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Taking the Oath


Anthony Cody, a consulting teacher in Oakland, California, says that, as a profession, teachers "lack an agreed-upon credo." To fill the gap, he offers a draft teacher's oath, and asks for reactions.

What's your view? Do teachers, like doctors, need a professional oath? What language should it include?


Teachers must view their students as young people who are growing up-- not bad children who need reprimanding and shaping. (Consider the two views of the story of Pinocchio: Collodi and Disney).

As a secondary educator, I see far too many teachers who dislike all adolescents and feel it is their duty to create a population of "well-behaved citizens."

Teachers, like doctors, have the power to heal- heal the human spirit and mind; the power to teach- teach how to maintain a healthy balance in life; the power to affect, either positively or negatively, another human being for a life time. So yes, we as teachers need a sober reminder of the impact we have on students, a formal promise to do our best and willingly cause no harm, no matter what age range we teach. We also need to remember that every student in our classroom is someone's most precious gift. I can still remember specific things said to me by my teachers. Each day when we walk into the classroom, our words and actions may be burned into another's memory forever.

We come to teaching through multiple pathways and we practice our profession in diverse settings. And while teaching may be the most ubiquitous of all professions, it may also be the least transparent because the product of learning is complex and abstract and varies to meet the needs and goals of the students with whom we work. It seems that an oath could serve as a charge for emergent teachers, a sustaining vision for practicing teachers, and a clarification of who we are and what we are about to the communities in which we work.

Since we are expected to be professionals and with such a teacher's oath, will we also get paid as professionals? :-/

Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

This notion is absurd, and indicative of a growing neediness and chest-thumping in the teaching profession. The reality is that teaching as a profession has never been taken seriously, and will always find itself in that nexus between a job and a career. With the recent scandals involving teacher misconduct capturing public attention, I recommend that that focus shift to closer scrutiny of the training, selection, and supervisory process.

Wow - so beautifully written. Where do I sign up to take the oath?

Thank you, James. I knew it would not take long for someone to whine about the money. For some, it is always about the money. Feel free to choose another high-paying career. Did someone tell you at your university that teachers made the same pay as basketball players? No wonder you are bitter.
I thank God I have served as a teacher for 24 years.

You have captured the very essence of what is means to be a teacher. Those qualititative measures of our job are so much more important than any quantitative measure on some standardized test. Thanks Anthony for sharing!

Teachers have enough on their plates without being given another standard that will, no doubt, end up being impossible to attain.

I love it.

I have always maintained that the admonition
"First, do no harm" applies beautifully in the classroom, and it has guided me through almost 30 years of teaching.

What a great idea! Let's have some discussion on what should be included in this oath.

Also, maybe a Socratic Oath is a better name for it? And a new motto: That More May Learn More!

It is always a pleasure to find like-minded people and in a time when teachers are required to do things (witness excessive testing) that they know harm their students, you and I have arrived at the same conclusion. On page 99 of my book The ABC's of Eduation: A Primer for Schools to Come, I wrote: "I imagine something akin to the Hippocratic Oath here—before entering the classroom, each teachers pauses and recites, 'First, do no harm.'" Kudos to the teachers who share this value— it is good to know we're out there. Anthony, I write from San Francisco- let's meet and talk!

The ideas contained in the oath are certainly ones to which I susbscribe, but let's face it: in our society, doctors are respected partly because they make so much money; partly because it's so hard to become one (entrance to med school and length of time in school, internship, and residency); and mostly, I expect, because they often provide immediate, obvious results in terms of saving lives and improving quality of life. The pay-off of having had good teachers may be, over time, as great as or greater than that of having had good doctors; but the results aren't as obvious or as immediate to most people.

Anthony, We should read this before the start of every day! thanks

I don't think physicians are respected because of their oath, so I don't think an oath is what will earn respect for teachers. The ideas contained in the suggested oath are laudable, but not necessarily well expressed. The concept of a teaching might be worth developing, but I don't foresee this particular draft being embraced by a large segment of our colleagues.

It is easy to tell from the comments above who considers their "job" a profession. Regardless of pay, teachers (and anyone, for that matter) should take pride in what they do and strive to improve their skills and better themselves.

I pray that I instill hope and courage in my students as well as knowledge. Knowledge is but part of a well-rounded individual. We teachers need to remember that.

I think this is beautifully written. In response to other comments, saying these words as an "oath" does not mean one is begging for respect or recognition. Instead, I hope it is philosophies like those written here that teachers adhere to in the classroom. By no means is an oath such as this one another unattainable expectation for teachers - instead it should be a goal to strive for; words to live by. There are some responses here to whom I wish to respond: cynicism is not an attribute of successful teachers. Cheer up!

While eloquent, the oath is a lot of 'fluff' representing no real substance.

I love it! It is very nice to end my 32 year career as a teacher of students with this wonderful validation. I hope you move forward with this oath. I have 4 more months left before I begin my new adventure as a retired teacher, but in the meantime, I will continue to do what is best for my students, learn from them and my peers, and live "outside the box" when planning my lessons. I like the idea of calling it the Socratic Oath.

Teacher need several things. Support from adminstrators, equipment that works every time, helpful co-teachers, books and supplies for every student and a living wage. Taking a oath will not change anyones level of commitment or decrease class size.

Doctors do not have respect because they have to say an oath. I don't understand how Anthony Cody came to that conclusion, and the truth is doctors aren't as respected as we are led to believe -- that's a myth; just read the newspapers and follow legislation at state and national levels. If doctors are so well-respected, why are we writing laws to protect them from us, or us from them? Also, the Hippocratic Oath isn't used anymore, or if it is, some modern version is used because the original one... well you all can look it up and see for yourselves.

No, if you want to create some sort of respect for teachers, you can't. You can only create respect for yourself. If you want to be a great teacher, then become one. I say it like it's easy, and even though we all know it's not, you can only do it for yourself. Hopefully, you'll be an influence on other teachers and more teachers will become great. Creating an oath because some other profession did it is reactionary; uttering that oath is pomp (without cirumstance).

