Ever since Harvard Bookstore started printing it, I’d been meaning to read Steve Almond’s chapbook/mini-book This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey, and a few years later (after acquiring a copy from Steve Almond himself for a not unreasonable price paid in cash), I finally did. It’s a very readable, compact collection of flash fiction and views on writing, with the latter severely grabbing my attention with pithy, punchy perspectives. Though often stated with an air of certainty, authority or almost sarcastic sagacity, there’s almost a challenge implicit (then finally explicit) in these perspectives/pieces of advice—a dare to one up what Steve Almond stated, and the consideration or even debate that this work may provoke can be valuable to a variety of writers and readers.
Here’s one idea I wound up with after the chapbook ran its course.
Steve Almond’s “Hippocratic Oath of Writing” (shown below) led me to consider a potential Hippocratic Oath of Teaching: Never confuse the student, in the end. I think learning involves a degree of confusion, of exposing and messing with knowledge gaps, to borrow from Made to Stick. But confusion in the service of understanding. By the end of a topic discussion, semester, college, whatever, a student should not leave confused about an essential truth their teachers/mentors/facilitators have been entrusted with guiding them to. For those of us in education, Never confuse the student, in the end, that is a stupendous charge, and while we can’t ever fully ensure that, it’s an imperative that is essential, always posing the critical question to us as we’re trying to explain something: could this be clearer?