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The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life [Hardcover]

Parker J. Palmer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 17 2007
"This book is for teachers who have good days and bad — and whose bad days bring the suffering that comes only from something one loves. It is for teachers who refuse to harden their hearts, because they love learners, learning, and the teaching life." — Parker J. Palmer [from the Introduction]

For many years, Parker Palmer has worked on behalf of teachers and others who choose their vocations for reasons of the heart but may lose heart because of the troubled, sometimes toxic systems in which they work. Hundreds of thousands of readers have benefited from his approach in THE COURAGE TO TEACH, which takes teachers on an inner journey toward reconnecting with themselves, their students, their colleagues, and their vocations, and reclaiming their passion for one of the most challenging and important of human endeavors.

This book builds on a simple premise: good teaching cannot be reduced to technique but is rooted in the identity and integrity of the teacher. Good teaching takes myriad forms but good teachers share one trait: they are authentically present in the classroom, in community with their students and their subject. They possess "a capacity for connectedness" and are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects, and their students, helping their students weave a world for themselves. The connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts — the place where intellect, emotion, spirit, and will converge in the human self — supported by the community that emerges among us when we choose to live authentic lives.

BONUS: Includes an audio CD featuring a 45-minute conversation between Parker Palmer and his colleagues, Marcy Jackson and Estrus Tucker from the Center for Courage & Renewal. They reflect on what they have learned from working with thousands of teachers in their "Courage to Teach" program (www.CourageRenewal.org)and with others who yearn for greater integrity in their professional lives.

Note: CD-ROM/DVD and other supplementary materials are not included as part of eBook file.


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The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life + A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life + Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

"A profoundly moving, utterly passionate, and inspired articulation of the call to, and the pain and joy of, teaching. It is must reading for any and every teacher, at any level."
—Jon Kabat-Zinn author of Wherever You Go, There You Are

For nearly forty years, Parker Palmer has worked on behalf of teachers and others who choose vocations for reasons of the heart but may lose heart because of the troubled, sometimes toxic systems in which they work. Hundreds of thousands of readers have benefited from The Courage to Teach, which takes teachers on an inner journey toward reconnecting with themselves, their students, and their colleagues, and toward reclaiming vocational passion.

The Courage to Teach builds on a simple premise: good teaching cannot be reduced to technique but is rooted in the identity and integrity of the teacher. Good teaching takes myriad forms but good teachers share one trait: they are authentically present in the classroom, deeply connected with their students and their subject. These connections are held in the teacher's heart—the place where intellect, emotion, spirit, and converge in the human self. Good teachers weave a life-giving web between themselves, their subjects, and their students, helping their students learn how to weave a world for themselves.

In a new Foreword and Afterword to this tenth anniversary edition, Parker Palmer reflects on a decade of movement-building during which he and his colleagues at the Center for Courage & Renewal have helped thousands of teachers and others restore identity and integrity to professional life. On the accompanying audio CD, Parker and his colleagues, Marcy Jackson, and Estrus Tucker, talk about the Center's on-the-ground work and share their hopes for this movement toward human wholeness and community.

From the Back Cover

Celebrating 10 Years of The Courage to Teach

I am a teacher at heart, and there are moments in the classroom when I can hardly hold the joy. . . . But at other moments, the classroom is so lifeless or painful or confused—and I am so powerless to do anything about it—that my claim to be a teacher seems a transparent sham. . . . If you are a teacher who never has bad days, or who has them but does not care, this book is not for you. This book is for teachers who have good days and bad, and whose bad days bring the suffering that comes only from something one loves. It is for teachers who refuse to harden their hearts because they love learners, learning, and the teaching life.
—From the Introduction

Today, ten years after the publication of The Courage to Teach, I am more hopeful than ever about the potential for education reform because this book has helped me meet so many people who care passionately about teaching and learning and are willing to act on their passion. "Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life" allows us to return, grounded and renewed, to the outer landscape of our lives. Having taken heart in the work to which we are called, we can give heart once again to our students, our colleagues, our schools, and our world—a world where heartlessness yields only to gifts and graces that come from within.
—Adapted from the Foreword to the 10th Anniversary Edition

