California Educator

August/September 2021

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is is my teacher's Hippocratic oath: I will respect the teaching mentors among us with experience and expertise in the field. In the middle of No Child Left Behind, my school staff and I were once told by a principal that "until [your] students are all 100 percent proficient, none of you can consider yourselves an expert in something." Given a list of non- negotiables, we got in and did as told. Even the most veteran of us began to work on our craft anew. Now, I'm making my own non- negotiables. Chief among them is learning from those who have boots on the ground and skin in the game. I will apply curriculum that is equitable, affirming and challenging. I will avoid the twin treatments of narrowing curriculum and dumbing down content. Our staff, like inner-city schools nationwide, has long been asked to narrow our curriculum when test scores need to rise. When questioned prior to COVID, we were told: "e children will get the rest later." If I have learned nothing else during the pandemic, it's that school should be a place that children will miss and that they should get a full curriculum right now. School enriches children, and then students thrive and excel. e idea that achievement comes before enrichment is no longer a viable, logical or factual phrase to me. I will remember that there is art to teaching, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh my test score graph in the hallway despite what administrators tell me. Putting a quality teacher in every classroom must now be the same as allow- ing each and every teacher to regain a sense of autonomy. This is where inspiration lies, and inspiration is what makes a quality teacher. I will not be discouraged to say, "I know best." Surveys across the nation for many years reveal the reasons teachers leave inner-city schools like mine. e number one reason is the lack of respect teachers feel and the loss of input they have in decision- making. I vow to speak up, when I need to be heard, to advocate for what my students need and what their families want. An Educator's New Oath After a shattering year, a vow to care for the whole child By Thomas Courtney I N M A R C H O F this year, I watched as a stu- dent's beloved grandfather had a stroke — via Zoom. It was beyond frustrating to know there was so little I could do for him, and the event was not only traumatic for my student, but pretty much summed up the entire year for me as a virtual instructor. What I saw Orion face that day, after a year of watching my students battle what no kids should ever have to face, finally woke me up. From then on, Orion and I had a new under- standing — one that felt dif ferent than the sworn oath I took when I accepted my teaching position. That oath, which was in essence to teach with fidelity and to never harm a child, felt too basic now. What I needed was a new oath, something that reminded me that the teacher I wanted to be was someone who understood my students as more than just bodies in seats taking tests. And then I remembered that doctors have just such an oath. eir Hippocratic oath isn't just meant to prevent harm to a patient, it's to practice a profession with a code of ethics that extends beyond bureaucracy, politics and financial restraint. In fact, a modernized Hip- pocratic oath ( hippocratic-oath-today) sounds quite perti- nent to me right now. A good doctor cares for the body — all of it. Teachers, now more than ever, need to care for the whole child, too. And thanks to the lesson Orion taught me that day, I've made my oath. It starts with my emp ow er m ent in th e cl a ssro om to b e th e teacher who isn't tied to anything except that which empowers my students. 15 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 21 Spotlight Y O U R V O I C E

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