Louise Mitchell (April 15, 2014)
I'm 16 again and I'm sitting on the floor cramped along with 25 other kids in a dusty hot room, the smell of teenage body odour, and the excitement of just having completed the challenge of camping out all night in the bush with just a few pieces of survival equipment. I love this part of the award program I am in - getting out there in the bush, gritty, dirty clothes and uncontrollable hair. Don't love this next part so much. The much esteemed group leader is sitting on a low stool at the head of the circle, perusing the group. A sense of trepidation and mild anxiety as we are called to order -
Oh gosh, please don’t let it be me. Then the spotlight hits me…
He asks, "So Mitch, camped out all night on your own - how'd you go?"
Oh no - me - will I have time to think, will I be able to answer on time, would it be the answer he wants? "Oh a little bit hard, kept my fire going most of the night, unsure of the noises, bit scared."
"Come on Mitch get a bit real, everyone has to get a bit real here, you weren't scared you were terrified, and you couldn't wait to come in..." And on he goes. I tune out, just waiting for cues to having to answer yes or no as he indicates...
Answer wrong then? Sense of failure, sense of annihilation and shame in front of this group of kids...
Twenty-five years later
A Sunday night dinner with a good friend, talking about life, a gift, "Here's a book you might like: A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer" - a treasure. I devoured this book. Then his others: Courage to Teach, The Heart of Higher Education. With passion I searched through the American website and found a "Courage to Lead" program in Australia.
While I've always tried to create a safe space in my adult classrooms, experiencing and participating in the Center for Courage and Renewal programs here in Australia - incorporating the Circle of Trust Touchstones - has enabled me to both examine previous experiences that have shaped my life and also to incorporate these practices in my facilitation practice. This growth edge is what gives me newness and speaks to my heart in my teaching - focusing on relationships. This is what I now know is possible in regards to my 16 year old self:
- Imagine if (in that dusty cramped room full of teenagers) there was a space created that did not demand a response but rather invited a response from those who felt moved to respond, and time and space was created for this.
- Imagine if my individual response to my experience (it was a little bit hard for me, keeping my fire going to keep from being too scared) was honoured and not corrected. Already I'm feeling freer to offer my truth, rather than anxious.
- Imagine if others could share quite a different experience and this also was appreciated for what it is - oh that's how they experienced it – how interesting.
- That a sense of holding the tension of opposites was present for me internally also, so I could feel scared and elated by my "night out in the bush," so I could turn to curiosity about differences emerging inside of me also rather than judgement.
- And what if there was a culture in the group, a knowing that we are changed by what we hear and what we speak - so we're not finished yet.
Each time I have attended a circle of trust program, I have returned to my family, friends and workplace with a renewed sense of courage and transformation on my journey, uplifted and grounded at the same time. Education requires engagement of heart as well as head - you feel it, you don't just think it. Having more explicit tools and having experienced these means I can enable a safe space with a community of people. One that enables freedom rather than fear and so enables learning.
April 8, 2014
I still feel both buoyant and buoyed by the time I shared with a group of about 30 "young leaders and activists" at a unique Courage to Lead® retreat with Parker Palmer and Marcy Jackson. It was an amazing group of people who I felt so lucky to share a couple days with, reflecting, sitting in silence, discussing, laughing, pondering, and just sharing special, precious time.
I continue to describe the retreat as "compassionate," not referring to any particular activity we did, but to the pace, and cadence, and tone of the gathering, so splendidly guided by compassionate facilitators.
Many people reference "planting seeds" when referring to the impact of an experience with ambiguous or un-scientifically-measurable results.
For me, the retreat didn't plant seeds. It did something that is even rarer these days -- it built soil. I feel aerated and enriched and ready. The seeds that I am going to plant remain somewhat unknown, but it's clear to me that if I had tried to plant any before taking the breath and pause that the retreat offered, they would likely have been slower to take root or grow, if they germinated at all.
I have a hectic spring ahead of me, but I feel so much more prepared for it because of the retreat. At the beginning of the gathering, Parker mentioned, almost as an aside, that "burnout" is not just giving too much, but trying to give what you don't even have. This little comment sings at me now, beyond our candle-lit, poetry-woven circle. I want to be able to compassionately and thoroughly give what I have.
