Saturday, June 25, 2011
"First, do no harm..."
It’s too bad educators don’t take some version of the Hippocratic oath…“First, do no harm.” It would be more difficult to define than it is for Drs, of course. Harm seems fairly easy to define for a physician—if an action kills the patient, that’s harm. If they take the wrong leg, or don’t consider the side effects of a new medication, that’s harm. For teachers, it’s not so easy. Some might say that teachers don’t have students’ lives in their hands, but we know they do. Don’t kill the spirit, don’t let your own prejudices show through, don’t deny students’ creativity – so intangible, so different in each situation, so nebulous. Yet I think there is a sensible and positive way that teachers and educational leaders could promise not to do harm in our schools. I promise…
As an Educational Leader, I promise:
…to give only positions/assignments/responsibilities for which the assignees are truly qualified, unless an extraordinary level of commitment and support are present to help them succeed
…to make decisions in ways that weight the needs of students as more compelling than the needs of adults, without treating anyone unfairly
…to support those who embrace challenging opportunities, understanding that they will not be comfortable, that they will require extra work, that they will need time to encompass and perfect
…to provide the support needed to allow the discomfort, effort, and time required to master the opportunities and expand to a higher level of performance and effectiveness with students
As an Educator working directly with students, I promise:
…to accept only positions/assignments/responsibilities for which I am truly qualified, unless I have an extraordinary level of commitment to learn and grow, and unless strong support from educational leaders is available to me
…to make decisions in ways that weight the needs of students as more compelling than the needs of adults, including my own
…to seek challenging opportunities with the full knowledge that they will not be comfortable, that they will take extra work, that they will take time to encompass and perfect
…to accept the support needed to allow the discomfort, effort, and time required to embrace change and expand to a higher level of performance and effectiveness with students
I know teachers and other educational professionals, and educational leaders, who already live these promises; I know others who don’t. These principles need to come before all the “thinking outside the box” that we want to do in pursuit of student learning. Neither set of promises can exist alone—they are interdependent, enmeshed. They represent a foundational philosophic understanding of the importance of adult alliances and mutual support in order to create a context for student learning—they create the “village” we need for the adults. Right now, we have too many rules and agreements, not to mention beliefs, that prevent us from matching people with work that they can do effectively. Instead of professional excellence and commitment, we have a self-protective, reactive environment that stifles the intellectual generosity needed to enable learning that goes beyond basic skills and facts. Shouldn't this be the first thing we take on?