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Teacher, look to your heart and soul

by Susan Ohanian

Unless and until teachers restore the ethics of their own professional conduct, they will continue to be harmed--and to do harm. Richard Allington has provided a brilliant tactic to remedy this situation. Speaking at the NCTE annual convention in Nashville, 20006, Dick recommended that every teacher in every state examine the state code of ethics for teachers. Then, when ordered to read a script or stop reading aloud or to commit some other abusive practice that goes against professional conduct, teachers should say, "Please put in writing that you want me to violate the state code of professional ethics."

Just looking at snippets from a few state codes reveals how powerful this notion is. Powerful and liberating, it could restore teaching as a profession.

New York:

Educators promote growth in all students through the integration of intellectual, physical, emotional, social and civic learning. They respect the inherent dignity and worth of each individual. Educators help students to value their own identity, learn more about their cultural heritage, and practice social and civic responsibilities. . . . .



Teachers build on students' prior knowledge, life experience, and interests to achieve learning goals for all students. Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies and resources that respond to students' diverse needs. Teachers facilitate challenging learning experiences for all students in environments that promote autonomy, interaction and choice. Teachers actively engage all students in problem solving and critical thinking within and across subject matter areas. Concepts and skills are taught in ways that encourage students to apply them in real-life contexts that make subject matter meaningful.



  • Teachers apply knowledge of how students think and learn to instructional design and delivery.
  • Teachers differentiate instruction to support the learning needs of all students, including students identified as gifted, students with disabilities and at-risk students.
  • Teachers create and select activities that are designed to help students develop as independent learners and complex problem-solvers. . . .

  • http://tinyurl.com/6epqpw


  • The educator values the worth and dignity of every person, the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, acquisition of knowledge, and the nurture of democratic citizenship. Essential to the achievement of these standards are the freedom to learn and to teach and the guarantee of equal opportunity for all.
  • The educator's primary professional concern will always be for the student and for the development of the student's potential. The educator will therefore strive for professional growth and will seek to exercise the best professional judgment and integrity. . . .

  • http://www.fldoe.org/edstandards/code_of_ethics.asp

    Teachers should look up their own state codes and post these codes in every classroom. And they should insist on being allowed to teach to them. For inspiration and a model to follow, take a look at the Tell Me in Writing Campaign sponsored by the Coalition for Better Education.

    Here is their letter, easily adaptable to Common Core regulations:
    from Coalition for Better Education

    April 2008

    Dear Administrator:

    The Colorado requirements for a teaching license include the following:

    "The elementary educator is knowledgeable about child development as applicable to learning and is able to recognize and display respect for family, culture, and societal influences that affect student learning."

    By requiring me to deliver the templates of the Houghton-Mifflin curriculum word for word, exactly as written and without deviation, you are requiring me to violate one of the requirements for a teaching license. In light of such a conflict, I present this letter to you for your acknowledgement and signature.

    Respectfully submitted,

    — Susan Ohanian




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