I have been a teacher educator for twenty years and before that a teacher.  I am still constantly learning about teaching and learning about learning.  One thing I know from these years is this:  EVERY TEACHER everywhere in the world feel constrained by things external to them, outside of themselves, outside of their selves as teachers:  the curriculum, the test, standards, the administration, student motivation, their own knowledge, skills and awareness.  Every teacher, everywhere in the world has constraints upon her and his teaching.

But, but, but. . .

Every teacher, regardless of the constraints or limitations can always exercise her or his will, intention, philosophy and hope in their classes.  Each teacher still has those precious 30 or 50 or 80 or 120 minutes together with their students.  The power of these precious minutes is inestimable and immeasurable.

Rachel Kessler, an American educator, has long been a proponent of, as she calls it, welcoming soul (back) to our schools.  We can debate whether we are welcoming soul back or soul in.  Did schooling ever have an element of soul?  From my understanding of it, modern-day schooling, since the early 1900’s in the US and at varying times in other parts of the world, was designed to “norm” students and to create an obedient citizenry.  The goal was not an inquiring, nor necessarily critically thinking student, but a “normed” student.

Kessler says, “When students feel genuinely listened to they begin to sense their significance as human beings”.  She also says, “When soul is present in education, attention shifts; we concentrate on what has soul and meaning.  Kessler’s work has been primarily with Middle and High School students, an age where, around the world as far as I can tell, students often times suffer a crisis of soul and spirit.  They begin to wonder and ask the question of “who am I and what is my place in the world?”  This is a question with which most adolescents suffer.  Part of this suffering can be alleviated by what Kessler refers to as the hunger for joy.  This hunger can be fed by, as Kessler reports, “inviting humor”, teaching through play and fostering moments of heartfelt communication, as a beginning.

I want to encourage educators to think about bringing soul in to their teaching so as to make education deeply meaningful to their students.  Let’s think about how to do that.