Ethical Dilemmas in Teaching

Ethical Dilemmas in Teaching

Teachers can face all sorts of problems. The catch is–there’s not necessarily a right answer. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to your personal values. Some of these may be a big deal to you, some may not.

Also, when pondering/discussing these, think about something the Marines call hot/cold ethics. Cold ethics are what you’re going to do reading this–you’re going to think about it, have the time to create the optimal answer for the situation. You have the luxury of thinking, refining, and debating the question with others. Hot ethics are what happen in the moment–the point where you need a decision in seconds, when there is no time for debate and discussion, when emotions may be running high.

*A student is five minutes late to the final exam.  Do you permit the student to take the test?  Would it matter if the student was habitually late and had been warned previously?

*Two students are at 89.44%.  Do you round those up to 90%?  What if the absences, participation, etc, are the same?  Do you always treat all students equally in terms of grading?

*You’ve been told that if standardized test scores don’t improve, you’re out the door.  Do you stop teaching the material–and begin “teaching” what will be the answers on the standardized exams?

*Writing skills are substandard across American schools.  Do you require term papers?  Do you require weekly written work?

*Your best student is not a great human being.  There’s an award for academic excellence.  Do you submit his her name or pass her over–even though character/attitude is not part of the criteria?

*A coach comes to you and asks you to not put “F” for the weekly grade because her star player would be ineligible and unavailable for the playoffs.  What do you do?  Stand your ground, give in, or suddenly come up with ‘extra credit’ the student can do?

*You know another teacher is playing favorites and manipulating grades–do you report that to the administration?

*You notice an error in your grading.  It wouldn’t make a difference in the final grade though.  Do you change it anyways?   What if it would make a difference?  What if it lowered the student’s grade?

*A student calls you out for a mistake you’ve made.  They are disrespectful about it–but it IS an error on your part.  What do you do?  How do you handle the discipline of it?

*Do you make judgments about other teachers’ “seriousness” as educators based on whether they also serve as coaches for sports teams?  Do you consider coaching a sport different than teachers who direct school plays/musicals or coach Scholar Bowl or Lego Engineering teams?

*A student asks you for a letter of recommendation but you have reservations/won’t be able to give a glowing review.  Do you tell that to the student?

*A student asks for a recommendation and has checked the box waiving their rights to see your letter and recommendation?  Do you tell the student this is a bad thing to do or just go ahead with the letter–whether a positive letter or not?

 

Just food for discussion and thought. These may never come up but a teacher needs to make sure to plan for many eventualities and with problems like these, some forethought can save a lot of grief down the road because it’s easy to come up with the ‘cold’ solution–even the best teacher may choose a different path (even knowing the ‘right’ answer) when a ‘hot’ situation erupts.