Friday, December 12, 2014

Stretching Minds and Stretching Hearts

This morning I came across a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes that I think is a fitting reminder for teachers:

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."

Any implicit gender-bias aside, I hope and pray that this is what is happening in the courses I teach.

Image (modified) by Gregory Marton [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

I hope the things we read, and view, and discuss, and wrestle through, and write about, and wonder make a difference for the way my students understand the world and their place in it.

I hope that they keep thinking and dreaming and pondering.

I hope that they are a bit dissatisfied when there aren't easy, obvious answers.

I hope that, through our work, they learn more than just the specific content outlined in the syllabus.

I hope they learn...
how to think,
      how to care,
            how to juggle,
                  how to steward,
                        how to play,
                              how to argue,
                                    how to love their neighbor as themselves.

Learning is so much more than just head-knowledge, though it certainly is that. It's also "heart-knowledge." I want my students to "get it," but not just in their their hearts as well.

My friend, Syd Hielema, once told me, "The distance between head and heart is the longest twelve inches." I think he's right.

This haunts me: do my students "get it" in their heads, but not in their hearts?

Because if you simply "know" something, but don't act on that knowledge—putting it into practice—do you actually know it?

So I do hope that my students' minds are stretched, but I hope their hearts are stretched as well. And I hope that these stretchings will result in changes that cause them to never regain their original dimensions.


  1. I hope I can well-reflect this to the depth it is well-written. Enjoyed the thought

    1. Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to comment, Scott!