I feel so much more confident about what I have after taking the time to reflect on and celebrate who I am, and who we all can be, when we care for community, and ourselves within it.
Katie Blanchard is current Bush Fellow who lives in Minnesota. She works as a regional coordinator with a national student-led non-profit, organizing for more just, sustainable food systems on college campuses and in communities.
April 1, 2014
Do you feel like you’re on your feet 24/7, striving away at the hardest job you’ll ever love? Or are you stuck standing still in a place your soul can’t abide? Can you walk your talk with integrity?
What would happen if more of us decided to start acting on the outside in a way that is fully congruent with who we are on the inside?
The world needs more people with purpose and patience to take steps toward leading self-aware, authentic lives, not only for their own sake but for the sake of the common good.
In this spirit, today we announce our newest Courage & Renewal product, the Hidden Wholeness® shoe insole.
Developed in collaboration with Pedagog, our high-tech premium insole was tested over 5 years with Courage & Renewal participants in their daily lives -- teachers, physicians, ministers and an assortment of nonprofit leaders. Study subjects reported that the insoles helped them feel supported and revitalized with every step, regaining their resilience and balance.
Used in concert with the Courage & Renewal principles and practices, the Hidden Wholeness® insoles are clinically proven as a useful and comparatively inexpensive tool to alleviate work-related stress and burnout, while imparting a greater sense of integrity.
We’ve developed three versions to fit a variety of shoe styles and sizes -- so whether you’re in the classroom, in the halls of the hospital, or inspiring others in your community, you’ll find one that fits your own authentic leadership. Look for the Circle of Trust® seal of approval wherever insoles are sold.
How do you walk your talk?
I'm wearing my own pair of Hidden Wholeness® insoles right now. I hope you'll join me and share your experience at our Facebook page.
ORDER TODAY and get a surprise bonus! Scroll down for details.
Terry Chadsey, Executive Director
“What’s inside matters when you’re out there changing the world.”
P.S. Today's blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment newsletter. Subscribe here.
What People Are Saying About Their Courageous Soles
“The Hidden Wholeness® insoles help me renew my professional passion with every step. Plus I have a bunion and arch trouble and these made a huge difference.”
-- Alison Tate, MD, Harvard Medical School
“If you’re brave enough to walk your talk, you deserve to do it in comfort. Every political activist and social entrepreneur should have Courage & Renewal inside their shoes.”
-- William Isaac, social justice activist, Portland, OR
“It took courage to admit that my tired feet needed insoles, but now that I’m wearing the Hidden Wholeness® insoles, I’ll never go back. I have more energy than ever before.”
-- Rev. Tom Esterly, East Shore, FL
“The Courage & Renewal insoles are poetry to my feet!”
-- Megan Scribner, co-editor of Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach (coming May 2014)
“I strive to stand and deliver inspiring lessons to my kids every day. The Hidden Wholeness® insoles sustain me almost as much as Parker Palmer’s Courage to Teach book.”
-- Betty Kramer, 9th grade teacher, La Crosse, WI
April Fool's Day!
Thanks for being part of the Courage & Renewal community
and taking steps to live true to who you are.
March 31, 2014
Tomorrow, April 1st, marks the release of the twelfth studio album by award-winning folk singer/songwriter, humanitarian, and longtime friend of the Center--Carrie Newcomer. Her new album, A Permeable Life, and the companion book of poems and essays, expand on themes that Carrie has celebrated throughout her musical career: love, truth, amazement and living with a whole heart.
Over her twenty years of songwriting, Carrie has attracted a devoted following with her warm voice (described elsewhere as being "as rich as Godiva chocolate"), exquisite melodies, and an irreverent yet spiritual view of the world. In these new songs, Carrie invites her followers to once again join her in a moment of honest reflection on the integrity of human life.
On her website, Carrie explains, "A Permeable Life is about what presses out from the heart, what comes in at a slant and what shimmers below the surface of things. To live permeably is to be open-hearted and audacious, to risk showing up as our truest self, and embracing a willingness to be astonished."