"I will respect the hard-won gains of those educators in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow."
Wow! I almost didn't read this article since I expected yet another "blame game" piece. I'm posting this in my classroom with one addition: I WILL SEEK OUT NEW EDUCATORS AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION, (mentoring when possible) TO MAINTAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT AND WONDER ABOUT MY CALLING TO TEACHING.

Any thing that calls attention to our profession and what we are all about is important. Sure, we don't need an oath to care about our students, but the oath serves as reminder as to what we as a profession are all about.
We make a difference in the lives of our students and their families and the oath should serve as a reminder of our commitment to society.

I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of the oath--I'd like to see something that pledges teachers to believing (or at least modeling their practices on the belief) that all children can learn. "No one rises to low expectations"--isn't that how the old adage goes?

I also respectfully disagree with the some of the comments regarding respect and the medical profession--if laws are being written to protect us from the medical profession, it's not because of a lack of respect, but because doctors have amassed so much power in our society.

The process by which they amassed that power is documented in Paul Starr's _The Social Transformation of American Medicine_ among many others. If teachers and teacher advocates want to transform the image of the profession (and in my opinion it's a process that's already under way, being assisted by the erosion of so many other forms of work in our "new economy"), they could do worse than following the example set by American medicine.

Yes, all students are young people who are growing up; that's fairly obvious. What isn't obvious to some is that some children are bad: they abuse other children, physically and verbally. They also abuse children by disrupting classrooms and interfering with the educational process. These children are behaving badly. They do need shaping and sometimes that may meet the definition of reprimands. To not shape poor behavior is to tolerate it, which is the same as teaching it. Too many of us with a spine are seen as heartless. I suggest those who don't set appropriate standards are heartless, as well as gutless.

Thought I would throw this into the fray.
It is a bit more streamlined than Anthony's, yet gets at the same issues.
To all who teach... Now is no time to let up! The children need you!

Ten Commandments for Teachers

Be inspired if you would inspire others.
Be willing to give; teaching humbles.
Develop your intellect.
Supply the real needs of your students.
Share with your fellow teachers.
Be fair to those you dislike as well as those you like.
Discern when to follow the book and when to throw the book away.
Work harder than you ask others to work
Plan for people, not for charts.
Enjoy your work; God loves a cheerful giver.
-Henry F. Birkenhauer SJ
President, John Carroll University 1970-1980

First published in the 1975 Catholic Universe Bulletin

Perhaps the models of the Pledge of Allegiance or the vows taken by a newly inaugurated president can serve the profession in better stead than the Hippocratic Oath. These utterances are not taken in order to garner respect for the utterer but rather to honor and publicly state ones belief and intention to uphold and practice the tenets of that belief, in this case, public school education.

Unfortunately, most of the public sees teachers simply as civil servants. We’re nothing more, nothing less than "government" employees. Your level of education and working conditions are irrelevant, as far as they're concerned. They pay your salary, and it’s way too much for the amount of days you work. This means that if you work in an impoverished district (like I do) many resent the fact that you earn more than them and drive a nicer car. In wealthy districts (like where my wife works) many view teachers as the "hired help." As long as our salaries come from their taxes, especially local levies, that will always be their perception. Teachers will never be seen in same light as doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. In addition to the fact that most of them are not paid with tax dollars, they have their own organizations that set and enforce their own professional standards. Educator standards are set and enforced by the government, often with little input from real teachers.

I, too, also like the idea of calling it the "Socratic Oath." Where would any civilization aka "humanity" be without the teachers of the past?

In the middle of my teaching career I spent five years as a special education family counselor and as a junior high school counselor. I have said since then that my teaching style (as per education college standards) was ruined because since then I have focused on the heart first and then the head.

Within the past month a mother of a second grade student I taught in 1983 told me that I was still her child's favorite teacher. I had not realized that! I still have memories of that same child being totally unorganized, unable to remember what she read, and her desk was a "black hole" of papers hibernating to stay warm and safe. That same child has since studied overseas, is fluent in a second language, and has a Master's Degree and is gainfully employed in the business sector. However, in that classroom back then, I treated all children with respect and kindness and sought to understand where they were coming from and where they were going to.

When I retired a year and a half ago I felt that warmth, sympathy and understanding were being forced out of the window because of NCLB. My administrator appeared to believe that children were objects, not children, as she required me to treat them like objects to be tested.

THUS, I personally favor the third portion of the oath:
"I will remember that there is art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the textbook reading or the multiple choice test."

Excellent idea, the time has come to recognize the teacher profession in the same light as the doctors and lawyers of the world; afterall they passed through us first!

I for one think that we should take an oath. An oath is a promise to do something. I thought these statements to be true and accurate and ones that should be espoused by all who teach. A doctor is respected for many reasons. The ones that come to mind are the years of study, rigourous testing, and the hours of work put in each week. They give out their home phone numbers, are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, etc. How many of you are willing to do that? We hide behind contracts and unions. Doctors do not. Until we quit whining how bad we have it we will never get the respect teachers get in other countries, period!!!!

I appreciate the intention and sentiment...and
even the potential practicality of an oath in
the professional sense as the medical doctor does.
However, I think that this will only wash ultimately if it is pursued via federal congressional law. Since we do not have a national education system, but 50 plus separate
systems and systems within each state or commonwealth, we are fooling ourselves, unless we
can adopt a national organization that one must
enter in order to work in the profession. NEA is
not going to cut it, but PHI DELTA KAPPA might be
the avenue to take. (as in AMA, or ABA)
We've got to remember that the teaching profession is rife with partisan politics based on
relative values...basically humanistic religious
standards that are contrary to our national tradition and beliefs. If we don't believe that we as adult teachers are empowered by a higher power, but only the alleged millions of years progress out of the primordial slime, then our
ethics and morality base is completely relative and inherently ambiguous. The question then is
to ask what is our "oath" going to give the students we are entrusted with?

Seems to me that an oath would be appropriate as long as it stated within, "First, do no harm."

