Making Spaces to Learn


explored four characteristics of the ideal college professor. Two of them — a wealth of knowledge and experience on which to draw, and the ability to invigorate life through learning — focus on the teacher’s capacity; they highlight what he already has within him: his knowledge, his insights into subject matter, his range of experiences, and his ability to draw on all of those to animate learning. The other two characteristics Palmer identified —“the aptitude for vicariousness ” and “the readiness to be forgotten” — highlight the importance of having the propensity to imagine, even live through, others ’ perspectives and experiences and to step out of the way of their development — their growth of capacity — both during the time one teaches and after the teaching is done. These characteristics shift the focus from the teacher to the student, emphasizing both the teacher’s capacity to conceive of and consider the learner’s perspective and her willingness to serve as a catalyst for learners ’ development apart from and beyond her, rather than making herself the center of the educational experience. That in order to be excellent, teachers must situate themselves within and also distance themselves from the learning process — draw on their knowledge and experiences and at the same time invite students to draw on theirs — throws into relief the necessary balance betwee

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