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"Ethics are defined as a set of principles of right conducts; the rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession" ( Dictionary of the Human Language, 2000). Teachers are often put in situations that require more than just knowing the basic school rules. It is within these situations, that the ethical dilemmas occur. There is not always a right way to deal with many daily problems that face educators, but there are ways to handle situations that are better then others.
Teachers should follow and refer to a code of ethics to help teach in the most appropriate and ethical way; as well as a guide to help deal with dilemmas.
It is important that teachers give children a fair chance to show their knowledge when assessing. "The purpose of assessment is to provide feedback that can be used to improve student performance" ( Orange 2000). Teachers assess children to ensure that they are understanding the material, and to make sure they are learning. For young children especially tests should never be the only criteria of assessment. Instructors should always make sure that their assessment is fair. When testing a child, make sure that the testing method used is appropriate for that child. For example, if giving a test that relies on visual aids to administer the test it is important that the teacher is certain that all the children have good enough vision to clearly see the aids.
When assessing young children in particular it is important to look for more then simply right or wrong. An in depth look is necessary to see what the children really know before giving them a poor grade. Children's work needs to critiqued in more then one way to be sure that they really do or don't understand. "Varied assessment methods developed and evaluated by teachers make a significant contribution to knowledge about what children know, can do, and still need to learn." (Isenberg & Jalongo, 2000)
Children have the right to confidentiality. It is inappropriate for a teacher to discuss a child's results with fellow colleagues or other students. A child's grades should be private, and should not be posted. Students might be ashamed of their grades, or some people might take poor grades as a bad reflection upon the students' character. "Public pronouncements (of grades) are likely to taint everyone's opinion of that child's ability" (Isenberg & Jalongo, 2000 ). It is important not to share professional confidential information in any other way but a professional way. There are appropriate and inappropriate times to share a child's information, "part of becoming a professional is knowing when to keep quiet and protect confidentiality" (Isenberg & Jalongo, 2000).
Just as braking confidentiality is inappropriate so is teacher bias and discrimination. It is suppose to be that "school is the only institution that can counter the accidents of birth, guarantee of opportunity and provide objective and fair ways to select and train talented individuals" (Goodlad, Sirotnik & Sober,1990). However, discrimination towards students takes place all the time. Teachers often discriminate against males and females, expecting different things from both. "Research over the last decade has shown that males and females have different classroom experiences because they approach learning differently and because teachers tend to treat them differently. There is an expectation that for females in some subjects are usually lower, as they are for members of certain racial and ethnic groups and for poor students." (Hanson & Shwartz, 1992).
Boys are usually associated with doing better in math then girls, while girls are thought of as to excel in English. It seems as though teacher are aware of this bias and instead of helping to stop it they make it worse by treating the children differently.
Teachers continue the bias by picking "teachers pets". Teachers are not suppose to pick favorites. If they do they are certainly not suppose to treat them any differently from the rest of the class. "If teachers favor and esteem certain members of a peer group, the remaining children will understandably have a diminished sense of self worth" (Orange, 2000). Teachers should take the time to evaluate their own behavior, evaluating whether or not they treat children differently. This could also help teachers overcome racial, social or gender biases as well as favoritism. "According to the survey, 82 percent of students say they have had a teacher who has favored one student over others and 52 percent of teachers admit to having done so" (Argarwal, 2001). Teachers are inevitably going to have certain children they enjoy more, it's human nature. It's when teachers begin to give special brakes, or give better grades to certain students solely because they like the students character better, that is when favoritism gets out of hand.
It is very easy to cross the line or use inappropriate punishment as a teacher. Teachers must choose their punishment techniques carefully. Corporal punishment is no longer allowed in a vast majority of states. A school discipline policy is a good guide for teachers to follow to make sure they are using an appropriate discipline method. "On the other hand, even the best policy is only a document, and how it is carried out is at least as important as what it says" (Gushee, 1984). When a child misbehaves it is important to consider what is causing this behavior. Children's motivation for bad behavior usually has to do with "love, power, freedom or fun- or some combination".
(Isenberg & Jalongo, 2000). When deciding appropriate discipline it is important for the educator to keep in mind whether or not the discipline is necessary, productive, fair, or age appropriate. The basic minimum requirement for understanding any young child's behavior begins by building a relationship with them and depends upon effective communication ( Isenberg & Jalongo, 2000). Rather then constant discipline teachers should remember to look for the good as well.
To avoid dealing with problems unethically, and to guide educators in the right way there are a set of principles. The principles are intended to guide, conduct and assist practitioners in resolving ethical dilemmas encountered in the field (The National Association for the Education of Young Children Code of Ethical Conduct, 2000, as cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 2000). There are answers to some specific questions, but not all dilemmas are addressed on the Code of Ethics. They can not tell a teacher how to teach but they can lead them in the right way. Most problems will require the use of the Code as well as professional judgment (The National Association for the Education of Young Children Code of Ethical Conduct, 2000, as cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 2000).
The National Association for the Education of Young Children Code of Ethical Conduct believes that there are certain values that teachers should always keep in mind while educating. The Association states that "Standards of ethical behavior are based on commitment to core values that are deeply rooted in the history of our field." The core values include ideas such as: appreciating childhood as a unique stage, basing work on the knowledge of child development, appreciating and supporting the close ties between family and child, knowing that children are best understood in the context of their family and culture, respecting the dignity and uniqueness of each individual (child, family member, and colleague), and to try to help children and adults achieve their full potential in the context in relationships that are based on trust, respect, and positive regard.
There is no perfect way to teach, and it is hard to find the perfect solution to every problem. The best way for a teacher to deal with ethical situations is to try to avoid the problem to begin with. Teachers should always think about their actions and evaluate their behavior on a regular basis. Problems that deal with concepts such as bias, or favoritism can be avoided by a teacher simply evaluating himself and his behavior. Problems with assessment and confidentiality just take a little consideration, and thinking through. If teacher would refer to the Code of Ethics it might help lead them in the most appropriate and ethical actions and solutions. The National Association for the Education for Young Children Code of Ethical Behavior states that; "Above all, we shall not harm children. We shall not participate in practices that are disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitive, intimidating, emotionally damaging, or physically harmful to children." They say that, that principle has precedence over all others.