The Pedagogic Oath

Richard Eno

Richard is from Folkestone but was educated in Winchester. He has been teaching since 1999 and been involved in education management since 2006. He teaches A Level Film Studies, a subject he has remained passionate about. His favourite filmmakers are David Lynch, John Waters and Woody Allen. He currently works for Totton College in Hampshire. He is not related to Brian Eno.

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I was watching a TV show with a medical aspect the other night; in it the doctor wanted to treat a patient whom the other characters didn’t like because he was a terrorist or something. The doctor said he had to treat the patient because he had vowed to ‘Do No Harm’, and not treating a patient goes against the Hippocratic Oath. My mind wandered during the TV show, as it often does when I’m at home in the evening, and I started to think about why teachers don’t have an equivalent. What if we had something similar, that we vowed to uphold even against conventional morality? What might it look like and how would it work in practice? What if we had The Pedagogic Oath?

It would need to be short and simply worded, something people could remember and quote. ‘Do No Harm’ is brilliant because just those three words tell us so much about the integrity of the medical profession. I can’t think of an equivalent for us that sums up education, and I think that is worrying. As a sector we are quite fragmented; for example, university lecturer friends of mine tell me that college teachers are not preparing students for university; college teachers feel that schools aren’t preparing them for college and on it goes.

Different government administrations inform us of new legislature and tell us standards need to shift. The lack of clarity over exactly what education is and how it should work contributes to the fractured relationship between the various sectors, and so what we have left is a broken family who won’t talk to each other. Finding a universal oath, which we all swear to, won’t fix that but it could connect us in way which helps to define why we went into teaching in the first place.

Of course, any such oath to be effective would have to be universal and treated with reverence, or it wouldn’t make any difference. We would have to have a swearing in ceremony, even sign some glorious piece of parchment. I can imagine quoting it in meetings, “I can’t possibly do that because it goes against the Pedagogic Oath”. For something like this, it would have to be so deeply embedded in our global understanding of education that it would take generations to really have a significant impact. Yet a concern over how long it would take to complete is hardly a valid reason for not trying. So, here goes:

The Pedagogic Oath

I swear to uphold the following:

  1. I will always teach to the best of my ability and always strive to become a better practitioner
  2. I will stretch and challenge my learners, my colleagues and myself
  3. The feedback I give will push the learner forward
  4. I will respect my learners
  5. I will remember what it felt like to be a student

I’ve capped it at five or it’ll just go on and on. I was tempted to include Equality and Diversity but I think that is covered by ‘I will respect my learners’. I wanted to make sure that professional development is covered too, because staying current is vital to being a successful teacher. I guess that’s the same for any profession.

Many of us have institutional versions of this or a list of corporate behaviours but I wanted something that crosses the various places we work, something which is universal. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

[As originally published on Richard Eno’s personal blog, Teaching Reno.]

What do you make of Richard’s proposed Pedagogic Oath? Let us know in the comments.

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