What are the Ethical Responsibilities of Teachers?

Teachers of integrity. Bullying. Ethical responsibilities of teachers in education have been in the limelight for years. Teachers have many responsibilities to their own professional staff and their students. The most important jobs that a teacher has are to teach the students and provide a safe environment for the student. The NEA and the Texas Code of Ethics outline many rules that teachers must follow in addition to that. Among the teacher’s ethical responsibilities are to not falsify records, engage in deceptive practices against the school, no alcohol on school property, keeping private records private through FERPA, not discriminating against students, not abusing students in any sense of the word, and refraining from inappropriate communication with students (Texas). Though the NEA and Texas Code of Ethics both talk about ethical responsibilities of teachers, the NEA references general guidelines to be followed in the ways of commitment to the profession and the student whereas the Texas Code of Ethics goes into more detail regarding specific policies and the responsibilities that a teacher must uphold to the school itself.

Teachers have the responsibility of keeping students’ records private under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is similar to HIPAA for medical records. It says that parents have a right to access their child’s education records and amend them if they are believed to be inaccurate. The teacher side of that is thferpa-special-education-ieps-600x600at teachers need permission to disclose any personally identifiable information from education records (Family). This means that students and their work have a certain right to privacy under the law. Teachers have the responsibility to show grades only to that student, keep proper documents and information about students such as IEPS or 504 plans in a protected space not accessible by other students.

Teachers also have an ethical responsibility to the safety of their students, which amasses most of the teacher policies in the Texas Code of Ethics. One way teachers can protect students is through prevention of bullying. Even through the growing resources for awareness and education, bullying is a problem in schools that still exists in schools today. Bullying can be both perpetrated by boys and girls, but most of the time it is against the same sex of the bully in a show of dominance. Sometimes it can also be against the other sex. When it was published in 2011, Rodkin’s article reveals that 60% of 5th-7th grade girls reported being bullied by boys, and an astonishing 38% of them were sexually harassed.

This week, when researching bullying and the teacher’s ethical responsibility to help, I was reminded of my own experiences in school. I was bullied for 4 years in middle school. I faced a group of girls who teased me for how ugly I was because I wore glasses and a headband. Most of the bullying for two years was emotional bullying, being left out of things, and not invited to any parties when all the other girls were. In the last two years, it turned to sexual harassment every day by a group of boys in my grade. It eventually peaked when I was hit in the face by a male classmate and had a black eye for the next few days at school. My dad had to fight to get this boy suspended because the principal didn’t want to rub elbows with the secretary, who was his mom. I spent the rest of the year in 8th grade getting bullied nearly every day, feeling alone, and hating school.

One thing that bothered me in school was that I felt like I had no ally in my own teachers or my classmates. All this bullying happened in the open but the teachers never talked about the bullying in the classroom or created an environment to fix it. Rodkin talks about bullbullying-cartoonying and the different the many ways that teachers can prevent bullying by asking students about bullying, asking students about their relationships, changing classroom structure, utilizing antibullying curriculums, and recognizing some of the causes of bullying too.

To combat bullying, teachers should know about bullying and the potential for it to happen in their own classroom. They can ask students about bullying and gauge their knowledge of bullying in general. They should know the indicators of a bully or a potential bullying situation through knowing which students dislike each other and what students are at risk to be a bully or be bullied. They can ask students about their relationships with students at school to also gain knowledge about the class.

Another way teachers can prevent bullying is using the environment in the classroom. A teacher can pick leaders who are good models of appropriate behavior and have them be leaders inside and outside the classroom to prevent bullying (Rodkin). Teachers can also stay informed of ways to teach antibullying curriculums to be able to feel competent to teach about it or present media about bullying that is relevant to the student and their age. Being able to do this will encourage the teacher to promote all classmates being good friends and to stand up against bullies. Rodkin talks about the last way that teachers can tackle bullying: by understanding that bullying may be an outward expression of an inner struggle. Some bullies have other things going on at home and have anger problems. It is important as ethically responsible teachers to get to know the students and their struggles they may have.

Though ethic responsibilities for teachers is a list of almost thirty different guidelines, they can be summed up into few words: integrity and safety. Being a teacher of integrity will promote a more respectful environment in the classroom and promoting safety and kindness will minimize bullying and other forms of abuse. Many schools today have made great strides in trying to rid the classroom of bullies, and granted middle school for me was a little over a decade ago, but there is always room for improvement. Empowering teachers to feel competent to tackle bullying and be aware of the struggles of their students will promote a safe classroom, and maybe one day, bullying will never be something I must tackle with my own child.

