HOT TOPIC: Should there be limits on the way we interpret text? Can open discussion lead to better understanding?

Tamara Beliak


What makes a person a good teacher? In professional development, I came across the following book, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, by Parker Palmer. In it, Dr Palmer argues that the essence of teaching is being true to oneself: Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and the integrity of the teacher.

As a teacher, I struggle with what it means to teach with identity and with integrity.  I want my students to develop their own relationship with the Jewish community, with a personal conception of God. I struggle with how much I should guide their journey. I wonder when I should engage my students in the tensions of thousands of years of tradition in literature and perspective and when I should omit information. I want to open their minds to the fluidity and vastness of Jewish opinion and text and am simultaneously frightened that I will repel students with some of the more complicated and less-politically correct parts of our tradition.

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1 thought on “HOT TOPIC: Should there be limits on the way we interpret text? Can open discussion lead to better understanding?

  1. Your article illustrated one of the most special pieces of Judaism, the ability to ask questions. Many ancient texts prompt questions from the modern Jew, and wouldn’t we be robbing our students of a fundamental piece of Judaism that says that questioning is good and important to learning? We must allow students to embark on a journey of their own, otherwise, there is a great chance that by our dictation and instruction, we will turn them away from tradition forever. I love that Dr. Palmer talks about being authentic in his teaching. Students know when teachers are being authentic, and they respond much better because they feel that their thoughts and opinions are truly valued, and that they will not be judged.

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