It's no surprise that many of the Center's followers are also fans of Carrie's work. Like our own Circle of Trust approach, Carrie's music invites us into a safe space where we can use metaphor to close in on the teachings of our inner lives. She encourages us to live more permeably, to make "a deal with the universe that I will be here and I will be present and I will take in the world," as she said in an interview with Erin Lane.
Please support our good friend Carrie by purchasing A Permeable Life tomorrow for yourself or a friend. Today, you can listen to a few songs from the new album!
1. "Every Little Bit of It" - watch on YouTube
6. "Abide" - watch on YouTube
7. "Room at the Table" - watch on YouTube
9. "Forever Ray" - watch on YouTube
Terry Chadsey, Executive Director
March 25, 2014
When author Frederic Laloux asked me to talk with him about the new book he was writing, I was intrigued by his premise because it matches our own here at the Center for Courage & Renewal. If we are to overcome the daunting problems of our times, we will need new types of organizations―more purposeful businesses, more soulful schools, more productive nonprofits. AND we need people in those organizations who are leading with self-awareness and integrity.
As Laloux describes in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, “the way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Deep inside, we sense that more is possible. We long for soulful workplaces, for authenticity, community, passion and purpose.
Can we create organizations free of the pathologies that show up all too often in the workplace? Free of politics, bureaucracy, and infighting; free of stress and burnout; free of resignation, resentment, and apathy; free of the posturing at the top and the drudgery at the bottom?
What determines which stage an organization operates from? It is the stage through which its leadership tends to look at the world. Consciously or unconsciously, leaders put in place organizational structures, practices, and cultures that make sense to them, that correspond to their way of dealing with the world. This means that an organization cannot evolve beyond its leadership’s stage of development.
Frederic has given us a free chapter of the book to share with you. Download the PDF here, Chapter 1.3 Evolutionary-Teal (pp 43-51).
“It requires courage to let go of old certainties and experiment with a new worldview.” - Frederic Laloux
In this chapter, Laloux describes how people who lead in Teal organizations begin to incorporate the following practices: listening to our deeper wisdom beyond ego, viewing life as a journey of unfolding, building on strengths, dealing gracefully with adversity, the ability to transcend either/or thinking and reason in paradox (both/and), striving for wholeness and community, seeing our interconnectedness. These happen to be the leadership qualities we cultivate in the Courage & Renewal Academy for Leaders.
In Evolutionary-Teal organizations, we shift from external to internal yardsticks in our decision-making. We are now concerned with the question of inner rightness: Does this decision seem right? Am I being true to myself? Is this in line with who I sense I’m called to become? Am I being of service to the world? With fewer ego-fears, we are able to make decisions that might seem risky, where we haven’t weighed all possible outcomes, but that resonate with deep inner convictions. We develop a sensitivity for situations that don’t quite feel right, situations that demand that we speak up and take action, even in the face of opposition or with seemingly low odds of success, out of a sense of integrity and authenticity.
I recommend Frederic's new book for showing the possibilities that open up, once leaders "lead from within", to invent entirely new, and much more soulful organizational structures, practices and cultures.
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux with a foreword by Ken Wilber (Nelson Parker, 2014). www.reinventingorganizations.com
Hanna Sherman, Program Director, Courage & Renewal Health Care Programs
(March 18, 2014)
Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan, MD MS MPH www.tedeytan.com
A group of 40 leaders in health and health care recently gathered for a World Café to dialogue creatively about audacious goals for health globally and to advance a growing shift from improving health care to more proactively pursuing health. It was part of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 15th International Summit on Improving Patient Care in the Office Practice and the Community.
Sitting at tables draped with red and white checkered café cloths, the first round of questions was introduced and the room erupted into animated conversation. Imagine competing for ideas for global health, each one bold, lofty and full of hope for well-being for all. Personally it was the sweetest competition I’ve ever been part of.
Here are the top four audacious goals for health from that evening:
- That there will be a shared social contract about health that guides decisions in all sectors of society.
