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Peltz, M.L. (1997). On Trying To Teach: The Mind In Correspondence. By M. Robert Gardner. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1994, 163 pp., $24.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:617-619.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:617-619

On Trying To Teach: The Mind In Correspondence. By M. Robert Gardner. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1994, 163 pp., $24.95.

Review by:
Morris L Peltz

M. Robert Gardner

In a very charming vignette early in this book, Gardner describes how his three-and-a-half-year-old grandson succeeded in teaching him to be a better teacher: “I realized that what my grandson was trying most to learn was not how to paint but how to take a stand against the tyranny of well-meaning others” (p. 67). This is but one of many simple lessons this wise teacher succeeds in teaching his readers.

Driven by his personal furor to teach, Gardner characterizes the attitude of a true teacher. He is impelled by his need to teach. He is not ashamed of this excessive need. Rather, he glories in it. The true teacher is unselfconsciously convinced that only he can fill educational voids, “teach the unteachable, [and] … teach the teachable in ways unmanageable” (p. 10). (But there is bedrock unteachable, and Gardner had to learn the hard way. Essentials are unteachable.) At the same time a true teacher must be willing to take risks, learn that failures are inevitable, and that criticism is always just around the corner. A true teacher must not be daunted by what he doesn't know. When asked questions for which he has no answers, he questions his questioner. His aim is to deepen his students' curiosity. A true teacher is dedicated to nurturing his students' creativity. At the same time, he must teach the discipline necessary to cultivate latent potentials without extinguishing them. A partnership must be forged between the teacher and his student that respects the latter's needs while simultaneously fostering his growing autonomy and independence.

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