A Teacher’s Creed—Do No Harm
Throughout the nation, schools have nestled into the rigors and demands of a new academic year. While teachers have new faces that occupy the desks in their classrooms, they still continue to charter the course that will assist the students to persevere on their scholastic journey. Regardless of what standards—whether national, state, or local—are used to measure the students’ educational growth, the pivotal determination of student success centers on the passion that the teacher brings to the learning experience.
We should never underestimate the power and influence of a teacher, for that influence is not just confined to the brick and mortar of a classroom, but extends beyond those walls to reach the very psyche of a student’s being. The world of the academe has put into place various norms and criteria to gauge a teacher’s performance; there are formative and summative evaluations, performance appraisals, walkthroughs, and both formal and informal observations. These are all good and necessary, and are excellent benchmarks to preserve the professional integrity of the teaching profession.
However, we should also never lose sight of what makes a teacher a teacher. The core of why we elect to place ourselves in front of students is not only to act as their guide as they travel the road of knowledge acquisition, but also to be a compassionate, empathic, and understanding mentor. The art of teaching is a relational act, one where a bond is formed between teacher and student. That bond is forged either by tension or ease; it is the teacher who really sets the tone.
I recently was preparing a workshop for principals and teachers, and in my notes I came across a reflection that I used years ago. Universal in its message and not bound by time, this reflection still impresses me now as it did years ago. Written by renowned child psychologist Haim Ginott, this profound reflective piece centers on a principle precept that is common in the bioethics field. In early medical journals the rubric was referred to by the Latin phrase, “Primum non nocere,” or, “first, do no harm.”
Ginott’s takes that tenet and transposes it to the field of education. He eloquently reminds those who elect to teach of the awesome influence teachers have not only in the classroom, but also on students’ well being. First and foremost, a teacher should do no harm, neither physical nor mental. Ginott’s penetrating words says it best:
“I come to a frightening conclusion.
Iam the decisive element in the classroom.
It’s my personal approach that creates the climate.
It’s my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
“I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
Does this give you pause to think and reflect every time you enter a classroom?