I find it sad that so many respondents feel so disrespected in their profession when, according to many recent polls, surveys, and studies, teachers are routinely ranked in the top 5: an AOL survey put teachers in the third spot behind doctors and soldier, in a survey conducted by Forbes magazine 75% of respondents rated teachers as having "Considerable" or "Very Great" prestige. Lawyers, on the other hand, were ranked near the bottom with 20% of respondents saying they had "no prestige at all." The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gallup, and other surveys have also recently ranked teachers as one of the nation's most respected professions. Gallup even had them ranked above, yes, physicians.

True, this doesn't seem to translate into salary or funding, but money doesn't always follow respect. And we don't always experience this respect from our students and their parents, but if we're honest, this is often our own fault!We are clearly not working in an unrespected profession - quite the opposite. Oath or not, we should all take heart - what we have always known to be true about teaching, stated so well by many above, is known by many outside of our profession as well.

I don't see anything prohibiting teachers from treating CHILDREN as sex objects and sexual targets. This is the elephant in the room that must be addressed. Too many teachers are crossing the line. Every school in every school district should be looking teachers in the eye and reminding them of this. Now!

By following this oath, I am able to wake up each day and believe that I can influence others. When asked what I teach, I say kids. The real question is what will students rememeber 25 years from now. I hope they remember me as a person willing to help and set an example that leads them with confidence and hope.

To William: This "fluff with no substance" is actually the mortar that cements the foundation for real learning growth by all students. This "fluff" is the internal heart of true teachers that drives us to continually strive to be the best we can be for the sake of those in our charge.

This is crap. The only shining point here is that it recognizes that teaching is a profession, not a vocation. However, it has no statement of purpose.
There's nothing about why you teach.
The part about "busywork" is crap too. An oath for teachers is not a place for a political statemnet about whether or not rote rehearsal is a usefull teaching tool. Let me give you a hint, teachers who hand out busywork to give busywork won't care about an oath anyway. Teachers who expect students to memorize multiplication tables do it because it's an "effetive teaching tool" they're not discounting.

I like the direction the author is going with the oath. It seems to me to be too long. How long is the medical oath.

Everything he touches on in the oath I am in agreement with. Fellow teachers, students, but what about parents? Should anything be in their about how teachers need to be part of a team to educate the child? Just my thoughts.

If we have an oath like doctors, lawyers, etc then we should get paid more too. We should be a tean at all times. Yes, chidlren need direction at all times not matter what ages they are. Yet, you all forgot the Exceptional Student Education Program with Gifted to Severely Mentally Handicapped with the Gifted chidlren receiving more of the over all funding then the other disabilities along with matrix. Equality, fairness and working as a team 100% with professional wages, health care coverage and retirement program.

Oath? More like a creed. What I'd like to see is a student oath, something along the lines of: I will do my best, turn in all my work, respect the teacher, etc. In every profession there are always a few who make the group look bad. I believe that more than not do what you have listed on your teacher oath already. I see the low priority placed on education by parents as one of the main reasons teachers are coming under attack. What other occupation has to deal with legislation, standards, meetings, individualized instruction, non-English learners, ADD, ADHD, the other myriad of acronyms of medical issues, and apathy on behalf of their legislators, parents and students themselves? Oath? For Teachers? Get real!

If you want to hold me to the standards of a physician, then PAY ME like one.

Wow! An amazing response! This certainly touches a raw nerve.

There are those who feel that an oath is not relevant to respect for our profession. I agree that there is no one thing, no magic bullet that is going to magically raise our professional standing. Instead, there are many things, such as solid induction, better salaries, National Board certification, collegiality and collaboration, teacher research, and so on. An oath is just one piece of the puzzle.

I think that in spite of the respect for our profession that exists, teachers feel under systemic attack. I feel a need to assert what it means to be a teacher, in a serious way.

The other versions proposed are certainly worthy of consideration. I took the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath and reworked it for our profession. I am not sure how or if we can come to a consensus here, but it is a great discussion!

Just because doctor's take an oath, it does not mean that they are all excellent physicians. Many get mired in scandal and malpractice, no different than the much more publicized teacher scandals. Doctors, however, have a professional organization that seems to be able to keep their misconduct secret. The point is, an oath does nothing to make doctors better or worse just as it will do nothing to make teachers better or worse. Empty words really don't motivate me. I don't have a teaching job, I have a teaching career and continue to strive to be the best even in year 18 of my career. It's called a work ethic and an oath is not a substitute for it.

If an oath is necessary for anyone to become a teacher, then our profession is in more trouble than we thought. But if an oath is what you want, how about we "pledge" to address each student as an individual. When will teachers ever realize that all kids are different, that they all arrive in September with different strengths and weakneses, and that they all learn at different rates? 85-90 percent of instruction in US classrooms is whole group? If medical doctors or attorneys managed their clientele the way teachers manage theirs they'd be out of business by the end of the week.

I am glad to see the whole child mentioned in the oath. As NCLB, Reading First, scripted teaching, state standards are promoted, we have lost sight of the students having experiences and feelings not predicted by the teacher's text. Luckily our students are not robots and can be quite creative with their processing, oral and writing responses. We have to stop thinking that there is always one right answer and that our students are not making progress because they didn't give the testing companies answer on the test. What happened to the value of thinking, appreciation of art, music, literature? How many years to we have to make hissy, burpy sounds called phonics before we can start reading for the joy of learning.

I strongly believe that we need an oath for teachers. I have written an article called "Ten commandments of Teachers" at www.starteaching.com.
How tragic that anyone should consider it chest-thunmping to conceive of another means to weed out teachers who can't or won't committ to the extraordinary call to public service.Obviously he has never taught in school- still a graduate student and not in the real world yet. If such an oath is created, violation of it must carry some punitive measures. Most states do have a statement of professional standards. Ironically, most teachers I know don't even realize it exists.

It is my hope that all educators have made this covenant with themselves as part of the social contract for good citizenship, not just for teaching. Without that foundation, an oath is as vacuous as the Pledge of Allegiance has become. What if, instead of making empty promises, all educators had the courage to speak up despite fear of retribution? That way, we might uphold our social contract, restore some dignity to the First Amendment, AND improve the state of education. Oh, but wait, maybe that's just too much to ask...

