in the most demanding of circumstances;
- turning to wonder in the face of despair;
- giving and receiving welcome to and from those who shared the journey; and,
- accepting that no fixing or saving was possible, instead attempting to welcome and listen to one another’s soul.
I’d like to say that I was acutely aware of and attentive to these touchstones throughout the months of Amanda’s decline and death, but the truth is, it is only in later reflection that I’ve come to recognise how evident they were and how instinctively I had drawn on their wisdom.
Fortunately, I proceeded with my application for the Facilitator Preparation Program and was accepted into the first cohort of facilitators to be prepared outside the United States. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my friends in that cohort who, over the course of the program, helped me find my voice – not so much about Amanda’s death, but about who I was and who I was becoming as a result.
In the course of the Preparation Program, I rediscovered – and truly understood, perhaps for the first time – Parker Palmer’s words about what it means to have our heart broken. Parker describes two ways of understanding the experience: the first, imaging the heart as shattered and scattered; the second, imaging the heart broken open into new capacity, holding more of both our own and the world’s suffering and joy, despair and hope.
This image of the heart broken open to new capacity has become a defining metaphor for me in the last couple of years. It became cemented in place when, on the FPP retreat, we used the Mary Oliver poem, Lead, and I heard the words, I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world. Maintaining a heart broken open has been my inner work since Amanda’s death.
Part of that work has been living with the sometimes seductive temptation of descending into despair and self-pity yet holding that at bay with a deep-seated hope and determination to shape my future, rather than being shaped by my past. My experiences of Courage and Renewal retreats and now, as a Courage & Renewal Facilitator, have given me the tools and the language to navigate my own journey and assist others seeking to live with a heart broken open.
Greg Sunter is an Education Officer with Catholic Education in Brisbane, Australia, running retreats and developing resources for teachers. He is a Courage & Renewal Facilitator and as the Director of WholeHearted Enterprises – www.WholeHearted.com.au – offers a variety of Courage & Renewal retreat programs.
January 14, 2014
Karyn Frazier was trying to decide whether to go to seminary. Karyn tells of a moment at Courage & Renewal retreat when people were asking her open, honest questions.
What's holding you back? What is it you need to be able to make the choices you need?
"It was like standing in doorway," Karyn says, seeing a path ahead of me, but not knowing where it was going."
What do you need to risk to make that choice?
For her, the agony around the decision was about a precious personal relationship not going with her if she went to seminary.
What would you need to take the journey?
"The answer was instant," Karyn says, "I wanted a companion. I wanted to hear from someone who had been there and back. Someone to walk with me, so if I had to go through the loss I anticipated, I wouldn't have to go alone."
If that mentor, figure, companion, told you what you would learn when you got to that place you were traveling, what would she say?
That final question opened Karyn's heart and she heard her own answer.
"This moment, this anxiety, this drama, is not the most important thing. To put that into words really feels flat. But it was like someone had moved the horizon line and put it way out there. And suddenly there was all this space in the world. It took the drama down to 'this is just today. It's not the most important thing.' A peace settled to say, 'now I can look at this differently. I can do what I need to do today. I can quiet those voices saying I can't, I can't. It took what felt so big, down to something that was just was what it was. It's like my companion showed up. How did they know to ask me this question?
"I'm working on my application to seminary, and I know it's going to be all right. You just let it go. I know that this is important, but it's not the most important thing. Not yet, not yet.
"And that's when my soul showed up. It changed everything. I don't know the timeline. But I know I have more breathing room than I've had in a long time. It gave me a place to breathe when I needed a place to breathe. And I'm grateful. It makes all the difference."
January 8, 2014
A word from the led
And in the end we follow them -
not because we are paid,
not because we might see some advantage,
not because of the things they have accomplished,
not even because of the dreams they dream
but simply because of who they are:
the man, the woman, the leader, the boss,
standing up there when the wave hits the rock,
passing out faith and confidence like life jackets,
knowing the currents, holding the doubts,
imagining the delights and terrors of every landfall;
captain, pirate, and parent by turns,
the bearer of our countless hopes and expectations.
We give them our trust. We give them our effort.
What we ask in return is that they stay true.
