Improper Attitude and Unprofessional Conduct of Teachers
To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society - President Theodore Roosevelt.
That teaching is at one and the same time an intellectual as well as a moral endeavor, is an idea that is well entrenched in the minds of men since centuries past. The sayings of great teachers of ancient times bear ample testimony to this premise, which continues to hold sway across nations and vastly differing civilizations over the years.
In the sense that it takes care of the general well being of young students entrusted to the care of an educational institution and ensures that they are treated fairly and accorded the respect they are due as persons, teaching is most certainly a moral activity. It is concerned with building and maintaining relationships of trust with pupils and colleagues in schools and with others in the wider community. Teachers ought therefore to have those qualities and forms of personal and professional conduct that are consistent with their calling.
The words and actions of a teacher can assume moral expression and can influence a young individual during his scholastic years, which are the most impressionable stage in his life. In society's view, the teacher is in turn parent, educational state agent, police state agent, social welfare agent, employee and, finally, omni-competent educator. By this token, a teacher must of necessity be able to fit these roles and must maintain the standards of ethics that are set out for teachers and educators alike.
It is taken for granted that the school - and by extension its teachers - make the well being of young people entrusted to their care central to their very existence. It follows that the school's ethics philosophy should be so inextricably woven into the fabric of its existence as to be reflected in the everyday activities of the school.
Where then, does the problem lie? As in any setting where there is considerable interaction between human beings, schools are also at risk of falling short of ethical standards. Most schools and colleges across the U.S. have therefore a clearly defined code of conduct for their teachers and other employees, the intent of which is to address just such a deficiency.
Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics
Many organizations develop a code of conduct, which prescribes a set of guidelines for their employees. However such a code may be silent or unclear in certain instances, when a code of ethics may be found to be more appropriate. Such a code of ethics would serve to ensure long-term commitment to important values, because it demands something more than mere compliance. It calls for people to exercise judgment and take responsibility for decisions they make. It is clear that regulations cannot alone cover every case and that situations will sometimes arise where a choice would have to be made between competing or conflicting values. To this end, teachers must be helped to reflect upon and internalize ethical standards, which includes understanding the purposes of the regulations and a commitment to those purposes.
School administrators can contribute to an ethical school culture by leading by example, particularly in their relations with the other members of the school community. Such relationships should be characterized by mutual respect, trust and consideration.
Historical Perspective on Code of Conduct for Teachers and Changes in Code of Conduct for teachers over Time
The teacher's role has grown in complexity and sophistication over the last fifty years. The role of the teacher was fundamental and clearly defined in the 50's, but the educator of today has a variety of roles, each one more complex than and sometimes in conflict with the others. Teachers' terms of service were governed by certain well-defined regulations, which reflected the values and expectations of the local community. In the early part of the twentieth century, teachers were required to abide by a code of conduct that was quite strict, especially for female teachers. "In some communities, a teacher's contract became null and void if he or she married, left town without the permission of the chairman of the board of trustees, stayed out after 8 p.m., wore bright colors, or smoked."
In some schools in Canada, teachers were instructed to scrub the classroom floor at least once a week and to clean the blackboards daily. Such regulations seem to indicate a desire to place the teacher on a high moral plane. While it is clear that community values have changed over the last fifty years, the idea that teachers should be held to a higher level of ethical and moral conduct than other members of society still prevails today.
The old order changeth. There has been a sea change in the role and responsibilities of teachers over the past few decades. Constantly rising demands from parents and from members of the public have made the job of a school administrator none too easy. Expectations range from improvements in curriculum and better methods of teaching, to guaranteeing school safety. All of these issues must and do engage the attention of educators today. An educator must not only have an abiding interest in and commitment to the goals and values of the teaching profession, but must also rise to meet expectations in a way that is commensurate with the extent of trust placed in teachers by parents, school systems and by society as a whole.
The history of education is replete with instances where people have been disappointed with the performance of educators. Today, those who are disappointed can have their voices heard and can exert pressure for change that can benefit everyone in the educational system.
Moral education is streaking back to the top of many education wish lists." In a recent survey of parents for U.S. News and World Report, "teaching children values and discipline" ranked as the No. 1 priority for education. Much more is now being expected of teachers to fulfill their obligations as role models. They have not only to teach morals, but also to model good behavior. Pressures are mounting for character education, and teachers are also increasingly being held accountable for their behavior.
That they should serve as role models for students is an axiom that is readily accepted by teachers. But in the present day context, when heightened accountability for teachers and educators is the demand from all quarters, the dividing line between the rights to freedom of speech and the standards of conduct that teachers have to maintain, seems to have narrowed down so much as to seem almost imperceptible. Many teachers today believe that the demands made upon them in the name of accountability for ethical standards infringe their constitutional rights as individuals.
As a role model, the teacher is expected to 'wear the mask as it were' and remain the picture of propriety even out of school hours. Complaints about the use of inappropriate language by teachers both on and off school grounds have been a cause for concern for school administrators in recent times. For example a teacher who confronted a student and his mother at the mall was brought to book for using inappropriate language in public.
In Collinsville, the teachers' union protested a new policy on obscene language that calls on teachers to serve as "positive role models" and "ambassadors for the school district." The union chafes at the "vague" policy especially because it's not clear if it applies after school hours.
In Santa Ana, Calif., teachers balked at having to wear suits and dresses after a tough dress code was put in place for students.
A gay teacher in Salt Lake City sued the school district after it removed her from coaching volleyball and told her not to talk about her "lifestyle."
In Florida, an unmarried teacher was reassigned after becoming pregnant.
In another situation, the Collinsville School Board fired a junior-high math teacher after the police found a group of 16- and 17-year-olds drinking at his apartment.
In some cases, the courts have supported schools that discipline teachers for conduct outside of school. The Indiana Court of Appeals, for instance, sustained the firing of a teacher who drank beer in front of students at a restaurant and then drove them home from a field trip.
Even though the teacher may be on his or her own time, misbehavior that can reflect on the ability to act as a role model is within the purview of the school district and doesn't violate free-speech and association rights," says Gwendolyn Gregory, deputy general counsel at the National School Boards Association.
The Arizona Board of Regents prescribes a set of standards of professional conduct for its faculty members. The Board reminds faculty that as teachers, it is their responsibility to encourage the free pursuit of learning in students. They should therefore hold before students as best they can, the scholarly standards of their discipline, make every reasonable effort to…