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December 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Message from Chaz Pugliese, Director of Education and Teacher Training, Pilgrims

Dear Pilgrims Friend,

Lately I’ve been reflecting on what constitutes ‘good’ teaching. A notoriously tricky issue, this: for starters, ‘good’ compared to what? What makes me say at the end of a lesson I’ve taught: ‘Yes, that was it.’ What is ‘it’? Is it when I ‘feel’ the students have learnt something they didn’t know before? Something that was useful, perhaps? Or relevant? Or all that?

Or is it when I managed to get the students to use the language in a variety of meaningful contexts? Is it when everything went according to plan? But what if I didn’t have any plan to begin with? So, ‘good’ is a rather elusive concept, in philosophy as well as in education…

In searching for an answer that would make some sort of sense, I went back to R. Rilke’s ‘Letters to a Young poet’, a collection of ten letters Rilke wrote to a young fellow who was requesting an assessment of his work. An excerpt as follows:

You ask me if your verses are any good: you compare them with other poems… I beg you to stop doing all that…You are looking outwards, no one can give you any advice or help you. Reach deep within yourself: what drives you to write? Would you give your life if you were forbidden to write?... There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer.’

So, Rilke, not at all willing to dispense shallow tips and advice, chooses instead to encourage his budding poet into doing introspective work. John Dewey famously said that you we don’t learn from experience: we learn from reflecting on experience. That rings true to me. Reflection on experience leads to empowerment, which in turn leads to development and growth.

We will be dealing with these themes in our January Café. If you want to take part in a Pilgrims café, please send us an email here:

In the meantime enjoy this issue of HLT, and stay safe.



Chaz Pugliese
Director of Education and Teacher Training, Pilgrims



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