It is my hope that all educators have made this covenant with themselves as part of the social contract for good citizenship, not just for teaching. Without that foundation, an oath is as vacuous as the Pledge of Allegiance has become. What if, instead of making empty promises, all educators had the courage to speak up despite fear of retribution? That way, we might uphold our social contract, restore some dignity to the First Amendment, AND improve the state of education. Oh, but wait, maybe that's just too much to ask...

I'm so glad to have found this! I have spent the last year launching an online professional community for teachers, and one of the first things we ask our members to do is affirm our version of the Hippocratic Oath for teachers. (Our version, very similar to yours, is here: http://teachingexcellencenetwork.org/downloads/statement_of_commitment.pdf).

The comments here have been fascinating. To me, the oath is simply a way to step back and recognize what we stand for and how much we do. In a culture that reminds us mercilessly that we are not valued unless we can get the test scores up, it is essential that we remind ourselves of our true purpose: teaching young people.

But we have to raise our voices, too. This oath can't be something that stays, like so much of teaching knowledge, inside the closed door of a classroom. If we truly hold these values as individuals, we need to find ways to agitate for our colleagues, our administrators, our unions, our media, and our politicians to recognize and support them.

Has anyone besides me noticed that no matter what the topic there are a certain percentage of responses along the lines of "no matter what you do..." continuing into how low the pay, how little the respect and how poor the working conditions?

If perhaps there was some way to weed out those continual malcontents (career counseling? mental health screeening? mandatory weekly sessions singing Kum Bah Yah?), mighten't the profession have a better chance at excelling?


There is a power in naming things. There is a power in asserting that when we take on the mantle of the teacher, there are some things we stand for. Yes, teachers should speak up more! Yes, we should treat each child as an individual!

Sarah, thank you for the link to the oath you have posted. It is indeed very similar!

I believe that most of the teachers I know would easily agree with all of the sentiments in the ideas of the oath. But I also believe that "those conitinual malcontents" (who are usually some of the best teachers I know) serve a purpose in our profession. More and more I find that the people who are not in the classroom each day, yet make all of our instructional decisions are so far out of touch with what is really happening. I teach first grade and honestly feel like I am not serving my children appropriately for their developmental levels. They are required to sit in their chairs all day and read text after text and take test after test. Does anyone relize how often a first grader is tested each week? It is ridiculous! Now ten years into it, I find I have less and less time for my own children (including a first grader). I leave for work at 6:30 am, stay until 4:30. Bring home a catalog suitcase filled with 2-3 hours of work each night and still I have stacks of paperwork that is needed to filed and input into databases. This isn't what I signed up for 10 years ago. I would hope that this "accountability" pendullum has swung as far to the right as it can. Maybe is will soon begin swinging back and we can all get back to work that was described so beautifully in the oath. The points made in the oath are what I got into teaching for, not sll this testing and paperwork.

Who is the oath for? You, us or the public? I did not need an oath when I entered education and I do not now. As the professional that I am, I live by flexibility, dedication and compassion. These are truly qualities needed to enter the teaching profession. Learning this after acquiring the degree seems pretty backwards to me. Expecting higher pay as the profession rises to meet higher standards is not unrealistic either. We still work for a living and have a right to expect to be paid for our efforts just like anyone else. As far as respect, I earn that from each and every student individually and I have never felt that any student walked out of my classroom without that respect for me as a human being and a teacher. They walk into my classroom deserving my respect as well. I rememeber students and hopefully always their names, I never remember grades. I am tough but fair and I expect them to learn as I teach them that they have a right to expect me to teach them each and everyday. I am opposed to the punitive part of NCLB but not opposed to accountability. As for chest thumping...we as teachers need to much more of that. Why are we afraid to shout out our successes? Certainly no one is afraid to shout out our failures. We need to be proud of what we do, stand behind ourseleves with conviction and shout it out from the rooftops. WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE EVERY DAY!

I think you ask an excellent question: "Who is the oath for? You, us or the public?"

In my view the oath is, first of all, for us, as teachers. Perhaps you did not need an oath when you began. Perhaps for you, your responsibilities were clear, and you understood what it meant to be a teacher, above and beyond containing a rambunctious classroom full of children. But so many teachers are entering the classroom today with little or no induction process . In my district, many teachers begin teaching with only a bachelor's degree, and earn their credential by doing coursework after school. They never student teach, never teach alongside a seasoned professional. For them I think these professional standards are much less clear.

The public at large is also a target here. We want everyone to know what we stand for. We want people to understand that if we fight against the domination of multiple choice tests it is not because we are afraid of accountability, but because we hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard, and we feel compelled to fight for what we feel is best for our students.

Yes, as teachers we must earn our students' respect. But I see our students weighed down by the same disapproval that falls on us, especially in this era when entire schools are labelled as "failing," and a popular reform is to get rid of the presumably faulty teachers. Yes, we do make a difference every day, and our students should know that BEFORE they walk in our doors, as well as after it. If our students had a better grasp of that, they might not be so cynical and turned off when they walk in our doors.

I agree completely with Anthony that the teaching profession needs something to draw attention to it's importance. As a recently graduated secondary Social Studies teacher with 6 years of substitute teaching experience, I feel that the general public does not take teaching seriously and in my opinion it is the most important profession in the world.

I have read many previous responses that suggest that teachers are not as important as doctors, lawyers, and engineers. This idea tells me that many teachers do need something to get them focused again on the student and their needs.

As far as doctors, lawyers, and engineers being so important and great how many of them were born great? How about our over idolized sports figures? Every single one of them needed a GOOD TEACHER to make them who they are today. Without good teaching the world would cease to exist.

I know that I will print out the oath and post it for all to see in my classroom.

Thanks to Dee an asst. principal to criticize James for wanting to be paid as a professional. Seems if you were so happy with your teachers pay you wouldn't have taken on an admin. position. If we need an oath which could have advantages, it should include the undivided support of parents and government. There should be mandates that there is no social promotion, and highly qualified would include the law makers setting the standards for education.

