The Courage to Teach

The heart of education is an education of the heart.

The root of the word “courage” is the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart.” The English word “core” comes from the same Latin root. So at its core, effective teaching is about developing courage.

As the world changes at an ever-accelerating pace, leaving some of us experiencing Future Shock, one act of courage that is essential for all teachers to make is to admit that we don’t know it all, and that this is becoming more so every day.

As Pat Hensley, a teacher and instructor with Furman University, so eloquently explains in her blog Successful Teaching,

“It also takes courage to know that I don’t know everything. It is alright if I learn some new things from my students. It is alright to even let my students know that I don’t know everything. It takes courage to learn new things and open up to possible failures. My students will learn that I am making an effort to learn and they will also learn from me how I handle the results.”

Students can be our greatest teachers. But, like Pat says, it takes courage to know that we don’t know everything and that is one of the most important parts of teaching. The courage to keep learning with an open mind and heart is what teaching is about. As teachers, we don’t have to have all the answers, we just have to be open to learning in our own classrooms.

Mary Bieglow, a teacher and blogger for the National Science Teachers Association, wrote in her post “What Teachers Can Learn From Students” that by being open to not knowing all the right answers or questions, she got more out of her students. “After a unit test, [a student] looked very dejected. When I asked her what was wrong, she replied, ‘I know a lot about this, but you asked the wrong questions.’ That stopped me in my tracks. I was the teacher—the one supposed to have all of the questions and answers … She was right—for her I didn’t ask enough of the right questions. She taught me the value of providing a variety of ways for students to share what they know and can do.”

The heart of teaching is the teaching of the heart. In order to teach, we need courage to overcome our fear of admitting that we don’t know it all. Consider and reflect on the following statements of courage.

We must have the courage to…

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  • Pat Hensley

    Great article Angela! Thanks for the mention. You are a true example of a courageous teacher! I admire all that you do and one day, when I grow up, I want to be just like you! :)

  • Guest

    Dear Angela

  • Shelly Francis

    Love the courageous stories of Pat and Mary! Wanted to be sure your readers know about the book by Parker J. Palmer, Courage to Teach. As your blog points out, courageous teachers possess “a capacity for connectedness” and are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects, and their students, helping their students weave a world for themselves. The Center for Courage & Renewal — the nonprofit which began with the Courage to Teach® program – now has even broader program offerings called Courage in Schools to help educators nurture their personal and professional integrity and the courage to act on it for themselves and their school communities. Check it out at
    Also, check out the national education conversations happening at

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