A Small Part of Our Story: Why We Need a Socratic Oath

A Quick Note:

This post discusses the rationale and process of conceptualizing the Socratic Oath. As such, it was originally written and posted before the oath was designed and released. See the link above to Take the Oath today!

An Awakening

I spent some time consulting for a non-profit last summer. It was one of the first times I had worked outside of a school-centered environment, with mainly non-teachers. Obviously, the experience was helpful in forming APT, but maybe not in ways you might expect.

Almost everyone I met during my contract had some sort of side business or passion project they were running in addition to their work.  They spoke openly about their ideas, and used the community at their disposal to inform their own paths.

Above all, they seemed excited to simply go out and “do” something.

I thought for a while about the experience as I got farther and farther away from it, moving back into my typical routine of teaching.

What was stopping me from “doing” something? Why was I asking others for permission to follow the path my experience was leading me toward?

I knew I could be doing more with what I had learned over my 15 years in the profession of teaching, and I had to stop waiting for someone to give me an opportunity.

Simple. Useful. Free.

Administration will come and go over our careers, and we need to begin to understand that we need to operate outside of our schools and districts as we seek professional development.

I thought about something simple, something useful, something free.

The next day, I pitched my idea for APT to John, and introduced the idea of the Socratic Oath as our first project.

Our first product

As a kid, I distinctly remember walking into various doctor’s offices. In every room, along with the academic credentials of each doctor, was a framed picture filled with words.  The script varied, and the appearance and size of the picture was rarely uniform, but at the top was always legibly, “The Hippocratic Oath.”

At an early age, and quite subliminally, I was aware that these different doctors were all connected in some way. Regardless of their background and chosen specialty, all of them had prescribed to an overarching set of agreed upon norms.  This promoted confidence in these doctors, and I was more trusting of them as a result.

I wanted to make something for teachers that would boil down the essence of what we do.  Not a series of platitudes, but a contract with our students, their parents, and administration that laid down the fundamental promise of our profession.

I knew however, that this couldn’t come from a single voice.

Our first product was born, and we need you to help us make it.

It needs to start with teachers

Teachers today are kept in smaller and smaller groups.  We are segregated within our departments and buildings, often never even truly communicating with the other schools within our own districts. There is little to no communication that happens between teachers from different schools.

Our goal is to attract a wide variety of teachers that are representative of the diversity in our profession, as a way of creating an ideal, or series of ideals, that define us.

Let’s get out and do something, let’s get out and make something.

Let’s take back control over the direction of our profession.

I’m interested to hear from all of you. Have there been times where the structure of your school, or your place in it, has stopped you from doing something you know will work better? How are you making your voice heard in your school? Let’s discuss in the comments section!

What do you think?

Matt Daly

Matt Daly has been teaching and coaching for over 15 years. He is an Instructional Leader, Educational Consultant, Writer, and Speaker. He holds degrees in English and Secondary Education from Providence College, an MFA in Creative Writing: Poetry, and has Supervisory Certification in Instruction. Matt lives in New Jersey with his wife, also a teacher, and his three daughters.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Rachel

    I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now. Every teacher I know has been, at the very least, hesitant to try something new that they think will work. Whether it’s content their students need, pedagogical methods, or altering routine structures, they’ve been restricted or “advised” to do things a certain way, even if they don’t think it will work for their kids. And it’s a shame that many won’t even try – not for fear of failure, because most of us are reflective of our practice anyway – but for fear of being “marked down” for having an “off day” or for fear on being “on the radar.” And the worst part? Often when we decide to risk those fears, make changes, and those risks were worth taking because the outcome was good for our students, teachers are penalized anyway. Recognition is taken from the teacher and given to administration or the district, or the teacher is reprimanded for straying from the “school goals” or department norms.

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