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A Teacher's Creed

Teacher's apple on a stack of books (Photo by J. Schafer)
Teacher's apple on a stack of books (Photo by J. Schafer)

What would we do without teachers? Teaching is an invaluable profession because teachers contribute to the intellectual growth of society. Commentator John Richard Schrock, an educator himself, believes teachers can thrive when given the support and resources they need. To that end, he's developed his own "Teacher's Creed."

Commentator John "Richard" Schrock is the director of biology education at Emporia State University, where he trains future biology teachers. He's also a regular contributor to Kansas Public Radio. 


Production assistance for this commentary was provided by KPR News Intern Austin Fitts.


(The audio version of this commentary was slightly edited for broadcast length.  This is a transcript of the original text.)

A Teacher’s Creed

I am a professional.

I do not earn hourly wages or punch a time clock. I am a salaried professional who works as long as needed to get the work done. My salary should reflect the importance of my profession in society.

I alone determine what, how and when to teach the components of my discipline within a range of recognized professional practices. I consult with my professional colleagues, but in the end I determine my teaching practices. I do not yield that curricular duty to textbook publishers or external agencies. While discipline knowledge may be universal, students are not uniform in experience background nor ability.

I teach both my discipline and my students. Students come into my course as unique students. They should graduate from my course as unique students.

I know my discipline thoroughly because a teacher cannot teach what a teacher does not know. And I know my discipline at least one level deeper than what I teach because I must get the lesson correct and be able to carry advanced students further. I have a broad liberal arts education because I am preparing students for a full life, not just for a job.

I have a unique set of communication skills that fit with a particular range of students. Other teaching colleagues have unique sets of skills as well that may often be different. By interacting with a variety of teaching personalities, students learn to interact with the variety of people they will encounter in life.  

The duty of school administration and staff is to provide teachers and students with the support and resources we need.

Just as doctors are the core professionals of a hospital, teachers are the core professionals of a school. And just as the best of doctors lose patients, the best of teachers lose students. This does not mean that doctors want patients to die or teachers want students to fail, but that despite our best efforts, there are many factors beyond our control that are involved in the medical and teaching arts.         

Teaching is an art. And artists vary in how they practice. A teacher who inspires one student may not inspire another.

As a teacher I am a role model for honesty, work and study ethic, and dignity.  Within the context of my discipline, I work with my students. –To reinforce honesty. –To encourage hard work and study. –To promote personal dignity. –To practice students in tolerance and respect for others who differ in language, race, religion, physical features, gender, intelligence and values. –To require respectful behavior so they will in turn deserve respect. –To help students grow to become young ladies and young gentlemen.

I have a responsibility to be excited about my discipline. But each student is responsible for his/her intrinsic motivation.

I will evaluate each student’s intellectual growth with fairness and I will not characterize a student by any single examination. I alone will develop or select the evaluations to be used in my coursework. My teaching will be driven by my students’ needs, not by any external impersonal criteria. I will work to know each student personally, knowing that the totality of a student’s abilities are beyond simple measures and that an examination is not an education.

I will continually update my knowledge in my discipline and in education in order to improve my effectiveness as a teacher. I alone will select my professional development. My school will fully support my professional decisions in self-improvement.


Any country with a future will fully support the teaching profession because all other professions depend upon us to educate their future professionals. For without professional teachers, a country has no future.

Schrock attended Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where tuition was $8 a semester hour in 1964, completing a bachelor's degree in biology teaching and a master's in science education. He began teaching in Kentucky before he graduated from I.S.U., and completed his degrees during summers. Schrock taught five years in Alexandria, Kentucky middle and high schools and two years at the I.S.U. Laboratory School before going overseas to teach at Hong Kong International School for three years. Schrock completed his Ph.D. in entomology working on insect ecology and systematics at the University of Kansas and, upon graduation, worked for the Association of Systematics Collections for three years. When the A.S.C. moved to Washington, DC, Schrock took the position at Emporia State University, directing biology teacher training. He was on the state biology committee and closely involved in the Kansas evolution debates of 1999. He writes a weekly Kansas newspaper column on education, produces public radio commentaries, and appears monthly on Kansas television.