Caring Caresses and the Embodiment of Good Teaching


  • Stephen Smith



phenomenology, hermeneutic phenomenology, practice, teaching, pedagogy


Attention is drawn to the movements of the body and to the ethical imperative that emerges in compelling, flowing moments of teaching. Such moments of teaching are not primarily intellectual, discursive events, but physical, sensual experiences in which the body surrenders to its own movements. Teaching is recognized momentarily as a carnal intensity embedded in and emerging from the flesh. The ethical imperative to this teaching is felt proprioceptively and kinaesthetically when one holds in self-motion the well-being of another as being of the same flesh. The teaching caress offers a primary example. This gesture of intimacy discloses an embodied ethic that contrasts with the transcendental ethics of curricular prescriptions, professional codes of conduct, and the presumptions of self-monitoring behavior. It is a gesture of care for another person, without fastidious carefulness. It is a gesture of pure duration, without sanctimonious purity, in its contact with the beauty, truth and value of the teachable moment. From earliest engagements with children to the dynamics of the university classroom, what makes for good teaching is essentially attentiveness to intimate gestures, such as the caress, that guide teachers kinethically in the moment.