We’ve known and loved this poem a long time. As you begin this new year, try reading it from a different point of view. Whatever your job, imagine picking up some of those tasks Ayot assigns to “the boss”:
standing up there when the wave hits the rock
passing out faith and confidence…
To create a more just and compassionate world—and sustain the leadership we need for such a world—we need more people who can work together to solve pressing, complex problems. No longer can responsibility rest solely with designated leaders. It requires all of us to claim our leadership roles and responsibilities.
Traditional leadership roles and skills are not sufficient to achieve real progress. We need to cultivate the heart and soul of leadership.
We need more people —like you — who “lead from within” by acting with courage on your true callings; developing trustworthy relationships; cultivating practices to sustain yourself and inspire others for the long haul; and working together to transform the institutions in which you serve.
How will you lead from within in 2014?Today's blog is a mirror of our Words of EnCOURAGEment newsletter. Subscribe here.
P.S. Courage & Renewal programs help you find clarity and courage to lead from within. See our calendar for upcoming programs.
I never realized I could be good in science,” said one teenager, who had just learned a new way of appreciating his natural talents. That insight arose because a teacher learned to engage her students in a new way thanks to some insightful coaching.
Kelly Camak had been teaching for four years serving at-risk youth when an unexpected move to Seattle resulted in a new job as a school development coach. At the time she was halfway through a Courage & Renewal four-retreat series.
“I went from being a teacher in need, really grappling with my issues in the classroom, to immediately being a coach who supports other teachers in need.”
Knowing the value for herself as a teacher, she immediately began incorporating Courage & Renewal practices into coaching, helping teachers across the country.
Kelly recalls introducing the Courage & Renewal concept of exploring birthright gifts to a science teacher, the idea of noticing the natural talents you are born with. It was just in time for assigning science projects to her class.
“The teacher was really excited because she had a student who rarely did work in her class, who was never excited about anything and resisted working with his peers.”
The student asked, “Does this mean I have to be smart? Or does this have to be science related?” The teacher said, “No, no. We’re just discovering ourselves and our birthright gifts.”
By the end of class that student said, “Today I recognize that because I have really good eye-hand coordination I could be really good in lab. I could really contribute to my group because I know how to organize all the lab equipment and it will be safe for me to conduct the lab. Now I’m really excited about our next lab.”
“Such transformation happened because he was able to focus on his talents, and see how that applied to his work in a way that wasn’t academically intimidating. It was really powerful.”
“Education is supposed to make students feel inspired and ready to take on the world and do great things,” said Kelly. “In order for teachers to cultivate that in students, they have to have that within themselves. That’s why Courage & Renewal is such an important investment.”
“Teachers take a great risk in making time to do reflective activity, because there is so much else they need to do each day. When kids respond so well, the teacher knows it was worthwhile.”
Thanks to you, teachers are engaging students in powerful ways to discover their own gifts.
December 31, 2013
“I couldn’t get through residency without a session like this,” said a new pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
For three hours every three weeks, a group of pediatric residents meets with Dr. Rob Meyer and two of his colleagues to reflect on their experience of practicing medicine. It is a new requirement of the residency curriculum for pediatric residents to participate in personal and professional development.
“Medicine is undergoing such enormous change, not all of it positive,” says Rob. “There is such an emphasis on productivity. Some of the reasons people go into medicine, such as creating healing relationships, are being pushed into the background. For providers to be able to reflect on what gives them meaning is invaluable.”
“Reflective practice is not unique to this pediatric residency, but it is a perfect fit to bring the Courage concepts that I’ve learned over five years to this work.
“It’s important for these new physicians to have the time and space to reflect on what’s happening to them. We’ve carved out this protected time in which they don’t have other responsibilities and won’t get paged, where they simply get to talk and listen to each other.”
With each session, the residents have increasingly created a community of shared experience, says Rob. So far, they’ve talked about work/life balance, medical error, the sacred connection between doctors and patients, as well as getting and giving bad news.
The residents have also been able to talk about how they relate to patients and their families.
“I hear them say over and over how important it is to make a deep connection when listening to families. It’s important to connect on more than a superficial basis when you’re talking to someone whose child is in the hospital.
“Being able to provide these three hours of uninterrupted time is truly a gift, not only for them, but for us as faculty. It gives the residents a chance to reflect on the reasons they went into medicine in the first place. Incorporating reflective practice into their lives will help them be better physicians now and for the long run.”
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