Something that I witnessed made the issue of ethics very present in my conversations and life this week . I watched a person who works in education (Is that enough to make him an educator? I think not.) present / sell his “product”. There’s nothing unethical in this of course. But the way he chose to do it unsettled me – and please consider “unsettle” a euphemism for much stronger feelings I had as I listened – because during his presentation he bashed other institutions that provide the same service he does – English teaching. He did not name any institutions; he generalized, throwing everyone – but his – in the same sack. And I will not be specific as to what he said, but I can assure you it wasn’t nice at all. I was fuming by the end of his presentation.
Everybody (and every institution) has flaws. I actually think flaws can be positive thing – I am full of them, so maybe that’s why I think like that. Flaws are a constant reminder of our humanity. Recognizing our own flaws can lead to learning and development, evolution. Your flaws are part of your personality, part of what make you who you are. And perfection (if there is such a thing) can be very boring. But if you trust yourself, the quality of your work, of the product you’re selling, you don’t need to bash others to make yourself look good. That’s petty. Wrong. Unnecessary. And extremely unethical. Especially for someone who works in education. After all, we’re the ones teaching people. If being a parent has taught me anything it is that the #1 way people (and especially children and teens) learn is by example, by doing what their role models do. And as educators we are role models. I believe everybody has an obligation to be ethical, but for educators that’s in the job description. I mean, we tell our students to respect others (and others’ work), to not cheat, not plagiarize… We can’t go around doing something else. Do as I say and not as I do? Not for me. The lesson I got from that is that some people don’t hesitate in putting other down to look higher themselves.
You may be asking yourself if I said anything right there on the spot. No, I didn’t. First because I was really angry at that moment and you should avoid doing (especially saying) things while you’re angry. If I had said something right there I probably would’ve said too much, taken by the heat of the moment, and then regretted. And then I could’ve been unethical. Two wrongs do not make a right. But it’s been “brewing”all week, and I thought my newly created blog would be a perfect outlet for my venting. Why are some people like that? How can people not see this is not the way to do things?
I don’t have to say that some other teacher’s practice is bad to make mine good. There’s space for us ALL to teach great classes. That scenario looks much better to me.
Does the end justify the means? Ever? Thinking back at my own practice, do I ever do anything like that? Well, I’m not sure… For instance, there’s a strategy I use to get my students to write essays, to realize that doing them is not the horrible monster they paint. I ask them, through the course of 4 or 5 classes, to write on a topic (usually answering a question about the theme or completing a promtp) for 10 minutes. 10 minutes doesn’t hurt. they’re ok with 10-minute writings. they feel confident, and usually do a good job at it. But I organized those questions and prompts in a way that in the end, after the 4 or 5 10-minute writings are done, I give them back to the students and they can organize those mini-writings into a full essay – with minor adjustments. Each mini-writing is, in essence, a paragraph os a full essay. But I never tell them what will happen when I assign them the mini writings. I am afraid they wouldn’t take it as easily. Does my not telling them from the start – in a way deceiving them into writing a full essay little by little – make it unethical. Because in a way this is a “the end justifies the means”. Isn’t it?
At least I did gain something from the episode. I became more aware of my own behavior, paying attention, trying to find examples of unethical actions… And hopefully it will help me be a better person.