I heard Angel Cabrera, President of Thunderbird, an International Graduate School in Arizona, make this very same claim for business school graduates during a keynote address at Case Western Reserve's global forum: Business as an Agent of World Benefit in october 2006. I thought it was a terrific idea for business leaders given all the corruption, but if all the professions begin to take an oath of office, I think it may dilute the overall impact.

If only business leaders took oaths reflecting their commitment to ethics and the community at large! I think that would be a wonderful thing. I think all of us need to reflect a bit on what we are committed to, and if we are in the role of public service, I think we have an even greater obligation to actually adhere to a professional code. I think the process by which such a code would be arrived at could be a very rich one as well. When you enter the classroom, what are *you* committed to each day?

This oath flies in the face of what is going to today, such as NCLB Act, high stakes testing, and scripted lessons written by those far away from the classroom. Too bad our government officlals whose hands are being washed by greedy testing companies and publishers don't admit that the NCLB Act is doing harm to students, teachers, and our country. Programs such as DIBELS and Reading First are horrid and actually do HARM. It is the NCLB Act that is in fact leaving children behind.

Teachers are not in need of an oath - unless you have such insecurity in your ability and the nobility of your profession that you seek outside affirmation. This particular draft is pompous in its attempt to emulate archaic language. An oath of this sort would provide one more level of so called accountability, that would become one more level of liability. “Oh dear, you have violated your oath - you’re fired.” Let’s get real. Teach well, benefit your students and you won’t have to seek respect or love it will come.

I like it!

I do not think an oath will make anything better. The good teachers will continue to see each student as an individual and help each individual attain the goals of the grade. Like in every profession, the 'Bad Apples' in the basket will continue to degrade our profession.
I think others linked to schools should also take an oath. The administrators (including politicians) should take an oath to go in the classroom and not only observe (without berating the teacher) but to teach lessons. The parents should take an oath to guide their children through their schooling, helping them or seeking help for them. Parents should also observe their child in the classroom. Then all groups will give teachers the respect deserved.
We all know that administrators think we can do all the paperwork requested that is above and beyond grading papers and report cards (NCLB). We all know that parents as well as the general public think we have 'bankers' hours and we go home at three o'clock. They look at the hours we are with students and the pay check (which includes all benefits - not take home pay) and ask how many of us are Nationally Certified. I have parents who tell me it is none of my business why her child is home more often than in school and another who questions how I determine the grades as well as critiquing tests given.
While I teach to each individual student with 30+ students in my room, there are times that I wish I did get the respect I deserve. Yes, my pay could be higher as, according to my husband, I am putting in 80+ hours a week. Does the general public understand that?
Don't misunderstand me. I really love what I do and would not ever change my profession. An oath will not change the way others see us.

Amen to the concept of the educator's oath--this applies to all of us: teachers, administrators, support staff, school board members. It should be posted in every classroom, teacher workroom, administrator's office -- and, at the front door where all parents and community members can be assured that children are the focus here. At the top of the list should be a promise to demonstrate respectful behavior toward all students, and a promise that educational professionals will not tolerate from their colleagues anything less. Small class size, quality curriculum, bigger paychecks, and check-it-off the list initiatives will not make a school successful if not accompanied by this critical component.

While I very much respect all the comments on the question of a Teacher's Oath, I'm intrigued that some teachers who have expressed opposition to the idea have also expressed their own passionate commitment to teaching, in language that often sounds like a personal "oath." So I wonder why the idea of a common oath evokes such an emotional response? Do some teachers sustain themselves by establishing a "lone wolf" identity, functioning as martyrs in a world where the public -- and many less dedicated teachers -- simply don't care as much as they do?

I came across an interesting discussion about the martyr complex in some teachers at the Teacher Leaders Network website:


Don't know the answers to these questions, but it does seem to me that martrydom is lonely business and that teaching will never gain the respect it deserves so long as good teachers embrace their marginalization.

That is a really insightful comment, John. It reminds me of some work I have done on personal relationships. I learned that sometimes we get attached even to dysfunctional relationships. There is a comfort in knowing what to expect, even if it is negative.

The idea of being a lone wolf is also interesting. Our culture is very individualistic, so perhaps the idea of allying with one's peers is not a happy one for some folks. The lone wolf could also comfort himself that he is unlike the "average" teacher, who is not respected by the public at large.

For me, as I said before, there is power in naming what we stand for, and invoking it as we enter the public forum to fight for the interests of our students and ourselves. There are many, many dedicatd teachers, but if our voices are scattered and our message mudled, we will not be heard. When we stand together and speak with clarity about what it means to be a teacher today, then our voices will ring out.

"The Teacher's Oath" is an interesting concept, even if based on a fallacious assumption -- i.e., that doctors are respected because they take an oath. Rather, it seems to me that they're respected because of their mastery of an immense amount of technical knowledge and for the ability to apply that knowledge to patients to produce therapeutic results. This, I think, is where teachers start to lose the public.

Graduate schools of education (and teacher unions) seem -- rightly or wrongly -- to be captive to ideologies and theories du jour, rather than to a hard-headed "science of learning".

Then, however solid their theories and techniques, teachers as a group come across as highly resistent to objective assessments of their results. Be honest: Gatherings of teachers are incomplete without someone whining about standardized tests. Doctors, on the other hand, have their measurable results assessed every day.

Both this aversion to assessment and the "soft" approach to the "core technologies" of education are enshrined in the proposed Oath: "I will remember that there is art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the textbook reading or the multiple choice test."

"Warmth, sympathy, and understanding" aren't arts of teaching; they're human qualities that in themselves have nothing to do with education. A warm, sympathetic teacher may be preferable to a cold, unsympathetic one -- but warmth and understanding by themselves don't get the kids taught.

For the most part a good idea...I am sure there are many teachers who come into schools with their own personal agenda of politics, religion, philosophy, etc...Those personal agenda items need to be discarded. Perhaps if there was a "Oath" for teachers, we might see less preaching and more teaching, all on a professional level. This is only an opinion.

