Good Teaching Requires Self-Knowledge

The Courage To Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life (Parker J. Palmer, 1998). [Bold and italics mine.]

The teacher projects his own soul through his teaching. Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one's inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul.

The teaching knowing himself is crucial to good teaching. If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge--and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject. In fact, knowing my students and my subject depends heavily on self-knowledge. When I do not know myself, I cannot know who my students are. When I do not know myself, I cannot know my subject--not at the deepest levels of embodied, personal meaning.

The secret in plain sight. The work required to "know thyself" is neither selfish nor narcissistic. Whatever self-knowledge we attain as teachers will serve our students and our scholarship well. Good teaching requires self-knowledge: it is a secret hidden in plain sight.