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The Oath (for educators)

Medical doctors have--for thousands of years--sworn an oath of non-harm. Originally adopted by Greek physicians as a promise to Apollo the healer, the Hippocratic Oath has been modified over the centuries and remains a traditional reminder of the doctor's ethical duty of care to his or her patients.

It makes sense, given the vital importance of sound medical care to a functioning community. Doctors and patients can take comfort in a basic anchoring pledge--First, do no harm.

But are there other professions that are so essential as to need an oath of non-harm? Some reminder of the core mission, should distractions and hardships arise?

I can think of several. At the moment--with eighteen months of disrupted education behind us and an uncertain school year ahead--I'm thinking of education.

Teachers have immense power over their students. They have the capacity to influence for good or ill. What would a Hippocratic Oath For Educators look like? Would you sign one? My attempt below:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won pedagogical gains of those educators in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow. I will likewise embrace new, effective methodologies.

I will apply, for the benefit of children, all teaching tools [that] are required, avoiding the trap of rote busywork and instead striving for continual mastery.

I will remember that there is art to education as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the rebuke or punishment.

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not", nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a child’s learning.

I will remember that children are precious souls--not units of learning, revenue, or boxes to check.

I will do my utmost to shield the children in my care from any harm caused by a distant and unknowing system, in spite of what bureaucratic mandates and constraints trickle down to me.

I will never hold in contempt the people I am called to serve, namely, my students and their parents.

I will remember that a child may thrive best in another educator’s classroom, or in another school. I therefore solemnly swear never to take any action which will result in confining a child to a classroom or school that does not fully meet their needs.

Just as I enjoy flexibility in choosing the school at which I teach, I affirm the rights of parents and children to have the same level of flexibility in choosing a school in which to learn.

I will remember that I have a special duty of care to all children, and an obligation to meet them where they are on the learning scale.

If I do not violate this oath, may I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of teaching those who seek my help.


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