Palmer’s third chapter speaks about paradox in teaching and learning. He describes paradox, overall, as the inner tension experienced in the heart of every teacher, competing and pulling between laughter and pain, joy and sadness, engagement and apathy. He embraces the soul of the strongly : “teaching...can only be expressed as paradoxes”. Push them yet coddle them, inspire them yet give them thinking time, challenge them yet celebrate their established riches. Parker’s description brings into light the true tension in the hearts of teachers, balancing forces of emotion, identity, intellect, and truth.
Palmer discusses six major ideas of paradox in teaching. Palmer’s first idea, suggests space binds and opens. In the classroom, students need to have the freedom to meet knowledge without restraint. However, if rules and structures deteriorate, environments turn chaotic. For example, rules for sports such as soccer and hockey allow for structure in the game which enables an engaging game (bound). On the field, players are creative dribblers, passers, and shooters, without restriction (open). Soccer excellence happens between open and bound space.
Palmer’s second example of paradox has hospitality opposing a “charged” environment. Students need to feel safe in a class for learning to occur. Students, however, should not feel safe enough to put their feet up and nap. Our learning environments need electricity. In my class room if students lay their head down I say: “You can sleep at home!” In addition, such behaviours remind me to allow for a quick energizer or stretch break. Overall, creating an engaging, safe environment requires an acute sense of the nature of the students and the ability to know when a stretch break is not needed but required.
From our safety as people, we begin to connect as a group. This is Palmer’s third paradox. Individualism promotes authenticity, creativity, identity, and an ability to express one’s emotions and ideas. Within that, students live and learn as parts...