Bibliography

Code of Ethics. (1975). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

H., & H. (2015). {ABCs of IEPs} F is for FERPA. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://adayinourshoes.com/FERPA-IEP-Special-Education/

Rodkin, P. C. (2011). Bullying — And the Power of Peers. Educational Leadership, 69(1), 10-16.

Stop Bullying Cartoon [Cartoon]. (n.d.). In Cartoonaday.com

 

Texas Administrative Code. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4

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3 thoughts on “What are the Ethical Responsibilities of Teachers?

  1. Great use of the references in the module in your blog. I agree that anti-bullying is not stressed in classrooms enough and should be established and repeated. I do not ever recall being actually told in school anything about bullying. Given, I went to middle school more than twice as many years ago as you did and times may have changed. I hate to say it, but bullying hasn’t stopped at the K-12 doors. I teach here at TWU and the grown adults in my class one semester bullied a transgender student. This left me livid. I immediately stopped the situation and gave a lecture, if you will, on how people should be treated. Thanks to this incident, I now give a similar speech on the first day of class. Additionally, every week when the class meets, at some point during the 3 hours we are there, I remind students that everyone is different and no one wants to be made fun of for their differences any more than they do so we need to respect each other and embrace our differences because everyone being the same is boring. These were adults, children need even more reinforcement to keep a behavior going. It’s important to condition children to understand the golden rule of treat others how you want to be treated. Allowing students to handle bullying on their own is helping no one. If we as educators can instill in kids to support one another instead of gathering around and shouting “fight, fight, fight” then I like to believe that bullying can be eradicated in future generations.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Erin, I absolutely love your honesty in this blog post. I believe that our personal experiences make us stronger and more aware of what is going on in our own classrooms. We also have the power to control the situations that happen in our classroom and use them as teaching experiences to those who have hurt others. Every student has their own struggles and personal issues in their lives, and the majority of the time the bullies are not an exception to this. We can absolutely be the solution to both sides of bullying situations. The NEA and the Texas Administrative Code assist us with these matters and place ethical codes in effect to help guide us into solutions for these issues. “The educator – shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety” (NEA Code of Ethics, 2013). Like you, I was also a victim of severe bullying from pre-k through 8th grade. Believe it or not, it was only once I got to to high school that the bullying stopped and I was able to make friends that I kept even until present day. I went to a private school during pre-k through 8th grade, and many of the teachers were nuns that were not formally trained in teaching as their primary profession. This caused a lot of tension when episodes of bullying were reported, because the teachers were mainly focused on grades and not necessarily the mental well being of the students. For 10 years my bullying issues were never addressed because it was classified as complaining and attention seeking.

    Now, I believe that bullying is still strong today, although it’s been many years since I’ve been in a classroom such as that. I’ve even been in college classrooms where the students bully the teacher! However, I think we have become more progressive and tolerant and willing to take a stand against these harmful actions against everyone, students and teachers alike.

    References:
    Rodkin, P. C. (2011). Bullying — And the Power of Peers. Educational Leadership, 69(1), 10-16.
    NEA Code of ethics. http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2013-NEA-Handbook-Code-of-Ethics.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Erin,

    I enjoyed reading your blog, I could relate to some of the experiences you went through. I didn’t go through harsh bullying (bullying is still bullying), but I did get talked about from time to time. When you mentioned that your teachers and surrounding peers didn’t come to your defense even when they knew something was going that broke my heart, as teachers addressing situations like that should have been their number one priority goal. Yes we are there to help students learn, but we also have to remind ourselves we are also there to ensure that students feel safe when walking through our schools doors.

    Most people aren’t honest when it comes to this topic, even when they’ve experienced bullying so when it comes to other aspects of their life they are more likely to ignore the signs of someone else being bullying or acknowledge it, but see it as the person should fend for themselves. I believe almost all teachers have to go through training to notice the signs of bullying. Some of the signs of bullying are listed below.

    Schools don’t always need formal programs to help students learn about bullying prevention. Schools can incorporate the topic of bullying prevention in lessons and activities. Examples of activities to teach about bullying include:

    Internet or library research, such as looking up types of bullying, how to prevent it, and how kids should respond
    Presentations, such as a speech or role-play on stopping bullying
    Discussions about topics like reporting bullying
    Creative writing, such as a poem speaking out against bullying or a story or skit teaching bystanders how to help
    Artistic works, such as a collage about respect or the effects of bullying
    Classroom meetings to talk about peer relations

    More importantly we should find ways to discuss the effects of bullying and the signs of it with students so if it’s ever a problem they know that they can come to a teacher and won’t feel along.

    Reference

    A. (n.d.). Educate About Bullying. Retrieved October 9, 2016, from https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/at-school/educate/index.html

    Liked by 1 person

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