An Interview with John Perricone

Sometimes, I wonder about the cute titles that accompany books, but in this case, it is appropriate. Zen and the Art of Public School Teaching is written by John Perricone, a longtime high school teacher and a holder of a 6th degree black belt. From an interview conducted with Michael Shaughnessy (columnist with, Perricone says his most important message is,

The concept of "philosophical identity." It is my thesis in both my book, and my address that we 'teach who were [sic] are', and that it is our 'philosophical identity' -- our sense of mission or purpose that we envelop ourselves in each day as we enter the classroom (or lack of same) which ultimately distinguishes those who find joy and passion in the teaching profession from those who find drudgery and simply pick up a paycheck every two weeks. So, both in my book and in my Keynote address, I take my audience on an introspective journey looking first at their identity as a human being, then as a teacher, and then we look to see if and where those lines intersect.

This notion of philosophical identity is closely tied to his perspective on values in teaching:

That every human life has intrinsic worth, value, and dignity and that it is our job as teachers to give our students those tools and insights that will enable them to live their lives at the fullest and deepest expression of their humanity. If that isn't the ultimate goal of education, I'm not sure what any of us are doing in this profession.

"We teach who we are." And who should we be? From Attending to the Inner Life of an Educator: The Human Dimension in Education (pdf), Avraham Cohen's dissertation, are several responses, one of which is a poem by Rumi:

The Guesthouse

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all;
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Related posts:
Sacrifice and teaching
Ants Have Teachers
Code of Ethics