R2- Legal and Ethical Issues
BY FERN HOSKIN
- Choose two ethical considerations/aspects from the code of ethics that particularly ‘struck a chord’ with you.
- Explain why are were of particular interest to you, what challenges you can perceive in these areas, what learning have you taken from considering these and how this learning will ultimately inform your professional practice whenever you are working with students, teachers, parents/whanau and communities.
Justice to share power and prevent the abuse of power
One of the four fundamental principals which stood out to me because I have seen it happen all too often, both when I was a student at school and when a teacher on placement during my degree is;
· Justice to share power and prevent the abuse of power (McGee & Fraser, 2005)
In so many cases I have seen teachers and higher members of staff use power over children, other staff members and parents, to stamp their authority, gain respect and prove knowledge to be of greater level than anyone else. This trait is in people who may not in fact have correct moral grounding set in place for being a teacher. It is done to prove they are in ‘control’ and gain territory in a sense, over the environment they are in. This miss-use of power can be very dangerous if left in the hands of someone with personality disorders who seek leadership through power over others. It can cause some serious damage in regards to a victims self esteem, persona, confidence and heart of the people being ordered around, spoken down to and belittled.
I think this principle is so important to reinforce within the workplace and especially schooling environment as students can be very vulnerable to unfair treatment and misconduct if left in the wrong hands. Avoidance of this being taken advantage of will not let the system spiral, as the miss use of powers has the potential to grow and grow if left untreated, and become a re-occurring thing.
This potential for it to be misused leaves my fellow teacher and myself colleagues at the risk of falling victim with the raft of someone’s despise, someone who has violated this principle, or who is unaware of breeching of this principle.
For myself, as a beginner teacher, and entering schools where my place is not set in stone, or my job may not seem as ‘important’ as the other teachers, I am vulnerable to many of the faults which may come with abuse of this principle such as; others putting their work onto me because I feel I cant say no, dumping of students or classes onto me when I’m legally not allowed yet, cleaning the mess of the teacher, covering for them or doing something which may not be within our actual responsibilities as a teacher on placement. I keep thinking of myself, as “the new kid on the block” who everyone takes advantage of or thinks is a push over until I can grow my own confidence and a backbone within the new environment.
This leaves me so vulnerable because most teachers will understand what it felt like to be new to teaching, and that you must set a good impression. I would hate to annoy anyone, or turn down the opportunity to help someone who may be giving my lecturers feedback, marking my teaching or in the long run help me in finding a full time job etc., so this violation could easily appear.
However, if someone were to do this to me, it would be in my obligation to alert appropriate staff or personal of their breech of the principle. I need to be stern in my ways and personal morals to either stand up to this person, or alert the correct people to deal with the matter, in a way which wont harm my teaching progress. This situation is one I have thought over many times, and each time I found myself resorting back to the ethical chapter in McGee and Fraser. The step-by-step guide in there is exactly what I would refer to when put in this situation to work through the problem. Firstly identifying the problem, followed by assessing the stake holders who are invested in the situation, which person is given priority, the restrictions to my actions, the appropriate course of action best suited for me, the least appropriate, the one I will follow, how to do so, and revision of the ethical breech and what to do next time (McGee & Fraser, 2005).
Ideally, it would be perfect, being a part of a work place and school environment which is supportive, collaborative and treats people as equal and all teachers, with regard to principals and hire staff etc., on a level playing field, with no misuse of power. I understand the hierarchy, which comes with the schooling environment, just to be treated with respect, and dignity would be the ideal situation.
I am sure that there are many of the ideal environments out there, as I have already experienced my home school to be a place of equality. The hierarchy within the school is well structured and there isn’t one person who claims all glory, orders or bully’s anyone, and they are all supportive of learning students like myself. Even the Principal is down to earth and doesn’t come across as rating himself higher up on the perch than anyone else.
This approach to equality within the school reflect in their entire school environment, as from the very young children, all the way through to the top staffing member, there is no anguish or resentment.
Commitment to the profession, section. Speak out if the behaviour of a colleague is seriously in breech of this code.
The second statement, which struck a chord with me and stood out, is the section:
· Commitment to the profession, section. Speak out if the behaviour of a colleague is seriously in breech of this code (McGee & Fraser, 2005).
