It is generally believed that the profession of teacher is a very romantic one. It’s so nice to bring new knowledge to people and educate them. However there are many difficulties, which a teacher has to deal with in everyday practice. A large layer of those difficulties are to do with morality problems. Resolving such morality difficulties sometimes appears to be quite a challenging task.
Janet – a biology teacher at a college – has just run into a very serious morality problem. Janet is a very busy professor and among other responsibilities she also appears to be an academic advisor. Janet gives students advice as for various matters having to do with their further studies and other related matters. But one day she is approached by a student, a young lady who starts with regular questions. However, this lady starts describing to Janet her situation at home, which appears to be interfering with her studies. The student loses control of her emotions and is about to start crying. She keeps on telling her story to Janet, while Janet realizes that it is already about time for the staff meeting to start. And it’s a very important meeting. All the staff members are supposed to show up in order to vote for a candidate to occupy a vacant position at the college. This is a serious dilemma for Janet and there is not much time for making a decision.
The dilemma Janet has just faced is definitely of morality nature. The decision she is being forced to make will probably be an ethical decision, since it will be grounded on a few of the six main morality values, which are, as stated by Brincat and Wike (1999), “integrity, respect for persons, justice, compassion, beneficence and non-maleficence, and responsibility”. So, Janet finds herself in a very awkward situation. The situation is even worse due to the lack of time and the necessity to make a decision.
Two major strategies of behavior come to her mind as she thinks over the situation. Her first behavioral option would be to politely interrupt the student and tell her about the meeting and the necessity to be present at it. Certainly Janet would apologize before the student and explain how truly sorry she feels to interrupt her story under such circumstances. Having done those explanations Janet could suggest that they should meet some time soon either at her office or out of school and continue their talk.
Janet’s second behavioral option could be the following: simply ignoring the staff meeting and staying with the student, trying her best to work out a possible solution for the situation described.
There could be other options for Janet to resolve the problem, but let us consider that these two were the only ones which came to her mind during the short period of time she had for the decision making.
It is really hard to tell which one of the options is better and which one is worth. They both have got enough of advantages and, unfortunately, disadvantages. But in order to be able to analyze the situation in more details, let us define at least three morality values, which are the most relevant to the situation. We will pay special attention to integrity, respect for other people and responsibility. In order to understand, which one of the behavioral models is better for Janet to follow (from ethical point of view) we need to analyze, how each of these three values advances in case of any of the two options, Janet has got to choose from..
Let us start with option 1, when Janet makes up her mind to be honest with her student and offer her different time to discuss the student’s situation at home.
It is quite obvious, that if Janet chooses to follow this path, the integrity factor is going to be advanced. Firstly because she would be straight-forward with the student, tell her the truth.
The second chosen value, respect for other people, is also going to advance due to this decision. It is obvious, that Janet shows her respect to the student. She doesn’t neglect the student’s problem; on the other hand, Janet also shows her respect for the people at the staff meeting. She is not going to neglect it either.
Looks like a perfect solution. However, there is also the second option; the one where Janet would simply neglect the meeting of the staff and stay with her student. Is this solution really all that back? Let us use the same three morality values as criteria and see, how they are advanced when this behavioral model is applied.
Integrity does not seem to be advanced much, because the teacher is not quite honest and open with the student. It is worthwhile telling the student about the staff meeting and give her an idea of in what hurry Janet is. Otherwise the student could have found out about the meeting later and this may make her feel very bad about the situation.
Our second value was respect for other people. Here the situation has got two sides. On the one hand the professor displays a lot of respect for her student by listening to her story and not interrupting her. On the other hand her behavior may appear quite disrespectful regarding her colleagues, who require her point of view at the staff meeting. Which two of the factors matters more is hard to tell. Janet might have a lot respect towards her colleagues when taking the decision, simply under these circumstances her staying with the student appeared to be more important than visiting the meeting. The decision at the meeting will be taken anyway, while the student seems to be in the critical state.
Finally the last one of the selected morality values. It was responsibility. In this respect Janet’s attitude to this value appears to have two sides as well. Yes, she displays major responsibility to her student and it’s impossible to deny it. But then she totally neglects her responsibility towards the staff, her colleagues, and her professional responsibility as a teacher.
This all brings us to a thought that it’s much better for Janet to follow the first behavioral model, or, as we have previously named it, behavioral option. This option gives her a chance to respect all three morality values.
But what if Janet appeared to be a utilitarian. What behavioral model would be the most likely for her? In real fact she would most likely follow the first model, but without feeling sorry for the student and without offering her to arrange a new meeting in order to finish the conversation. In such a case Janet would simply interrupt her student five minutes before the meeting and excused herself, having told the student that time was pressing.
In real fact the first behavioral model appears to be the best one out of all available options. And not only because all the morality values appear to be respected in such a case. In real fact the student needed her problem to be resolved; however her almost hysterical state might not give her a chance to think about possible ways of resolving the problem. The meeting and the conversation of the student with her professor may have appeared to be quite fruitless. While arranging a new meeting will give the student the time to calm down, think over the situation and what exactly she expects of the professor. This will also give Janet enough time to think over the student’s situation and develop her own behavioral model, which would help the student, feel confident and understood. She will have enough time for thinking over the advice she would give the student.
As we can see, the every day routine of a teacher is not only romantic, but sometimes quite challenging and stressful. It takes a talented teacher and a very good person to withstand all those stresses and challenges. It is important to be always ready to find a vise solution of a very unusual problem. It’s very important that the teacher should not ever forget how important of a responsibility they carry.