Sunday, 11 October 2015

Task Eight: Teacher Ethics

Terri and Social Media: I recognise this scenario as a keen personal user of social media, as a way of keeping in touch with family abroad and also as a way of discussing political and social issues. I have a busy online life and am open about being a teacher. The ethics of maintaining this online presence as an education professional are something I consider a great deal, and I am careful to maintain a distance between my online and professional lives.

In this scenario, Terri has put her colleagues in a very difficult position. She is entitled to a life outside the classroom, but that should be kept at a remove from her students and colleagues, for her own protection as much as anything else. The Education Council's first commitment to learners is: 

"develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based upon the best interests of those learners"

This commitment extends to online relationships as well, and I don't see how a professional relationship can be maintained with people who are currently students of  teacher if they are friends on personal social media accounts. Personally, I have a couple of former students who I have stayed in touch with through social media but only after they had left my care in loco parentis. Professional relationships in education are extremely important for the safety and wellbeing of young people, and seeing a teacher they respect and admire engaging in risky, illegal behaviour compromises their safety and wellbeing. 

The final part of the Education Council's Code of Ethics states that teachers should:

"speak out if the behaviour of a colleague is seriously in breach of this Code."

Despite it being a difficult thing to have to do, Terri's colleagues should talk to Terri about her online actions in the first instance, if they feel safe and comfortable to do so. If they do not, then the issue should be taken to a line manager or HR officer who will have the resources to help Terri. 

The second scenario is also familiar, if more complicated than the issue I've occasionally faced. Changing social and familial setups, and schools opening longer hours, have made the school commute more challenging and I recognise the student in this scenario as I have several in similar situations. There are two issues at play here. One is that the teacher is being imposed on by a parent to drive her child to school, the other is the appropriateness of a male teacher being alone with a female student in a car. 

The teacher is obviously uncomfortable with the request being made of him. Whilst it might seem to the mother to be convenient to have him pick up her child, this is a long-term commitment and does not allow the teacher to deviate from his schedule in the mornings. It demands too much from the teacher and he has every right to say no, just from this point of view. 

The other issue is more serious. If the teacher did agree to this, he is making himself very vulnerable to the suggestion he is not acting appropriately towards his student. Whilst in New Zealand the situation is not as bad as in the UK, teachers should be mindful not to put themselves into situations where their motives could be questioned. 

The teacher in this scenario should refuse to meet the parent's request. The parent should work with the school to find a way of getting her child there in time, or work with her employer to find a way of ensuring that her child's learning is not being compromised.

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