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

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.

Teaching with Tenderness follows in the tradition of bell hooks's Teaching to Transgress and Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, inviting us to draw upon contemplative practices (yoga, meditation, free writing, mindfulness, ritual) to keep our hearts open as we reckon with multiple injustices. Teaching with tenderness makes room for emotion, offers a witness for experiences people have buried, welcomes silence, breath and movement, and sees justice as key to our survival. It allows us to rethink our relationship to grading, office hours, desks, and faculty meetings, sees paradox as a constant companion, moves us beyond binaries; and praises self and community care.

Tenderness examines contemporary challenges to teaching about race, gender, class, nationality, sexuality, religion, and other hierarchies. It examines the ethical, emotional, political, and spiritual challenges of teaching power-laden, charged issues and the consequences of shifting power relations in the classroom and in the community. Attention to current contributions in the areas of contemplative practices, trauma theory, multiracial feminist pedagogy, and activism enable us to envision steps toward a pedagogy of liberation. The book encourages active engagement and makes room for self-reflective learning, teaching, and scholarship.


"This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the challenge and promise of interdisciplinary work that takes the whole person into account as part of envisioning a pedagogy where all things are done as if everyone mattered -- body, mind, and all."--Reflective Teaching

"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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