A Teacher's Pledge
A while ago my father, a retired doctor, passed along a memento that used to sit on one of his bookcases. It was a photo cube from the 70s. Old snapshots of my brothers and me were displayed in every panel except one. The last panel held a printed excerpt from the Daily Prayer of the Physician (also known as the Prayer of Maimonides, though it was later understood to be written by someone else). I read these lines: “Let me be contented in everything except in the great science of my profession. Never allow the thought to arise in me that I have attained to sufficient knowledge… .” The words resonated with a core principle I hold as a teacher: never stop learning.
When I found the full prayer online, there were more lines that echoed my beliefs and aspirations. Further research led to the discovery that along with the physician’s prayer, Maimonides is credited with an oath that sometimes substitutes the standard Hippocratic Oath. Reading through both inspiring texts, I felt that either one could easily be adapted for the field of teaching since it, too, is a profession of service. Consider the appropriacy of these lines:
Grant me the strength, time, and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.
Today he can discover his errors of yesterday and tomorrow he can obtain a new light on what he thinks himself sure of today. […]Here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling.
Should teachers have an oath? In my opinion, yes. However, I think it would be best if I left the composition of an official oath to others. I can speak only for myself, and so I offer my personal pledge – the pledge of a teacher:
With great pride and satisfaction, I call myself a teacher. I pledge my dedication to my vocation. With humility, I ask you, my students, to accept me as your teacher. With respect, I ask you, my colleagues, to support me and I will do the same for you.
I pledge to make full use of my skills and talents in order to offer the best instruction of which I am capable. I promise never to stop learning, for a teacher should always remain a learner, too. When I make a mistake, I promise to correct it and learn from it. I will never ask more of others than I ask of myself.
I will exercise patience and tolerance in my classroom, be it traditional or virtual, and I will foster a supportive environment for all my learners.
I declare my passion for my profession, but if burdens ever become too great and affect my desire or ability to teach, I will step out of the classroom and rest as needed so that I can return to my students and offer the instruction they deserve.