Cover for Thompson: Teaching with Tenderness: Toward an Embodied Practice. Click for larger image

Teaching with Tenderness

Toward an Embodied Practice

A lesson plan for bringing higher awareness to education

Imagine a classroom that explores the twinned ideas of embodied teaching and a pedagogy of tenderness. Becky Thompson envisions such a curriculum—and a way of being—that promises to bring about a sea change in education.

Thompson's pedagogy of tenderness encompasses a student's whole self, helping the individual to merge mind, body, spirit, and emotions to achieve true understanding. As she shows, teaching with tenderness encourages us to truly listen to one another; makes room for emotion and uncomfortable perspectives; and welcomes silence, breathing, and movement. The patience and mindful attentiveness that emerges spurs students to achieve great work drawn from their best selves. Throughout, Thompson invites readers into her classroom and the lives of her students to illuminate how methods like yoga and sleep for overworked students have led to dramatic transformations.

Drawing on mindfulness practices, feminist pedagogy, and trauma theory, Teaching with Tenderness is a roadmap for revitalizing the classroom and the living, breathing beings who inhabit its space.

"In bold and lyrical prose, Becky Thompson offers a practical model for embodied teaching, for a classroom where painful realities like genocide, slavery, colonization, and rape culture can become the subject of fearless—or fear transcending—study. The word 'tenderness' . . . may soften the lens of inquiry. Thompson retrieves its etymology for a pedagogy of silent witness, contemplation, attention, presence, patience, skillful confrontation, and perseverance of heroic proportions. This is how the word is used in my own (Quaker) tradition, as (to paraphrase Adrienne Rich) an 'instrument to touch the wound beyond the wound.' And, as an experienced yoga teacher, she invites the body and its stories into the classroom, using both asana and Vedic philosophy to help students awaken, rest, cool off, even nap. Thompson's experience is deep and her exposition infinitely subtle. I love this radical book down to its tiniest footnote."—Mary Rose O'Reilley, author of The Peaceable Classroom

"Drawing on women-of-colors theories, multiracial feminist pedagogy, contemplative practices, trauma studies, yoga, and a wide array of additional scholarship from diverse disciplines, Thompson develops innovative pedagogies of tenderness—radically inclusive, relational, generous, visionary modes of interacting with others."—AnaLouise Keating, author of Teaching Transformation: Transcultural Classroom Dialogues

Becky Thompson is a professor of sociology at Simmons College. Her books include Survivors on the Yoga Mat: Stories for Those Healing from Trauma and A Promise and a Way of Life: White Antiracist Activism.

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