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Do No Harm
First do no harm — a part of the Hippocratic corpus in the physicians oath taken by prospective doctors. It should also be an oath sworn by prospective teachers, especially in this age of educational crisis. With dwindling budgets, parents pushing for reform and the media placing all accountability on teachers, we need to be able to take a professional stand against working conditions that we know are harmful for to kids.
Class size is one example of educational harm. Districts, especially in cash strapped California, have been systematically increasing class sizes to alleviate the need to hire more teachers and open more classes. In the district where I teach there are classes operating without enough seats or desks for students. They sit on windowsills, the floor or stand. Not only is this less than ideal for learning, it is dehumanizing and demoralizing. Third world countries don’t expect their school children to put up with such conditions, and neither should we.
Teachers are accommodating creatures by nature. We tend to be cooperative, continually trying to do more with less. Historically, states and districts have taken advantage of the compliance of teachers through low salaries, inadequate resources and by constant psychological reminders to do whatever it takes to help our students to succeed. We can no longer do our jobs by sheer will alone. If the public wants educational reform then we need the tools, resources and conditions to make that happen. We cannot warehouse thirty to forty students in a classroom without even the proper seating, and expect to turn out educated students. Just how dire do the conditions have to get before we take a stand and refuse to operate under circumstances that are harmful to the success and well being of or students?