Looking Within to See What is Out There

This is the second summer I’ve had the opportunity to help guide a book club with a great colleague, Stacey, for the First Year Experience (FYE) instructors. Last year, we facilitated conversations about Ken Bain’s book, What the Best College Teachers Do. It was a pretty quick, but worthwhile, book…and not just for those teaching FYE courses (really quite a good book for anyone interesting in teaching/learning).

This year, the book we’ve selected is Parker J. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach. From what I understand it is sort of considered a classic to those that teach (my clue to this realization was the publication of an anniversary edition). I actually have already read it once, but it about 10 years ago, so am excited to be reading it again this summer.

Although the book club hasn’t officially started yet, I have begun to read the book. And in true Palmer style (I’ve read a few of his other books–which I highly recommend!) he’s got me thinking. Sometimes I think that he has some sort of magical power that enables him to speak directly to what I’ve been ruminating on the most. This was at least my experience this week (and has been my experience many times in the past). Since the school year has come to a close, and I’ve actually found myself experiencing a bit more stress free environment, I’ve been spending a lot of time consider how I see myself in relation to others, as well as how it seems that others are seeing me. Unfortunately in my experience these two “selves” aren’t always the same for a myriad of reasons, which can lead to frustration and curiosity. Lately it has led to much more curiosity, which has also been pleasantly accompanied by a calmness. I heard Palmer speak to my recent reflections when he wrote,

“..we cannot see what is ‘out there’ merely by looking around. Everything depends on the lenses through which we view the world. By putting on new lenses, we can see things that would otherwise remain invisible” (Palmer, 2007, p. 27).

And my response to him would be, “Yes!” However, I still felt just as contemplative after reading his thoughts. His words, though, were helpful in that they reminded me that there are always more ways, “lenses” to look through at our experiences. Sometimes I will admit that it can be quite challenging to kept such a perspective in mind. Full confession…it is terribly hard to keep this in mind when I feel hurt, upset, wronged, etc….synonym in any other negative feeling word because it is in those moments that I want to be right. That I want my way of understanding the experience to be THE way of understanding the experience. My lens to be the correct lens. And so when I consider the differences I notice between how I see and understand myself, and how other others might see and understand me, I cannot help but wonder what other perspectives besides just those two might exist? How I can find even more lenses to try on as I seek to understand my experiences, and how I can recognize my desire to be “right” in such a way that it becomes just one lens through which I am viewing the world?



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