Book recommendation….and a little personal privilege please….

I know that many educators are big fans of Parker Palmer, so perhaps many of you know of his latest book: On the Brink of Everything. The cover tells us that the book is about “Grace, Gravity and Getting Old.”  My wife gave it to me.  Is she trying to tell me something?

It’s the kind of book you can read out of order.  You can just pick a chapter that sounds promising, which is what I did.  I started with the chapter entitled “Work and Vocation: Writing a Life.”  In the chapter Mr. Palmer lists the many jobs he has had in his 79 years, going all the way back to mowing lawns when he was 13. He’s also been a caddy, and a maintenance man at a public beach, long before he became a “professor, dean, writer, founder of a nonprofit, and workshop and retreat leader.”

The sentence that captured me was this:

The way I’ve earned my keep has changed frequently, but my vocation has remained the same: I’m a teacher-and-learner, a vocation I’ve pursued through thick and thin in every era of my life.

I can relate, as I expect many of you can.  I know that most of the Daily Dawg readers are administrators, but you are still teachers.  As am I.  I hope you don’t find it offensive that I describe myself that way. “But, Dawg,” some of you may be thinking, “you’re a lawyer.”

Yes.  I have the training, credentials, and professional skill set of a lawyer. But I’m a teacher. I figured that out a long time ago.  God made me a teacher. I decided to become a lawyer, and have figured out a way to do what teachers do, with a curriculum based on the law.

What do teachers do?  Four things: first, they learn.  Teachers model lifelong learning. They are curious, hungry for knowledge.  Teachers know that the more they know, the more they know how much they don’t know.

Second, they prepare.  They create materials. They write, they produce art, they modify and interpret existing works, and now more than ever, they learn to use new technologies.

Third, they perform. When I think of the most impactful teachers I have had I see that they were all performers.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they were entertaining. It means they could hold the attention of the class, convey their enthusiasm for the subject. They were energetic, alive.  This was true of Sister Luca in 4th grade, Mrs. Frizzell in 7th grade, Father Donovan in high school, Professor Devine at UT, and  Stanley Johanson at UT Law.

Fourth, they take all of that learning, preparation, and performing and use it to teach, to impart to others the essential knowledge and skills in a particular area.

That’s what I’m trying to do here at the Daily Dawg, and since, at my core, I am a teacher, this is what I find most professionally satisfying.  However, I do miss the performing part, and I’m looking forward to the live presentations that are scheduled for the summer and fall! More on that tomorrow.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at

Tomorrow: About to be on the road again!