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And Behold!
12 Commandments
For Teachers


In this week's StarrPoints, columnist Linda Starr dreams of a short list of guiding principles that can help teachers keep their jobs -- and the overwhelming avalanche of state and national standards -- in perspective.


I had a dream last night. I stood by the side of a road, watching as long lines of our nation's teachers wended their way back to school. Lugging backpacks crammed with lessons and forms, with construction paper and floppy discs, with knowledge and skill and creativity, the teachers surged forward, a smile on every face, a spring in every step.

Suddenly, a voice thundered from above. "I command you," the voice said, "to teach my children well. This is what you shall teach them." Thousands of stone tablets, etched with hundreds of detailed education mandates, rained from the sky. Stunned by the sight of so many falling standards, some teachers simply left the road. Others, struggling to shoulder the new load, were forced to drop their bulging backpacks. Most attempted to balance both loads but soon collapsed from the weight of their burden.

Dazed and discouraged, the teachers looked toward the heavens. "Wait," they cried. "A single Golden Rule guides all human interactions. Just Ten Commandments encompass all our moral precepts. The Constitution that governs all United States citizens contains only eight articles and 27 amendments. Certainly our task cannot be as impossible as this!

"Set us a task we can accomplish," the teachers pleaded. "Tell us what knowledge and skills our students really need to lead happy and productive lives."

A moment of silence followed their words. Then, miraculously, a single tablet appeared.




  1. Teach them to read, and teach them to love to read.
  2. Teach them to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and teach them to do the basic calculations in their heads.
  3. Teach them where to find information, and teach them to read directions.
  4. Teach them to listen, and teach them to communicate.
  5. Teach them to create, and teach them to respect creativity, whether the product is a sonnet or a cornfield.
  6. Teach them how to stay healthy.
  7. Teach them to appreciate beauty, and teach them to see beauty everywhere.
  8. Teach them how to solve problems, and teach them how to deal with frustration and disappointment.
  9. Teach them to learn from the past, to savor the present, and to plan for the future.
  10. Teach them to appreciate -- not simply tolerate -- differences.
  11. Teach them to act responsibly and to accept responsibility for their actions.
  12. Teach them how to learn, and teach them the joy of learning.

The teachers embraced the tablet and slipped it effortlessly into their backpacks. Rejoicing, they resumed their journey.

It was, you understand, only a dream.

Linda Starr, a former teacher and the mother of four children, has been an education writer for nearly two decades. Starr is the curriculum and technology editor for Education World.