I am a doctoral candidate in education and one of the theorists for my work is Parker Palmer, an American educator. In his book, The Courage to Teach, he said something I thought perfect for my research and which I was hoping to use as an informal motto for us in the International Studies in Education program at the University of Iceland. The phrase is:

"We teach who we are."

The author referred to this by saying, "Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one´s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. [Thus,] [g]ood teaching requires self-knowledge: it is a secret hidden in plain sight."

Could someone help me in creating a viable Latin translation? Thank you very much!

  • Welcome to the site! Can you elaborate a bit on what the phrase means? Literal translation of short mottoes can be difficult or impossible, so it is often best (and always safest) to understand the original well and then re-express it in Latin and perhaps compress it to be as succinct as the original. You can always edit your question to add details.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 13:59
  • Hi Joonas, and thank you for your helpful suggestion.
    – José
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


"We teach what we are" seems closer to your intended meaning. Here is one way of rendering that in Latin:

Quod docemus sumus.

Or, perhaps:

Quod sumus docemus.

  • This is very helpful, thank you. One further question, would not "qui" work to convey the "who we are" better than "quod"? As in "Qui sumus docemus"?
    – José
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 13:18
  • No, just for the reason that Anonym gives.
    – Doubt
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 21:04

This is actually a bit difficult to translate into Latin, in part because the English isn't what one might call 'grammatically rigorous'.

A literal translation like qui sumus docemus would mean 'we, who are, teach'.

The other answer is on the right track: quod sumus docemus can mean 'what we are, we teach' in the sense that what makes us up is what we teach. But I don't think it's quite there.

I'd suggest ut sumus, sic docemus 'as we are, so do we teach'.

Small Update:

A more mellifluous word order might be sicut sumus docemus, which could also be arranged as docemus sicut sumus.

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