CD included with exclusive conversation with Parker J. Palmer about the Courage to Teach Movement — past, present, and future.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Recently I have been teaching Middle School Students as Substitute.
I agree with this book's philosophy. I love to teach younster, but get mad when they do not respoect and listen. My heart is there along with my head.
I need to use my heart more.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and Honest May 21 2001
Format:Hardcover
"The Courage to Teach" should be read again and again. It invokes new insights into your teaching career every time at various points in your life. The concepts are inspiring, and the conclusions honest.
If I have any complaints, it's that at times in the book, the language became a bit thick and abstract, losing the reader in extensive passages that might need to be reread several times to fully understand. For example, a sentence from page 105 reads:
"In rejecting the objectivist model, I have not embraced a relativism that reduces truth to whatever the community decides, for the community of truth includes a transcendent dimension of truth-knowing and truth-telling that takes us beyond relativism and absolutism alike."
To be fair, this quote is taken out of context, and I know that the book is not meant to be read like a pleasure novel... it's much deeper and more though-provoking than that. It's a real gem when Palmer describes examples of his points from classroom experiences, but I found myself choking on the pages of abstract language separating these examples. It took me longer than expected to finish.
Despite my minor misgivings, I highly recommend the book... especially to teachers. It'll be a permanent fixture on my bookshelf for years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So, Why Do You Teach? Nov. 20 2000
Format:Hardcover
In many ways, it is itself an act of courage to read this book. Mr. Palmer has taken the rare, difficult task of probing to the heart of the learning experience and seeks to reveal its essence for any teacher willing to explore with him. In this task--like a good teacher--he asks more questions than he answers and he is concerned in discovering the process and the means of learning and teaching.
For me, what lingers after finishing the short book are two key concepts his identifies: identity and integrity. For each individual teacher, the need to have some balanced perspective of self-identity becomes paramount. Do I teach to peddle my agenda? Do I teach in order to be the 'big fish in a little pond'? Do I teach because I like the stage? Or, Do I teach in order to fulfill an inner yearning, even sadness?. Next, the balance of integrity must center a good teacher. Do I seek fairness among my students? Do I build good habits of discipline? Do I live justly? Eschew competition? Seek first of all to teach meaning, itself a subject-centered approach?
See? These are the kinds of questions that echo in my mind after reading The Courage To Teach. I particularly like what Mr. Palmer had to say regarding fear, teaching from fear, and hiding among our fears while facing them. Beauty lies in the paradox.
Now, I look for those critical moments in teaching for what they are. I strive to find my identity in my students' faces; I am challenged to live with integrity in my heart AND in my mind.
No student of educational reform should be without this book.
One more thing: if nothing else, read this book for the research and precious quotes that Mr. Palmer uses. His endnotes are worth the price alone.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated Aug. 24 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Attempting to establish the thesis that "good teaching comes from good people," Palmer overstates his case by downplaying the importance of expertise and technique. For example, he claims that teachers' knowledge of their subjects is "always flawed and partial" and that a command of content "always eludes [their] grasp." His overuse of the word soul makes it sound like only a "good person" can be a good teacher. This seems to be a shaky (or even simplistic) assumption on which to base a book.
Ironically, the most effective parts of the book are those in which he discusses techniques for improving teaching, especially the focus on "critical moments" and "subject-centered classrooms." I agree with his points on "the grace of great things," though the pious tone is bothersome, especially when he refers to teaching as "life-giving communion with the young." The second half of the book is much better than the first half, but it still is a tough read for anyone with a postmodernist sensibility.
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By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I am a college student majoring in education and I read this book for class. This book helped me understand the techniques of seeing the inner self through the education of the most intuitive, the children we teach. I realize that to educate is to continualy learn and expand the aspect of our humanity which matters the most, our inner self. To know the self and express this is the purpose of our education and our instruction. There are forces which disconnect us from the student, the subject and the self. It is the purpose of introspection to learn how to unblock these learned limits so they are not pass to the next level of learners. It is not only important that educators teach students about the self, but also how this knowledge translates to possitive growth in other lives. J. Plamer indicated we are not an Island unto ourselves but like vessels in which to carry life giving guidance to others. If we do not possess life giving knowledge we cannot express it to our students. This book was very important just as the book, "The Artists Way by Julia Cameron."
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering Immense Value
I first read a chapter of this book for a class during undergrad, and the chapter spoke such truth, I decided to order it months later and I'm currently halfway through, and... Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2009 by Nicola Gladwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!
I notice that the more negative reviews posted here are from semi-literate people. Makes sense. If you are actually educated and teaching, this book is extemely inspiring. Read more
Published on May 20 2004 by Jack Lieberman
3.0 out of 5 stars Points to Ponder
I was not enchanted or spiritually lifted after I had read this highly-praised book. It was too much talk with little background. Read more
Published on June 29 2003 by Heather
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing for teachers on any level.
This book was very comforting for me as a newer teacher. I look forward to revisisting it in the later years of my career to help measure growth and guide future changes.
Published on June 26 2002 by "regturb"
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Source for Those Who Teach
I would recommend this book for any who are setting out to teach, and for those now teaching, especially in the public schools. Read more
Published on July 21 2001 by Robert L. Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars Asks the Right Questions
Not since "Spitwad Sutras: Classroom Teaching as Sublime Vocation" have a read a book so focused on the spirituality of teaching.
Published on Feb. 10 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Confidence building - fear reducing book
This book was required reading in an education course I took. I am so glad that it was. It helped me embrace the contradictions inherent in my profession. Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Reflecting and Renewing
I have recently completed reading and discussing THE COURAGE TO TEACH with a group of professional colleagues. I must admit, at a first glance I was turned off by the book. Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2000 by Brian R. Bowser
5.0 out of 5 stars The cost of caring
I've been teaching 9 years and had begun to think the toll was just too great. If you invest your emotional energy into your students, you are at risk for some very personal... Read more
Published on Dec 30 1999 by a strings teacher
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