When faced with a moral dilemma, resolving the conflict requires a high degree of moral intelligence. In most cases, bad ethical judgment is rewarded in the short run even though is this often a short-term phenomenon. Granted, resolving ethical dilemmas is difficult because it requires making a choice between two deeply held values. In the teaching profession, the primary duty is inculcating high moral values for children and creating a society based on high ideals. It is thus important that when faced with ethical dilemmas, teachers choose that side that promotes integrity and fosters the primary objective of the profession. Understanding this concept requires the quality of honesty and judgment. After a deeper analysis of the options, then it provides a platform for examining the consequences of each of the options. In this paper, we reflect on an ethical dilemma for the teaching profession. While undertaking this research, we examine the definition of ethics as written by scholars, present an ethical situation, and give a general background of our analysis.
The exact meaning of ethics is hard to capture. What is “ethical” varies from place to place depending on the culture and environment. For that reason, it would be an exercise in futility for this paper to make a case for some universal code of ethics. However, scholars are still entangled in the struggle of finding a comprehensive way of describing ethics. Fundamentally, ethical behavior aims to create harmonious coexistence between individuals in a social setting. We can only hope that our laws reflect the ethical standards that we think are important. Ethics refers to a body of standards of wrong and right, borne, not out of a requirement to obey a rule but for the sake of goodness and justice and fairness. Concerns about ethics cut across the whole sphere of society – from the household to the workplace to places of worship et al. So long as people interact, the question of how best to come within reach of their interaction and create an environment that is conducive will always arise.
Dobbins (1998) defined ethics as ethical problem a complex problem for which there is more than one solution, each solution having varying degrees of advantages or disadvantages for different people concerned. In the cases of ethical dilemmas, there is no clear right answer or solution to the problem. In New Zealand, the education act of 1989 gave the New Zealand Teachers Council to develop a code of Ethics for registered teachers. The demands of the code apply to everyone who is granted the powers of teaching by the state. This code of ethics provides a platform upon which the teaching profession professes its common cultural principles. These ethics provides groundwork for the highest standards of professionalism amongst teachers in the country. The following page is a demonstration of an ethical dilemma I faced as a teacher. I also present a solution that can be feasible in handling the situation.
I am going to use an example of an ethical dilemma that I faced as a teacher of primary school teacher here in New Zealand. I am teacher of grade eight primary children, and one of my students who has been a regular A student, has recently begun to show bad behavior and an acute drop in performance. The student is a 14-year-old boy, who play sports and participates in student leadership. Her mother is critical of my teaching ability and wants a meeting with the Parents Teachers Association committee to discuss my teaching ability. I am faced with a problem on how I can handle the situation. On one hand, the student’s performance is entirely a responsibility of the student, and on the hand, it is my duty to show respect and honor to the parents of the students. The question is, should I own up for the kids failure in performance and unbecoming behavior or should I opt out and blame the parents for their failure in parenting? Where do I draw the line?
As a teacher of the class, I would accept and acknowledge my role of fostering academic growth and pursuit of excellence as teacher. In the same way, I will be doing my duties as a teacher and letting the students do their job. While I spent a considerable time with the students, I can only go so far in terms of developing character for the students. The rest of job belongs to the parents. I will follow the New Zealand Code of Ethics for registered teachers. Section 3 of the document, titled commitment to the Society state that “teachers should model positive values which are widely accepted in society and encourage learners to apply them and critically appreciate their significance (p. 1). In addition, Section 1 of the same document titled Commitment to Learners states that “teachers must promote physical, emotional, and social intellectual and spiritual wellbeing of the learners”. These sections of the code of ethics require that teachers hold a high level of integrity and honesty integrity in the course of professional practice. In addition to the professional requirements, personal growth and behavior change is mostly a personal thing. This is the reason I would make sure that my role as a teacher is to protect the student’s growth facilitating the kid’s academic growth. The performance of other teachers would help debunk the argument that my teaching ethics is suspect. For the sake of my responsibility as a teacher, I would explain that I did my part, and followed on the student, the failure lies in the failure of parenting. However, I would not make that obvious. I will try to explain how the student was helped.
