I am a kind of a sceptic when I have to write about ethical issues in my classroom or for that matter, in the school as a whole. It is not because the matter does not carry weightage, it is because, I have so little knowledge about it. So far, my recommendation to people were simplistic, if you are ‘unsure’ about an ethical view and its clarification- ‘ask your conscience which is pretty ‘vague’, ‘undefined’ or abstract and airy-fairy.
‘Jack of All Trades’, as we teachers are, we have to be a counsellor and psychologist, police officer, travel agent, confidante, banker, librarian, custodian, psychic, photographer, mother and father and play innumerable diversified roles; thus ethical issues certainly will infringe upon our daily rituals. Other day, I had to step into the ethical ‘ground’ when I had to be informed about a transgender student. My first question to myself was how will I best manage the situation in class? Do I address her as ‘he’ or ‘she’ when I meet the person next time, as I have been knowing that student for a long time with different identity. But when I spoke to the student, all were so ‘natural’ and straightforward- the student promptly responded , she/he was least bothered and the student did not care. I admire his courage.
To what extent does perception and values shape one’s ethical decisions? This question haunts me so much and perhaps that can be the reason I want to stay away from ‘ethical discourse’. Perception and values are not ‘absolute’. Our multi-cultural and bi-cultural nature of educational world makes these ethical dilemma an ‘essential’ in our daily life in teaching and learning.
I will bring in a business parable to justify the fact that ethical dilemma is intertwined so delicately in our world too. ‘When incorporated properly into managerial decision-making, law and ethics can become an affirmative strategic tool that functions to facilitate growth, creativity and competitive advantage.’ [Binder, 2013]. I think, that’s also true for us.
I was looking for articles, clause and texts related to ethical matters in our school vision, principles and philosophies. They are there, strewn all over and I had to cherry-pick one or two . But our Educational Council is more prescriptive in saying the teachers must be committed to learners by developing and maintaining professional relationship and they are expected to be student centric. It reminds us the value of continuous professional learning and we should be presenting subject matter from an informed and balanced viewpoint. Here, I sense a perceived conflict as we have multicultural arena, viewpoint may be subjective, debatable which might cause a bit of tension while formulating. It talks about significant social issues, but question arises who defines those ‘significant’ social issues and what will be the basis? Will it be occidental, oriental, multi-ethnic or viking, or anglo-saxon perspective? Sounds like a ‘mess’. I think, we have to approach our ethical questions with open mind and we have to have the appreciation for multifarious perspectives. If we approach ethical dilemma with rigid mind, we might end up in confusion.
I found this extract from ‘Walking the line: school counselling and ethics’ by Sue Webb, it says, A Code of Ethics is not a set of ‘rules’, rather it is where values and principles are expanded into commonly expected behaviours. It is something to do with an identity, a protection, a counselling code for a counsellor’s job. It resoundingly claims that it differentiates ethics and politics. It entails social justice, respect for human dignity. Since schools deal with adolescence which is a time of huge change, each individual traverses it in a unique way and law is appropriately complex regarding legal age milestones, the whole context requires careful professional judgement, otherwise we may overlook the links to the rights of the child.
Teachers must have the ethical responsibility to be even-handed, listen constructively and be respectful. In our school the restorative process certainly sets some guidelines and our value system pivots around being responsible, respectful and caring which is the basis of the fundamental tone setter - ‘relationship’.
Here I also wanted to talk about two interesting strategies our school applies, School Circles (Teaching the Pastoral Curriculum) and Undercover Teams (A Restorative Response to School Bullying),-pretty interesting stuff, but I got to ‘shut’ my mouth as I am only allowed to write 400 to 600 words.
Robinson, G. and Maines, B. (1997) Crying for help: The No-Blame approach to bullying. Bristol, Gt. Britain: Lucky Duck Publishing.
(this small text describes the original 'No Blame' process that UTs stemmed from)
Williams, M. (2007) The undercover approach to bullying. New Education Gazette, 6 August, Volume 86 Number 13
(this is an on-line article, derived from a print version - Mike has a good theoretical and practical grasp of the UT approach and you can contact him at WJM@edgewater.school.nz)
Alan W :: Hall, A. (2001). What ought I do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers.
Sue Webb firstname.lastname@example.org www.hwassociates.co.nz.