This statement stood out to me, as after reading the entire Code of Ethics, I could see that or imagine, that some teachers may break the code. It entails many guidelines for teachers to follow and some at which, I was surprised to read, because in fact I have seen breeches of this code whilst I was a student at school, myself. I have read and seen on the news many instances where teachers have been in the lime light for breach of this code.
This triggered my thinking; it does take a special kind of person to become a teacher. It requires discipline to ones self, the life they live and in some circumstances it will require re-adjustments to lifestyles.
Once a teacher (and for us studying to be teachers, while on placement etc.), it is evident that we are representing the crown. We are looked up to in communities and we must set sound examples for the children and adults alike so that we aren’t degrading any sense of respect we have, any views on the school or classroom itself.
This is where for me as a young teacher (22 years old) I need to prepare myself for this great responsibility, be mindful of who I associate with and behave in a fashion that I would expect anyone teaching my students would. Now this is not to say that I am a party animal who makes bad life choices – I have my head screwed on and I have sound moral views on life already.
This is just a topic I need think about. In no sense of the meaning do I wish to take away from my young twenties, which in Otago many students are indulging every weekend, its more for the fact of me to find a good life balance. I am mature for my age, I do not act unjust, and I think I have done a pretty good job at life so far, hence my decision to become a teacher in the first place. But what for the photo of me with a wine on the weekend or for my favourite hobby of rugby – do people look down on these things within different schools, and can I still be myself whilst maintaining these high teacher standards?
I know I am possible of this, and I do not see myself being lost in the transformation, its just the small things like some parents may not like the fact that I play a full contact sport every weekend. This is getting the thinking really ticking – is it going to affect how I play on the field? The physical aspect obviously rough, but the way in such I conduct myself on the field, a child or their family may be watching.
In relation to other aspects of the code – perhaps the more serious and consequential examples, I can imagine some personalities would attract more attention regarding this statement. However if I was to be put in the situation where I knew of something being done out of order, as a new teacher and one developing relationships within a new job, I would really need support in speaking up unless it was very serious as I am still growing and creating relationships within the workplace.
I have seen on the news on a few occasions where teachers have broken their code of conduct and had been put in the firing light revealing photos, stories etc. through the media of their behaviour. I’m not in any way saying that it is of regular occurrence, but you do see the headlines “Teacher in relationship with…” or “Teacher caught in firing line” and it makes you wonders; how often does that type of thing happen? Or is this the trait of the media putting a spin or blowing the story up.
These larger breaches of the conduct, is not something so much which I would deal with on a day to day routine, however it could be the smaller things which breach the code which I would be influenced either to join in or to keep quiet on. It could put me into a position where I was called a ‘nark’ or snitch etc., like what you may see on the playground at school.
When I was at school, I knew of teachers who did things which, now that I have read and understand the code, would have been in full breach of it, but back then I had know idea of such thing, or would have had any control over the matter. I can almost bet that today, the same teachers are doing the exact same things, in their private life.
There must be a line drawn in the sand? Or a way of which beginner students should know whether or not to take someone to the judiciary for. It seems so unclear to me the more I think of it. I guess it could perhaps come down to personal values? But then again, the Code of Ethics is there for a reason and not to be broken no matter what the situation, which is why I know I will be ok, sticking to what I do best and making good life choices along the way, I will have no issues with this code!
This statement actually makes me feel proud in doing something highly regarded, for choosing a career that is required to uphold such a professional and respected place in our community and world today. It is an honour! This code has made me look at the situations, the requirements and self reflect a bit. It reinforces the importance of my behaviour whilst in the school environment and out side of school life, where students, family, whanau and general population see me at all times, perhaps when I don’t expect it. Were all human, but it is the privilege to be teaching the young people of today, and it must be treated with respect and a high standard held for all.
I think it’s so important to maintain the following standard in order to be a successful teacher in the 21st century and be a respected member of a school environment; Standard Seven: Graduating Teachers are committed members of the profession (Dabner, 2014).
This includes upholding the following statements:
· Uphold the New Zealand Teachers Council Code of Ethics/Ngā Tikanga Matatika
· Have knowledge and understanding of the ethical, professional and legal responsibilities of teachers
· Work co-operatively with those who share responsibility for the learning and wellbeing of learners
· Are able to articulate and justify an emerging personal, professional philosophy of teaching and learning
I think that all of these statements are currently in the process of being completely part of my every day life, and are only going to develop further and further throughout my placement and entire year of study. Like everything, things need to be worked on: they need time to settle and effort to be maintained. I can’t wait to get started!