Taking the Red Pill and Breaking the Illusions

A new type of teacher is one that is connected authentically to his or her soul and has the ability to be present in the classroom. I call this the soulful teacher. A soulful teacher is concerned for the soul of his or her students as described by Glazer (1999), Moore (1940, reproduced in 1992), and Watson (2008). Moore believes the care of the soul is found in the way we love, form attachments, and how we build and form relationships. Based on recent studies in caring already discussed, the care of the soul would also show up in our ability to care in the broadest sense, meaning that you bring your authentic self into the classroom (Koerner, 2007; Nodding, 2005; Watson, 2008). Teachers who are caring in the classroom would be defined as soulful teachers, as they do their inner work, understand their hidden selves, strive to be openly authentic, allow for intersubjective learning, and are able to lessen fear of decision making in their practices. There is a deep and perhaps unconscious volcano hidden below the surface that has kept many teachers from being in connection to his or her soul work of teaching. To expose this hidden paralysis means we have to take a risk.


This is the time to sit, reflect, and make a choice, as Neo did in the movie The Matrix when he was asked by Morpheus, did he want to stay in the illusion of what he thought was real, or did he want to be forever changed? If he took the blue pill, all would stay the same, and he could wake up tomorrow and believe everything was just as he thought it always had been. If he took the red pill, the world would never be seen the same way again. A clip regarding this critical moment for Neo from the movie The Matrix is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE7PKRjrid4&feature=youtu.be.

You too have a choice about the future of your teaching. You could have stopped reading this text long before this point. Maybe you had to read this for a course and you are now ready to sell the book and move on to another course. You can take the blue pill and have some good ideas as to what you might do in your future as a teacher and you will wake up tomorrow thinking in the same way you did prior to starting this journey of the authentic and soulful teacher. So, what has brought you to this point? Have you already been nibbling on the red pill? If so, you might as well swallow it and break all the illusions related to what keeps your teaching as it is, or what it would take to change it—some subconscious soul work.


If you are considering the red pill, do not do this alone. Find a support group in your teaching environment where more of your colleagues are also taking the red pill and are ready to break the illusions of what they believe is real.

Maybe it is a learning community (Samaras, Freese, Kosnik, & Beck, 2008), a Caritas learning community (Watson, 2008), or a circle of trust (Palmer, 2004). Each of these types of support groups offers a safe place to share and receive ideas and critiques of your teaching. As we will see later in our discussion regarding the shadow self, such a safety net is essential when we take the red pill and begin to develop our healthy authentic selves. Together, you will find not only help and safe support for the journey but also a motivation to keep going. Such motivation is key to truly transforming our teaching.

In keeping with the theme of transformation, it is time to start the new profession that is presented by Palmer (2007). “Most will continue to lie low because they fear reprisals or are so overworked that they lack time and energy for advocacy. A vigilant public that speaks truth to power will always be needed” (p. 203). Palmer suggests that this new approach to teaching will require a new profession with five goals:

1. We must help our students debunk the myth that institutions possess autonomous, even ultimate, power over our lives.

2. We must validate the importance of our students' emotions as well as their intellect. (creates affective literacy)

3. We must teach our students how to “mine” their emotions for knowledge. (increases affective literacy)

4. We must teach the students how to cultivate community for the sake of both knowing and doing.

5. We must teach—and model for our students—what it means to be on the journey toward “an undivided life.” (p. 205)

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