The Great Teacher Manifesto

Great Teacher Manifesto

Do you have a public declaration of your intentions as a teacher? I’m betting that you don’t. Years ago, I wrote a mission statement for my teaching.

“To help every student develop to his or her full potential. To develop intellectual potential and provide opportunities for social, ethical, emotional, physical, and aesthetic development of every child in my class, and by extension, the entire student body whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

I never thought of expanding it or creating a manifesto.

Something as simple as a short list can help us remember what it important. It can guide our instruction, inspire us to be the best we can be, and help create a warm classroom environment.

The Great Teacher Manifesto

As a teacher, I must remember that:

  • I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to be a student in my class.
  • My success, and that of my students, depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
  • Having ambitious and well defined goals is important but it is useless to think of them much. My job is to focus on the small wins and enable my students to make a little progress every day.
  • One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
  • My job is to serve as a human shield. To protect my students from external intrusions, distraction, and idiocy of every stripe. And to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
  • I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
  • I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong, and to teach my students to do the same thing.
  • One of the best tests of my leadership and my classroom is what happens after people make a mistake.
  • Innovation is crucial to every team and classroom so my job is to encourage my students to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas too.
  • Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to extenuate the positive.
  • How I do things is as important as what I do.
  • Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk for acting like an insensitive jerk and not realizing it.

Revisit this list daily

I think if we keep these points in mind by reading them every day, we will improve as teachers and create an inclusive classroom environment where students can feel welcomed and challenged.


This list was adapted from Guy Kawasaki’s list featured in his book, The Art of the Start 2.0.: the time-tested, battle-hardened guide for anyone starting anything.