It is heartening to see that among excellent teachers there is a commitment to seeking a higher standard of professionalism. Several years ago, Golden Apple Fellows developed a Hippocratic Oath for teachers, which I'll contribute here. Perhaps through our joint efforts, our profession will develop a single standard that will continuously inspire us in our work just as the Hippocratic Oath has insprired generations of doctors in theirs.

Our Statement of Commitment to Teaching Excellence was first published on http://www.teachingexcellencenetwork.org in 2005.

In joining the Teaching Excellence Network, I affirm my commitment to strive for excellence in my practice as a teacher.
Because I believe that all children deserve excellent teachers, I promise to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won gains of those teachers who preceded me in the classroom, and, in that same spirit, I will gladly share what I have learned about teaching
with those who follow me in the profession.

I will demonstrate by my words and actions my belief that caring, compassion and understanding are essential to effective teaching, but I will also attend with equal diligence to the academic preparation of my students.

I will remember that successful teaching relies on a body of best practices and requires knowledge of one’s subject and skill and enthusiasm in imparting it to students. Recognizing that there is always more for me to learn, I will strive to become both a master of my subject and of my craft.

I will not be unwilling to say, "I don’t know," nor will I fail to call on my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for the success or wellbeing of a student.

I will demonstrate in words and actions my respect for my students as individuals, with gifts and capacities that may not be apparent at first, but which I am committed to help each student discover and develop.

I will remember that I do not teach for tests; I teach students. Because I do not teach subjects disconnected from students, I will use every appropriate means to build upon the capacities and interests each student brings to me, leaving those whose lives I have touched better for the encounter and inspired by the enthusiasm and knowledge I bring to my subject.

I will devote myself to helping my students build the foundations they need to lead successful, productive, ethical, and happy lives as adults.

I will remember that I am a member of a community of professional teachers, with special obligations to all of my students, their parents, my colleagues and the larger
community, both those with whom it is easy to work and those who present challenges to me.

May I always act so as to preserve and exemplify the highest professional standards, and in so doing may I long enjoy the rewards of teaching, being respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter.

Steve Petrica writes: "Doctors, on the other hand, have their measurable results assessed every day."

Really? I am genuinely curious how the results of a doctor's work is assessed. There is an email that has made the rounds that imagines a dentist who is penalized when his impoverished patients have more cavities than a dentist who works in a wealthy area. I am sure doctors have to be cautious to avoid malpractice, but I would be surprised to find that they have results assessed anything like daily.

Thank you for offering your version. Yours is about the fourth we have seen. I believe this is an idea whose time has come. I agree we need to somehow coalesce around a single oath. I wonder how we can do that?

Mr. Cody,
The idea of an oath for teachers is indeed an appealing one however, I prefer an oath for teachers that begins with "I promise" versus "I swear." I am also wondering who should pen the oath. Anyway, as I stated previously the idea of an oath is appealing. I particularly like the wording in your oath that refers to each student as someone else's gift and I wanted to leap for joy when I read the reference to the impact teaching and teachers have on someone's future family and economic stability. Another point that your oath touches upon is responsibility to colleagues and I feel very strongly about that. Perhaps an oath would strenthen the bonds of teachers and allow them to feel more connected. There is an element of isolation in the profession that I would like to see lessen particularly for new teachers. Yes, an oath might be a good place to start in terms of teaching as a profession and teachers responding and reacting as professionals who are responsible for the lives and livelihoods of America's gifts which of course are our children.

An oath, a promise, a mission statement; whatever we may call it, anything that helps teachers, whether novice or veteran, reflect on and express the highest ideals of our craft is welcome. A wise and venerable teacher of teachers once said: "Teaching is the noblest profession in the world. Upon the proper education of youth depend the permanency and purity of home, the safety and perpetuity of the nation. The parent gives the child an opportunity to live; the teacher enables the child to live well." We will earn our place of respect in society by how well we fulfill this charge.

For Anthony Cody, re: doctors and assessed results.

Certainly we are familiar with traditional assessment in the treatment of disease--the fever goes down, white blood counts are normal or not, BP is measured, weight, etc are all indicators of the health of the patient. (And sometimes the doc has got to make sure the patient is living somewhere with a refrigerator before dispensing medication that will need to be kept cool).

However, most medical facilities these days are also involved in some kind of TQI, TQM or other far-ranging and comprehensive assessments. This can involve chart review to ascertain that best practices are being implemented, morbidity and mortality data and review, clocking of numerous indicators such as low-birth weight and pre-term births, obesity, tobacco addiction, etc. etc. etc.

I am always amazed at the isolation that some educators present when they think that they are the only ones being held to standards.

Yes, The Hippocratic Oath for Teachers make good sense. Perhaps our law-makers and corporations should read it.

Forgive my ignorance of hospital accountability procedures. That is why I asked, in order to learn. I do not believe we are the only ones held accountable, but I am still curious as to the parallels between doctors and teachers.

You describe a chart review, making sure best practices are in use. That seems parallel to an administrator reviewing a teacher's lesson plans, and making clasroom visits to make sure effective instructional strategies are in use. That is not an "assessment of measurable results. Morbidity and mortality data review seems kind of akin to dropout rates -- kind of an extreme measure.

Clocking of indicators such as pre-term births, tobacco addiction and so on, that does not seem to be something a doctor would be held accountable for, does it? I am not sure where that fits in.

I guess I am still wondering if there is anything like the standardized tests being used to make judgments about teachers and schools? I am not suggesting doctors work in a world devoid of accountability. I am wondering what the parallels are, and I still question Steve Petrica's assertion that doctors have "measurable results assessed every day."

Re: parallels and how docs are measured as teachers and schools are. Chart reviews are not so much like reviewing lesson plans--there are no organized parallels in education for patient charts. A lesson plan would be more like the standing orders or protocols--what should be done. There is not student level information that records in detail that on XX date this student received Y and what results and follow up. Just sort of a macro follow up (standardized testing) of classes, along with whatever measures the teacher implements, but these (grades) are highly unstandardized.

