In a new book edited by Sam Intrator, assistant professor
in education and child study, teachers across the country
get a chance to express the inspiration behind their calling
in heartfelt essays, profound ruminations and moving stories
about their experiences and interactions in the classroom.
of the Courage to Teach: Honoring the Teacher’s Heart,
is a collection of submissions from teachers in a range of
settings: public, private, secondary and elementary schools
in urban, suburban and rural regions. Many of the stories
the teachers tell in the book are unflinching and honest,
some of them disturbing and unsettling, others funny and wise.
All the stories illustrate the meaning behind the authors’
“This book is a collection
of essays, written by teachers at every level of practice,
that honors the hearts of all teachers who struggle to reconnect
with the source of their vocation,” writes Intrator
in the book’s cover notes.
“Speaking from my heart
is one of the reasons why I teach,” writes Amy Symons,
a high-school teacher of English and humanities in California.
“I like speaking truthfully and working alongside students
to make sense of our world, our literature, our lives.”
“Every day in the classroom, for me at least, cannot
be one of deep introspection and exhilarating connections
with others,” writes Robert Kunzman, who has been a
high-school teacher and administrator in Los Angeles and Vermont.
“There are theorems to prove, verbs to conjugate, dates
to memorize, and dangling modifiers to mend. But the moments
of authenticity and connection with my students and colleagues
fuel the passion that brought me to teaching in the first
The publication of Stories
of the Courage to Teach was inspired by the 1997 book
The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape
of a Teacher’s Life, by Parker J. Palmer, a renowned
writer on education and social issues.
Peter Temes writes in The
New York Times that Intrator’s book looks “into
the hearts of 25 effective teachers, knitting together their
first-person narratives with his own ideas about great teaching.
Dr. Intrator’s most important point is that these teachers
are outstanding not because of their intellect but because
of their emotional commitment to students.”
Intrator, the son of two New
York City public school teachers and himself a veteran high-school
teacher, understands firsthand the importance of a vocation
that, in this country, often receives less than its due respect.
“If schools are to be places
that promote academic, social, and personal development for
students, everything hinges on the presence of intelligent,
passionate, caring teachers working day after day in our nation’s
classrooms,” says Intrator in the introduction. “Teachers
have a colossal influence on what happens in our schools,
because day after day, they are the ultimate decision makers
and tone setters.”
In light of that declaration,
Intrator’s collection, through his introduction and
editorial remarks on each essay, aims to not only chronicle
the stories of teachers in their own words, but to strengthen
the national regard for teachers and the work they do.