Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Enjoy freely and directly the bliss of your own true empire" - Joseph Campbell

Two books have influenced my thinking...

Myths to Live By: How we re-create ancient legends in our daily lives to release human potential (1972) written by Joseph Campbell.

Search and Re-Search: What the Inquiring Teacher Needs to Know (1991) edited by Rita S. Brause and John S. Mayher.
The juxtaposition of these two texts may seem strange, but as they swirl around in my thoughts placing them side by side seems somehow right. Both circulate around the marriage of theory and practice.

Joseph Campbell outlines how societal and individual beliefs influence our daily lives, supporting his conviction that we might look to myths to address current world problems. He writes of the challenge to the modern educator and conscientious teacher torn between loyalty to the “supporting myths of our civilization or to the ‘factualized’ truths of his science” (p.11).

Brause and Mayher argue that “we tend to try to have our reality fit our theory, rather than adjusting our theory to be better in harmony with our changing sense of reality” (pp. 6-7). They go on to posit that our actions make evident our underlying theories. We have theories about everything from the shortest route home to how to do laundry. These are continuously tested and change according to our experiences; but not without struggles.

This is how we view the world, both on a personal level and through the lens of society and culture. I have been pondering what this means for me, my students, my teaching. Teacher training is steeped in theory. Developmental, behavioral, societal, cognitive, psychosocial, learning theories, etc. are espoused in the university setting.

All this happens before actually stepping into the classroom arena as a teacher. It is not until you are hired that a practical demand is made.

How should the furniture be arranged?
What is the structure of the day?
What are the other children doing when I am engaged in a guided reading lesson?
What do I say in parent teacher conferences?
How can I be in five places at the same time?

The answers to these questions are determined by our beliefs. And if we can articulate the reasons behind our decisions our teaching becomes stronger, the class operates smoother and children learn.

It is in this atmosphere of clarity (in thought and action) that I find bliss. Although I believe that I will never ‘arrive’, I do enjoy the process of learning and teaching. I do intend to “enjoy freely and directly the bliss of my own true empire” (Myths to Live By, p.70)

4 comments:

Reya Mellicker said...

Hi Gary! I'm always trying to track down my own theories du jour. The ones I can name and be conscious of are one thing, but I try to remember that there's an invisible value "grid" that exists beneath the surface. It's that grid that I hang my theories on. I can't see the whole grid - because the warp or woof is made of my deepest assumptions - things I never question.

So great that you're blogging (an activity I have many theories about!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary, This is Tara, a former student teacher of yours! I read your blogs every day and I always write down the names of featured books you list on your blog. The books will be a great addition for my daughters and my future students.

Thank you for the tips on these books and will add them to my summer reading list.

Gary said...

Tara,
That is great. The kids were just asking about you on Friday.

Modesty said...

This is great info to know.

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