A Teachers’ Oath?


I received an e-mail from Alan Coady this week telling me about how he’d listened to an interesting guest on Desert Island Discs this week – a doctor called Raymond Tallis. The line that made him  prick up his ears was “you don’t need many thoughts, just fundamental ones.”

Alan went on to reflect upon the similarities between the teaching and medical profession and asked why teacher’s don’t have something akin to the doctors’ hippocratic oath.

As I’ve mentioned before my own father was a GP and was driven by a deep commitment to serve the needs of his community.  When he died aged 69 – appropriately, for him, visiting a patient on a Sunday morning – I wrote a poem for his funeral.  The first three lines read:

Not many swear an oath and keep their word
But you held it through a lifetime
And stretched it to a way of life.

Having met teachers from across the world I believe there are a common set of values which underpin our behaviour.

An oath might be possible to create – and some already exist. However, words – whatever they might be – are easy to say – much more difficult to consistently live up to throughout our lives.

5 thoughts on “A Teachers’ Oath?

  1. My father (also a GP) used to maintain that the most important tenet, perpetuated by Hippocates, was “First, do no harm”
    Could equally apply to teachers I think.

  2. I was watching Touching the Void for the first time this morning and was astonished that, after escaping with his life – just -, the climber had to wait two days for treatment in a Lima hospital because they wanted payment up front.

    It makes me think that there are doctors and there are doctors. I also think that, teachers’ oath or not, there will always be teachers and teachers. Will some words make an impact? I guess it depends how you tell ’em.

  3. Dorothy

    I totally agree with your father’s emphasis. There are many occasions when I’ve seen teachers actually get in the way of the education process. Hopefully A Curriculum for Excellence and formative assessment are going some way to address this issue.

  4. Ewan

    Isn’t that as much to do with “the system” as the indvidual. No matter how generous an individual you couldn’t, as a teacher in the private sector, invite someone into your class who had not paid up front. An individual can be as giving as they like like – but maybe not with the company’s equipment – in company time.

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