Insurance companies track data on docs. Some data they just report out to them, some they use to make decisions (sometimes it takes months for an insurance company to agree to pay a licensed physician). Many entities (including insurance companies, gov't bureaus, watchdog groups, etc) track hospital level data--and make decisions based on it. Some decisions are about funding and payments. Some decisions are about licensing. Some data impacts patient choice. Most docs these days are not the independent Marcus Welby types with their own office and a loyal nurse. They work for big corporations, have reviews and evaluations, and their work affects their employability.

Thanks to Anthony for bringing this idea to our attention. It has surely generated some interesting comments and reactions.

It seems like a way needs to be found to coalesce all the relevant suggestions, yet keep it manageable in length.

Plus there needs to be a simple way to offer it to those who have interest. Maybe a website could help?

Thank you for that elaboration. Again, not to beat a dead horse, but what you describe does not sound like measurable results being assessed on a daily basis. Rather, it sounds like doctors have their decisions supervised by insurance companies to make sure they are not "wasting" money by giving more treatment or medication than is necessary.

I think what teachers find unjust is that, like teachers, doctors have a certain patient population they serve. Let's imagine Dr. Chavez serves a low-income Hispanic community, where rates of diabetes and heart disease are very high. Furthermore the population is poor and underinsured, and as a result, they often do not seek care until their condition is poor. As a result, Dr. Chavez has a fairly high rate of severely ill people, and a relatively high mortality rate among the patients he sees. I feel that if legislation entitled "No Patient Left Behind" were passed, Dr. Chavez' hospital would be told it must bring the health of its patients up to the 50th percentile or lose funding. Dr. Chavez might be labelled ineffective because he failed to prevent the conditions he is obliged to treat. Many of us who teach in impoverished communities feel that poverty has a real impact on our students, and that is systematically ignored by NCLB.

This is not about making excuses, but instead is about seeking to do the best for our students. We do not do that by ignoring the conditions in which they live, and labelling them, their schools and their teachers as "failing."

This is wonderful. I would also add a statement about having the humility to learn from those we teach:

I recognize that being a teacher means being open to wisdom however it manifests, and will embrace the moments when my students become my teachers.

Immediately I liked the idea. There were things within the oath, like enjoying life, liberty, and happiness because you fulfilled the oath, that made me wonder...

I have skimmed most of the comments, and they were really skimmed. I found many thoughtful comments, and perhaps the oath has allowed the dialogue that is needed.

Is education a science, an art, a medical diagnosis, or a business proposition? In many ways it is all. As an educator, are you going into the business to promote US citizenship...and if so, what kind of citizen do you want to see in the future?

What would happen if the thoughts of all these teachers was published in a major newspaper? Perhaps parents would get it. And although we are trying to education children, it is the parents who need to understand.

As a parent, and now a student of education, I am overwhelmed by the demands of the profession. I am looking of ways to tutor and substitute teach. At least now I don't have to face the ultimate question, "You aren't a real teacher, are you?" I am now, one and a half times, as a secondary teacher and a finishing LBS1 certification. Frankly, I understand all the anger and all the passion.

As a substitute teacher, I found the best schools were supported by a great principal and a great community.

When I was young, I decided I did not like waitressing. Why? I had the demands of the client, the cook, the barkeep, and anyone else within the establishment. As a teacher, how different are the demands? I was a great waitress, and a better bartender.

I think many of the problems of education is that it a intuitive field. All my best professors had passion and belief.

Until we start valuing the intuitive and unknowable, the awesomeness of life (one does not need to follow a religious creed in order to be awed by the mountains or a flower or a child), we shall never find a valued place in a society that only values numbers and money.

Nonetheless, as an observer of society, it would not be a bad creed for all teachers to say to themselves each morning, "And do no harm".

That may be the best we can do, as citizens, as parents, as teachers.

I really like your contribution. Thank you!

Is there a way you could state the value of the intuitive for this oath?

I like the concept of the oath. Although I am not in a classroom, as a parent I would see such an oath posted in a classroom as an invitation to a partnership to teach not only my own child, but every child in the class.

I agree too with an earlier comment that this oath should not be limited to teachers, but include the administration, support staff and the board of education to that these become shared commitments.

I am sorry to read how many feel so unappreciated. However, that is not limited to the teaching profession. Outside of perhaps our star professional athletes, I can't think of any profession that goes home at the end of the day and says "I feel appreciated by all whom I served today." We choose our professions based on our passions and talents and we have to realize that we may never be fully appreciated in the moment. If students are learning and growing in knowledge that's one way to view being appreciated- they are respecting your time and talent to learn what you are teaching.

Sure flies in the face of the terrible things with which teachers are having to deal these days, because of the NCLB Hoax and high stakes testing.

I like it.

Perhaps our policy and law makers need to take a Hippocratic Oath to hold office, not to mention passing a high stakes test about their basic knowledge of Our Consitution.

Do educators need an oath? Does any profession that touches the lives of people need an oath? I believe so.

I see this oath as a promise to work towards excellence. Many people feel that the field of teaching isn’t held to a high enough respect. Well why don’t we hold ourselves to a higher respect first and give people a reason too. I am not looking at this oath as an extra task I must complete everyday, but rather the template at which I will complete my current ones.

I have read the discussions on the board here and I have seen the topic of money come up a lot. We all know that teachers deserve more money, but if any of you got into the field of education to become wealthy most people could reassure you that you made a horrible choice. Although I am young and do not have much experience in the field yet, I hope the colleagues I work with for the years to come will handle their business with more maturity.

I would gladly take the oath.

I think teachers enjoy quite a bit of respect. Isn't teaching still one of the "noble professions?" History has shown that there has never been a lot of money in public education (just to comment on that subject).

Oaths are generally ritualistic. They may convey certain ideals about an organization or profession, but still remain only as true as the individuals who recite them. I do not think an oath makes a respectable doctor - but I do think the malpractice insurance available ensures a safe visit. Are teachers going to need "mal-teaching" insurance, if it is found that their students graduate but are later found to be un-marketable as employees, or fail to meet certain standards?

