Reverence in Classroom Teaching
by Jim Garrison & A.G. Rud — 2009
Background/Context: Our article develops insights from Paul Woodruff’s book, Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (Oxford University Press, 2001), to discuss reverence in teaching. We show how reverence is both a cardinal and a forgotten virtue by situating it within the philosophical tradition of virtue ethics, which involves traits of character as embodied predispositions to act in certain ways in concrete contexts. Virtue ethics sometimes conflicts with abstract, rule-governed ethics, much as the ethics of care does. Virtue ethics appeals to emotional conviction in ways that rule-governed ethics does not. This article looks specifically at the emotions of shame and respect that are associated with reverence for the high ideals that may bind together an otherwise diverse, even diverging, schooling community.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this article is to understand spiritual dimensions of teaching by elucidating the cardinal and forgotten virtue of reverence. Reverence has a power beyond a typical understanding of it as something religious. The article shows reverence in a wider context that does not diminish its spiritual connotations, but rather shows its importance and relevance to teaching in today’s classrooms. The study considers how the virtue of reverence is supported by appropriate classroom ritual and ceremony and discusses several examples of reverence and irreverence in classroom teaching.
Research Design: Philosophical analysis combined with qualitative case study analyses as illustrations.
Conclusions/Recommendations: To be reverent is to realize that we as humans are limited and imperfect, and the proper reaction to this state is humility, awe, and wonder. In subsequent articles, we will examine reverence in educational leadership and in a school’s community. Our goal in this article and those to follow is to restore reverence to its rightful place in the ordinary daily activities of teachers in relation to administrators, students, and parents in school and in the community.
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