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Only Those Who See Take Off Their Shoes: Seeing the Classroom as a Spiritual Space


by Frances Schoonmaker — 2009

Background/Context: Spirituality refers to a way of being that includes the capacity of humans to see beyond themselves, to become more than they are, to see mystery and wonder in the world around them, and to experience private and collective moments of awe, wonder, and transcendence. Though there is growing interest in spirituality and education, there is little evidence that it is intentionally included in most public school classrooms.

Purpose and Focus: The author's personal experiences as a classroom teacher, adult early recollections of spiritual experience, and children's responses to literature with spiritual themes are used to illustrate three points: (1) Although practice of spiritual discipline may help teachers to be more sensitive to spiritual experiences, it does not necessarily follow that they know what to do with them in the classroom. (2) Early recollections of spiritual experiences and reflection on what these mean for classroom practice may be a way of helping teachers learn how to identify and support spirituality in the classroom. (3) Teachers need to recognize that children's spirituality is part of their being in the world, and honoring it in the classroom requires providing opportunities for its expression within the ordinary events of classroom life.

Research Design: The article is an essay, juxtaposing literature on children's spirituality with the author's personal experiences as a classroom teacher and researcher to make an argument for classrooms as spiritual spaces.

Conclusions: The possibilities inherent in discovering and coming to know--possibilities that are hopeful and open us up to the "more-than-ness" of being human--are often closed off in the day-to-day press of classroom life because teachers are not prepared to consider them, and they are not considered part of the curriculum. The author concludes that educators need to learn how to see the spirituality inherent in the everyday acts of learning, in coming to know, and in being in the classroom and to make space for the unseen. Further research is needed to articulate both theory and practice related to children's spirituality in the classroom.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 12, 2009, p. 2713-2731
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15782, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 3:37:00 AM

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About the Author
  • Frances Schoonmaker
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    FRANCES SCHOONMAKER, professor emeritus, Teachers College, Columbia University, studies history, theory, and practice of curriculum, supervision, and teaching. Current collaborations are design of K–12 Sunday school curriculum (at home in Baltimore) and teacher induction curriculum (TC, in Jordan). Recent articles: “What Holds Academically Able Teachers in the Profession? A Study of Three Teachers,” Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 13(3), 247–267, with Christine Clayton, and “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Reopening the Research-Practice Connection,” Theory Into Practice, 46(4), 264–271.
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