Jim Casey said once, "There is no right and there is no wrong - just things people do. Some of it is nice and some of it ain't." I may be off in my citation, but the basic idea remains the same. The education profession draws individuals based on their humanitarian sentiments (actually, I know a teacher who really just likes the fact that her work day is done at 3:00 and she gets a few months off in the summer).

Mr. Cody's analogy of Dr. Chavez' hospital provides an excellent explanation of NCLB. Does continued accountability based on this legislation mean that a teacher would be essentially breaking such an oath, in the eyes of legislators?

Again, I believe that there are things people do that are good and they are attracted to a good profession. They will do their best to inspire a generation, but the job qualifications will continue to require state-mandated standards. There will also be people who leave the classroom at the end of the day, 30 minutes after the students, content with sticking to just those standards.

Instead of an oath, perhaps ethics and morals screening, much like the army psychological testing? Are the right people entering the profession for the right reasons?

“Before I knowed it, I was sayin’ out loud, ‘The hell with it! There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing.’" - Jim Casey, Ch. 4

(I found my book.)

As a member of a Public School Board and a life spent in health care I have often shared my thoughts of the connections of the two professions...Physician and Teacher...one cares for the human function and strives to serve to treat any transgression of a human disease or injury...the other cares for the mind and its development so the two if they are healthy allow the human to thrive and prosper. I have said part of a simple oath we have in medicine is "I am the advocate of the patient and above all else will do no harm." A teacher...I will be the advocate of the student and above all else do no harm. The Principal...I will be the advocate of the teacher and student and above all else do no harm. The Superintendent/Board...I will be the advocate of American Public Education and above all else do not harm.

I also suggest there is an ethical boundary in Public Education that should not be crossed. Teach the student how to think...not what to think...the Public School Classroom should not be places of confined indoctrination…i.e..do no harm. There will be ample room for that to happen in colleges and universities where the student freely chooses to attend.


The Medical phrase is: I will forever and always be the advocate of the Patient and above all else do no harm.

The Educator phrase is: I will forever and always be the advocate of the student and above all else do no harm.

The Principal phrase is: I will forever and always be the advocated of the teacher and the student and above all else do no harm.

The Administrator/Board phrase is: I will forever and always be the advocate of the School District and above all else do no harm.

Would it not be great to have our politicians take an oath to Public Education?

The Politicians Oath: I will forever and always be the advocate of Public Education in America and above all else do no harm.

Enjoy...thanks for letting me share.

Thank you for your cogent contributions.

One idea you suggest really has me wondering. You wrote "Teach the student how to think...not what to think." Boy, that is a head scratcher. How about the controversy over evolution? Do we follow dominant community beliefs? Or the consensus of scientists? And how about moral values? Do we teach respect for authority?

I do agree with the oath, very much! I would just like to seemore mention of enhancing indivudality of students and creating spontanious teachable moments to farther influnce their learning

Anthony, Shannon,

It has been some time since my last visit. Thank you both for your remarks. The concept of educating the student to think is framed by the knowledge of the adolescent prefrontal cortex, which we must remember is a blank slate as to basic data sets. So there are considerable amounts of information that will be considered developmental. During this process various elements of society that contain controversy, the open mind orientation to education is important. I believe we need to create critical thinkers (liberal arts). During the pre-frontal cortex development it is a critical to understand, if planned, one could seriously indoctrinate and not educate. Yet, when the student is prepared well the young adolescent will be more likely be open minded...but not necessarily mindless. The consensus of scientists is not necessarily scientific fact. It is more likely just a group that agrees to some common dimension. That dimension may have variables that would have others who would look at this same material and conclude another way. Authority is more likely respected in the educated mine then to the contrary. Moral values as well are more likely adopted by the educated mind. But I understand this is not 100%, after all we are still human.

Shannon your comments are very valuable and much of what would occur when you expand the discussion of this theory. Differentiated learning communities are essential to accomplishing the spontaneous teachable moments. Blind un-yielding standard drive education, while important, can have problems addressing these moments and frames of time when the pre-frontal cortex has a brain burst of development. BTW...this occurs at random times between the ages of 10-27 (Dr. David Walsh).

Once again...thanks so much...I think I would enjoy a fine dinner of discussion with both of you.

I have always taken my other jobs seriously, too. As a teacher and a military reservist I use the NCO creed to help me guide my days: "No one is more professional than I. I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a leader of Soldiers. As a Noncommissioned Officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as "The Backbone of the Army". I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the Military Service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself. I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety. " That is the first paragraph. Although I did memorize it, I now know it by heart; no need to know the entire creed word by word.

I am proud to say that I work as dedicated as a doctor, as diligent as a lawyer, as a truthful as a judge, as loyal as a police officer, as caring as a nurse, as nurturing as a mother(I am one), as perseverant as a marathon runner (I am one), as disciplined as a soldier (I am one); I am also certified in History. Teaching can be brutal and grueling, but I have gained experience, and I bring it to the classroom. Yes, the money could be a factor in making dreams a reality for my family, but nothing is more rewarding than the honest daily actions of a teacher who wants to make the world a better place. We must all take a personal oath. We don't have to establish a hipocritical one...because teachers will lie about what they will do, and they it will become like the other professions.

Don't forget to include something forbidding the sexual exploitation of students by male and female teachers. That is not mentioned anywhere...

when and where will it be the Oath taking for the teachers board passers?

LONG HAVE I WAITED!!!! If only you could have written this 100's of years ago. I am a proud parent of five beautiful children and wish that all teachers shared your beliefs. My co-workers and I are still reeling the effects of your words. WE have permanent goose-bumps!

Our only hope is that your message gets conveyed to all the teachers who shouldn't be, and inspire those who are doing their job and doing it beyond the call of duty. May they continue caring, teaching, and forming the future of our nation!

We couldn't be more thankful to you!

If everyone took this oath, the students would be lucky and the world would be a better place.

I'm looking for an article I found years ago in a Home School Magazine called "The Ten Commandments for Taking a Standardized Test." I think it would be a big help to families who are concerned about the FCAT. Do you know where I might find it?

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