Teachers are among the most important role models for children in their community. As children learn geography, math and reading skills from their teachers, they will also learn how to deal with problems, how to approach moral quandaries and how to act responsibly. Because the impact of teachers is so great, it is imperative that teachers understand the ethical dilemmas with which they may be faced.
Defining Ethical Dilemmas
An ethical dilemma is not designed to be an easy choice. In fact, there is often no wrong answer when dealing with an ethical dilemma. As an example, imagine you were the principal of your school and had to decide whether to use a limited set of funds to continue either the honors program or the program for at-risk students. The choice is difficult, but neither option is explicitly wrong or immoral.
In order to serve as a positive role model and demonstrate to students the best way to behave when presented with a tough choice, you must leverage your moral virtues. Honesty, commitment, transparency and responsibility are all virtues that can help you and your students deal with the wide variety of ethical dilemmas that can come up over the course of a school year.
As a teacher, your role is not merely to be a positive example to your students. You must also live up to the ethical values of the organization that you represent. For instance, a teacher at a public school will likely have dramatically different ethical expectations placed on them than they would if they taught at a private Christian university. Your ethical decisions must be informed by personal morality with a reflection on your schools organizational values.
In order to get a better idea of the difficulties involved in ethical dilemmas, it can be helpful to review samples. For instance, one of your students that traditionally performs well has recently begun to show bad behavior and a drop in grades. Her mother is critical of your teaching ability and wants a meeting to address the performance issues. How do you handle the situation? Here is another: one of your students is unable to complete an assignment regarding a religious figure due to a parent's objection. Do you float the student on the grade, or fail him for not completing his work? Is there another option? Running through these types of scenarios will help you prepare for real-life dilemmas.