Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer introduces the most evocative book about teaching, The Courage to Teach, with this Rilke poem. 

Ah, not to be cut off,

not through the slightest partition

shut out from the law of the stars.

The inner—what is it?

if not intensified sky,

hurled through with birds and deep

with the winds of homecoming.

Palmer addresses the fear in teaching by suggesting that “Each time I walk into a classroom, I can choose the place within myself from which my teaching will come…from curiosity or hope or empathy or honesty, places that are as real within my as are my fears.”  For more poems related to teaching, see Teaching with Fire, a great collection of poetry  contributed by educators.  Parker and I organized the project and wrote the forward.


Poetry Foundation has a cool new iPhone app that serves up a list of poems at the intersection of two themes.  When you line up Gratitude and Life, you get Teach Me by Grady Davidson.

Teach me, old World, your passion of slow change,

Your calm of stars, watching the turn of earth,

Patient of man, and never thinking strange

The mad red crash of each new system’s birth.


Teach me, for I would know your beauty’s way

That waits and changes with each changing sun,

No dawn so fair but promises a day

Of other perfectness than men have won.


Teach me, old World, not as vain men have taught,

—Unpatient song, nor words of hollow brass,

Nor men’s dismay whose powerfullest thought

Is woe that they and worlds alike must pass.


Nothing I learn by any mortal rule;

Teach me, old World, I would not be man’s fool.


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