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A Professional Oath for Mathematics Teachers

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by Johnny W. Lott, NCTM President 2002-2004
NCTM News Bulletin, April 2004

In an era when educators are challenged by educational policies and by increasing attacks on their professionalism and when their knowledge base is often questioned, it is time to consider what is important to us as mathematics educators.

One way to do this is to develop a professional oath for mathematics teachers. Many medical schools require a Hippocratic oath for prospective doctors. Some years ago, Phi Delta Kappa proposed an educator's oath (June 1985). As NCTM moves to improve the public perception of mathematics education, we should consider an oath to be taken by all mathematics teachers, current and prospective. Think about what you would adopt as a professional oath to reflect your own commitment to your profession, your students, and yourself. Consider the following oath, which is based on NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics and adapted from the British Medical Association (online at www.imagerynet.com/hippo.ama.html).

Oath for Mathematics Teachers

I recognize that teaching mathematics is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. I know that I, like all mathematics teachers, must observe the core values of the profession. These values center on the duty to educate people and eliminate ignorance. Students are my first concern. I promise that I will use my knowledge to benefit students. I will listen to them, work with them, and provide them with the best education that I can. I will be honest, respectful, and compassionate toward them and will do my best to educate them all.

I will make every effort to ensure that the rights of all students are respected, including groups who lack the means to make their needs known, be it through immaturity or other circumstance.

I will exercise my professional judgment as independently as possible and be influenced neither by political pressures nor by factors such as the social standing of a student. I will not put personal biases or desire for advancement above my duty to students.

I recognize the special value of mathematics, but I also know that mathematics is not the only aim of education. I agree that all education should take place within an ethical framework and be relevant to the student's development. I will not provide pointless or harmful lessons.

I will ensure that students in my classes receive the information and support that they need to study mathematics and improve their knowledge. I will answer their questions truthfully and respectfully. If I cannot answer their questions, I will explain that and will seek additional help in finding valid answers.

I will encourage all students of differing abilities to participate in intellectually honest mathematics courses and will use a variety of strategies to help each student learn.

I will recognize the limits of my knowledge of mathematics and seek advice from colleagues when I need it. I will acknowledge my mistakes. I will do my best to keep myself and my colleagues informed of new developments in mathematics education, and I will ensure that poor standards and bad practices are exposed to those who can improve them.

I will show respect for all those with whom I work and be ready to share my knowledge by teaching others what I know.

I will use my mathematics education and professional standing to improve the community in which I work. I will treat all student information in a professional manner. I will work to have a positive influence on authorities whose policies affect public education. I will oppose education policies that breach internationally accepted standards of human rights. I will strive to change laws that are contrary to students' interests and to my professional ethics.

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