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

February 26, 2013

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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