- That 20% of health care spending will shift to primary care and community health by 2020.
- That 100,000,000 people move from forgotten and vulnerable to healthy and thriving.
- That 10,000 communities will be created where all preventable health problems are eliminated.
And a plug for one of my favorites that didn’t make the top four:
- That the potential of nations, populations, communities, and individuals will be measured by their health and well-being.
Soma Stout, MD, co-chair of the Summit and one of the organizer’s of the World Cafe, VP, Patient Centered Medical Home Development at Cambridge Health Alliance and Co-Director of the Leadership Institute at the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, puts it this way:
“We cannot achieve a dramatic improvement in health without all of us…changing our belief about what is possible, and going for it. This is not a movement that can belong to any organization—it requires our collective action and has the space for all of us to contribute meaningfully, in ways big and small that make sense for us, to create health. We all hold part of the puzzle. “
The Center for Courage & Renewal was one of five sponsors of the evening, along with IHI, Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, Southcentral Foundation, and Cambridge Health Alliance. In our mission to support people in creating a more just, compassionate, and healthy society, we are committed to supporting IHI in leading a courageous quest for global health.
Last week’s World Café was the beginning of a wider initiative from IHI called “Escape Velocity,” borrowing a notion from rocket science of the force it takes to break free of gravitational pull, in this case to move from where we’ve been in health and health care to where we might go if we turn our efforts towards a broader perspective of health and well-being.
In the Summit’s opening keynote address, Derek Feeley, IHI’s executive vice president and former Director General for Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of the National Health Service in Scotland, asked the 1200 attendees, “What’s your audacious goal for health?”
And within minutes over 300 goals were put forth. As Derek walked through the huge conference center ballroom reading from cards on which people had written their goals, my eyes welled up. Personal truths and hopes for a better life together were pouring from people’s hearts.
This is courageous leadership in action. And it’s just the beginning. IHI is inviting a worldwide effort to make the “seemingly impossible, possible.”
For the month of March, IHI is inviting all of us to submit any number of goals for health we have—on their website, by email or tweet. So please search your heart, connect with your integrity, ask yourself what is most important to you for our health and well-being, and then add your voice.
Spread the word to others near and far.
What’s your audacious goal for health? We want to know. Submit your idea here.
by Mark Nepo (March 11, 2014)
We work so hard to get somewhere, to realize a dream, to arrive at some destination, that we often forget that though some satisfaction may be waiting at the end of our endurance and effort, there is great and irreplaceable aliveness in the steps along the way.
We are always approaching integrity, never arriving at it. In working toward a thoroughness of character, we dream of arriving at a state of completeness where who we are and what we do are forever one. We dream of living the rest of our lives this wholly.
But recently I realized -- when things weren't going smoothly, when I was breaking small things around me -- that the beauty of life resides in the relationships we're drawn into as we try to bridge the gap that is always there between who we are and what we do.
While we need to keep bringing who we are and what we do together, while we aspire morally to be in more and more alignment with life, making everything we encounter more whole, it's living in between that holds the richness of being alive. If blessed, we'll never arrive at complete integrity or life will be done with us. Rather, it's the thoroughness of holding nothing back as we try to be integral that brings us alive.
When I can accept that I'm always en route to integrity, my humility is awakened and my compassion deepens. This changes how I listen, how I give, how I receive. I was surprised to discover that the engagement of integrity over the achievement of integrity allows us to inhabit life through our vulnerability, rather than trying to perfect life through our imagined purity.
A Question to Walk With: Describe one difference you are experiencing between who you are and what you do. How do you regard the gap between who you are and what you do? Name one small step you can take in approaching your own integrity.
This article was originally featured on the Huffington Post's Poetry for the Soul. Mark Nepo is a New York Times bestselling author, poet, spiritual teacher and longtime friend of Parker J. Palmer. In 2010, Mark's "The Book of Awakening" was chosen as one of "Oprah's Ultimate Favorite Things." He writes and teaches on the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship. Learn more about Mark Nepo at http://www.marknepo.com and keep an eye out for his new book coming out in September 2014, "The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be" (Atria).
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.
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