While taking this course, I would first make sure that I had discussed the issue of the student’s performance with the mother of the student and the student. I will try counseling the student with the dropping grades and find ways of bring back his concentration. Having done that, it would be the responsibility of the parents to follow on their kid’s role and not mine. The New Zealand teacher’s code of ethics guarantees that teachers have a set of principles that the practitioners in the field of education must follow and honor. The principles outlines serve a connection between the requirements of the society and the needs of the society. They give standards that the society expects on teachers as they play the role of developing students for the expectation of the society.
Underlined in the code of ethics is the premise that the student is the most important reason for the existence of the teaching profession. In my view, the code of conduct also acts as the bible that gives guidance for solving ethical dilemmas that teachers face while undertaking duties as teachers. As a teacher is important, that one follows the ethical requirements because the education profession is vested by the public with the trust and responsibility of developing scholars with the highest ideals of professionalism.
Charles Levy writes that a “value pattern defines a direction of choice and a consequent commitment to action” (p. 36). I think that the judgment should be based on a method that helps the victim and not necessarily, what is on book. In my view, what is at stake is not whether the situation is ethical or not, but the healing of the children and helping them become exemplary members of the society. According to Levy, the outcome of situations depends on how individuals go about the situation and their relationship with other people (Levy, 1973). This does not argue for on- book interventions. I have chosen the path of honoring the role of respecting the parents’ wishes while compromising justice. In real sense, the student ought to be held responsible for his own failure; however, because of the need to respect the parent’s wishes, that expectation is compromised. As a teacher, I am firm believer that the student is my paramount responsibility. I also agree that a common approach for realization of this goal is elusive.
While assessing this dense expectation, there is a need to understand that character development is a vital aspect of academic progress. It is the responsibility of every teacher to ensure that students understand why it is important for them to exercise integrity and honesty while working on any aspects of their assignments. The requirement of honesty does not go against any treaty signed by the governments of New Zealand. In the same way, teachers must acknowledge “the moral nature of teaching. According to this expectation, the biggest moral obligation on the part of teachers is the change of another so that they understand and better behaviors at all times. Like Murphey and Alexander, I agree that “there is more to teaching that the dissemination of factual knowledge” (p. 3). Teachers must also play the key role of understanding that they learn from the students. In this process, there is the absence of the universal truth. However, ethical situations such as the ones involving parents, then the pursuit of truth and justice are compromised by buying into the expectations of the parents and the society.
Heyward (2004) explored the correlation of the teaching profession and the political environment. In the article, “Why the Moral is Political and the Political is Moral”, Heyward argued that political decisions are moral because the desire of political groups such as the right wing or the left wing are geared towards ensuring progress for the society. The differences in political thought are a manifestation of the differences on the manner that the society should take to move from point A to point B. In the same way, when teachers are faced with moral dilemma in class, their decisions should be ones that has the advantage of enacting progress for the betterment of the society and not penalizing the student. The connection here is that while the pursuit of excellence is every teacher’s dream, the success of the student is a personal decision. My decision in the case of this student and the parent, compromised the principle of justice, truth, and responsible care and autonomy by including a third party, the BOG which destroys the relationship between the teacher, the parent, an student. It also destroyed the sanctity that exists in the teaching profession ( Snook, 2003).
Virtue ethics directs attention to the teacher and student. One such case involves the reactions when faced with challenging situations involving their responsibility to maintain confidentiality. This publication goes on to expand on ‘virtue ethics’ as relating to good character found within the teaching professional resulting in “doing the right thing”. Perhaps the importance of this ethic can be attributed to the ability of the teaching professionals to determine what is truly right and wrong; thereby disregarding own personal views and biases when applying a decision-making process to a challenge incorporating confidentiality. This can be seen when a culturally diverse student’s attempts to influence the teacher’s decision-making, in the event of potentially ‘character damaging information” being withheld from family members due to cultural beliefs.
In summary, the paper has explored the concept of teaching and ethics and its connection with ethics to transform performance. In general, we present an argument that a more comprehensive and engaging application of ethics creates `room for increased consultation that improves quality of education and the teachers primary responsibility for the society. In the same way, while ethics is hard to define, a more engaging and social responsible company will practice standards that are in accordance with the social responsibility. Ethics thus become correlated with both performance and leadership. The compromise for this case, is the difference in the role of a teacher, and that of a parent.
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