Sunday, June 1, 2014

Where is our oath, our vision?

We miss out on oath in education. Having read A Hippocratic Oath for Teachers?, it strikes me as unconscionable that nothing of its kind exists. Why is that?

The prevailing assumption in American education is that if we prepare the students for The Test, we have done our job.

If students excel on The Test, then we have done our job well. If students do not excel on The Test then we may be scored as an ineffective teacher.

Who needs an oath for such a short-sighted and short-term ethos?
What happens after the test--the next 70+ years of our students' lives--is on them, quite frankly. That is the message sent to teachers. Instructed by our leaders, we not only teach to The Test but also only up to The Test. The Test is the standard by which all excellence is measured and it has defined how many see their jobs or define their schools. In Pennsylvania, it doesn't matter which test (PSSA, Keystone, SAT, AP, et al.), just see to it that our kids get those scores up on The Test.

As Ken Robinson said, "For most of us the problem isn’t that we aim too high and fail - it’s just the opposite - we aim too low and succeed.”

That is our job according to what we do. Aim at The Test.

Before any leaders speak up, I caution them to remember that there is a huge difference between what we say and what we do. And ask yourselves, what have the actions of the state mandated your teachers to do?

An exasperated colleague said to me recently, "I don't just want to produce kids who know what cancer is, I want to inspire kids who cure cancer!"

I hope they write a test someday that allows for that.

I share the Teacher's Oath as proposed in Anthony Cody's article because in our state I believe we continue to drift so ridiculously far away from the mentality presented here:

The Teacher's Oath

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

  1. 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.
  2.  I will apply, for the benefit of my students, all strategies known to be effective, avoiding busy-work in favor of work with real meaning to the students and their families.
  3.  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.
  4.  I will work with my colleagues to inspire one another to achieve excellence. 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 to help my students.
  5. If it is given me to enhance a life through teaching, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to cast a shadow over a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty.
  6. I will remember that I do not teach a lesson plan, or a reading deficiency, but a human being, whose skills may affect the person's future family and economic stability. My efforts will aim to teach the whole child, and help that child develop in mind and spirit.
  7. If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. 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.
It is a nice oath. Individually, some still cling to its roots in their own way to the best of their abilities given the state mandates and teacher evaluation systems currently in place.

We would all love to get to a place where all teachers say, "I teach students, not curriculum."

I hope someday that we can begin to move closer to such an oath as a profession.

1 comment:

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