Start a movement within our ranks. A Vaclav-Havel-type of reclaiming
our profession from those who either
don’t know about it or have lost touch with it.
NOTE: I stumbled on notes from a talk I delivered to my teaching colleagues in January of 2002. As I re-read my musings, I thought how these thoughts still apply today, 18 years later. Maybe even more so today. Integrity does not go out of style. Purpose connects with identity. I have abbreviated the comments for this piece.
While this is a bit longer than most of my posts, I encourage you to read all of it and see how it can/does apply to other professions, as well. Think how these words connect to your purpose—or your struggle to find purpose.
Here is what I said on that day to my colleagues.
I’ve sat through a number of these events, enough to know there are a few things I do not like to hear: preaching, cheerleading, and a review of the latest book on how we should feel about our colleagues, our profession, or ourselves….
So, I asked myself, “Steve, what can you possibly say that has any value?”
Allow me to share thoughts on the community of teaching, what we try to do in this community, how the community comes under attack—and what we can do about that….
According to Parker Palmer, good teaching comes from both identity and integrity. Identity refers to those forces that make up our lives; who are we; who are we not. Integrity is how we relate those forces in a way that brings about wholeness and life—not fragmentation and death. Purpose not disconnection. The root word is integer or oneness. Simply put, we arrive at our purpose in life by various routes. We are an office manager, a counselor, a maintenance engineer, or a teacher because our life’s paths have brought us to this point. Hopefully, that point has integrity, has a reaffirming value on our lives—and an overall virtue. It is our purpose….
Teaching is a virtuous activity, but it is not necessarily valued.
Forces—usually someone else’s values—continually challenge education (our purpose). While some are external to our institution, some originate and incubate right within our walls. No matter how many committees or task forces we sit on, if the system continues to beat down its best resources—us—our profession is doomed. So, what can we do?
One thing to do is what Vaclav Havel said as the Czechs rebelled against Soviet domination. The Czechs, Havel maintained, had to “reclaim” themselves by reminding themselves who they were. Teachers need to do the same reclaiming.
Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Good teaching comes from the identity and the integrity of the teacher.
“If the work we do lacks integrity for us, then we, the work,
and the people we do it with will suffer.”- Parker Palmer
So, if we (you and I) are among the folks who have lost heart, where do we go from here? And if we haven’t lost heart, how can we help those who have? If the vision of our purpose has gotten side tracked, muddled, jumbled, what do we do?
One road is to move on, find another venue to ply the craft. It’s a viable choice.
Another option is to start a movement within our ranks. A Vaclav-Havel-type of reclaiming our profession from those who either don’t know about it or have lost touch with it.
Teaching, for good or bad, is a privatized profession—maybe one of the most privatized of the public professions. We do our work alone in our classrooms or in our offices. While that has benefits, it can also be very isolating; leading to disconnections amongst and between faculty—and the teacher bashing forces can take advantage of that fact….
Most movements make incremental adjustments as opposed to large-scale upheaval. But the movements have the power to “alter the logic of organizations.”
I will end with something that a colleague said on this very stage just a few years ago—and it has always stayed with. Simple yet eloquent. He reminded us to remember the joy and excitement we felt when we were students and he challenged us to allow our students, to help our students, to feel that same exhilaration as they marched into our rooms. That same passion and joy. After all, isn’t that our purpose, isn’t that the crux of our virtuous profession, and isn’t that why we have the courage to teach?
Let’s not forget we have one another. May we all nurture our identity, our integrity, and our purpose
Make it a great term.
Video Recommendation of the Week
Consider this reminder. As I told an auditorium of college faculty in Virginia (2015), when overwhelmed and discouraged, what is the one step you can take to move forward? The step may be to find another purpose or refine a purpose. Keep making your story.
Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.
Stay tuned for my new book to be released in early 2020:
Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.
Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.
In the meantime, check out her blog.
And you can still order:
- My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
- Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.
My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.
You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®