I swear by Athena, Goddess of Learning, Métis, Goddess of Wisdom and Thought, St. Gregory the Great, Patron Saint of Teachers, and St. Thomas Aquinas, Patron Saint of Students, and all the wise rabbis of the Talmud I will fulfill this oath and covenant:
- I will give a damn about each person in the class! I will care! I will support! I will encourage! I won’t just mouth it, I will live it! Each day, unconditionally!
- I will teach to nurture, not to weed out. I will greet and embrace and accept each student. I will not greet anyone with the expectation that he or she will fail. I will not treat anyone as dumb and unwanted. I will treat everyone as capable and belonging here. I will greet each person knowing she or he has a unique potential to be cultivated. I will greet each person knowing that she or he can learn, achieve, and succeed. I will have faith in, belief in, hope for, and love of each person. Each day, unconditionally!
- I will treat each class as a “gathering of sacred ones,” of diverse, individual, noble, and very special human beings. I will treat each person with equal dignity and unqualified respect. I will not let anyone go unnoticed; I will not allow anyone’s face to get erased;
- I will not let anyone go nameless; I will not place anyone in the background; I will not place anyone in the shadows of the corners; I will not shun; I will not ignore; I will not belittle; I will not demean. Everyone will start with a clean slate; I will not judge anyone by the ring in her belly button or the tattoo on his arm or the clothes she wears or the whispers of other people or a GPA or the accent of their speech or the color of their his or her ethnicity or his religion or her gender or his sexual preference or whatever else;
- I will never be negative. I will be upbeat, offering nothing less than praise and/or positive, constructive critique. I will focus on each student and her or his learning, and worry about my teaching later.
- I will be there to help each student help herself or himself become the person she or he is capable of becoming.
- And, nothing will mean a thing if I don’t help each student help herself or himself become a better person and live the good life.
I make these promises solemnly, freely, and upon my honor. And if I keep this oath faithfully each day, may I enjoy a life overflowing with fulfillment, meaning, purpose, accomplishment, and satisfaction, respected by all in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.
So, I take this and I'll do my best to fulfill it. But, I'm a bit hesitant to call this a promise since I know I'm not going to be able to fulfill this all the time and I don't like making promises I can't keep. I will, however, keep it at least as an aspiration to be taken seriously.
I am hitting that point in my sabbatical where I'm wondering how I'm going to take what I've learned back to the time when I'm back on campus and all that that entails.
Not that I don't have a good portion of sabbatical left — I better, I've got a handful of articles to get done! But, it is nearing an end and I don't want to have sabbaticals be these gaps that intervene once every 7 years but stay isolated to that one year.
Most of what I've learned as to do with teaching (given that all the reading I've been doing connects back to that somehow) and scholarship.
I want to radically change my teaching which will be scary because I've gotten good at what I've been doing and it isn't as if what I've been doing has been failing. But, it can be better. Much better. Much, much better. And I need to commit and work on that.
I want to keep on participating in the conversations I now see myself as able to contribute to and that are conversations that I think are worth having - I can have many a conversation about any number of things that are probably not all that important. If I've learned anything on this front this year it's that I do have things to contribute and, more importantly, others think so too. My very wise advisor told me that scholarship takes just the right balance of arrogance and humility and that most people have too much of the former. I've always feared that one of my character flaws has been arrogance, but maybe not or maybe not in the right places. So, in addition to committing to the teacher's oath (and, seriously, if someone could come up with a teacher version of the caduceus that physicians have as their symbol I'd be overwhelmingly happy), I'm committing to continuing to read and write and participate in the wider conversation.