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Kristin Peterson

Code of Ethics Evaluation


Ethics have been around for thousands of years. Google.com defines ethics as moral principles
that govern a person's or group's behavior. (Google) They are the idealistic way that we should
conduct ourselves in our everyday lives. As a former accountant, I have dealt with ethics most of
my adult life. Accountants are held to very high ethical standards with sharp penalties for
unethical practices. Teachers are also held to high ethical standards. For this assignment, I
reviewed several Codes of Ethics specifically for teachers and decided that I liked the Code of
Ethics from the Association of American Educators best. Coming into teaching from a nontraditional path, I view teaching slightly differently than many teachers. The AAEs Code of
Ethics seems to fit much more closely with the values that I have and the way that I try to
conduct myself.
The Association of American Educators is a non-profit organization for teachers that is a nonunion professional educators organization that focuses on student achievement without an
emphasis on partisan politics. (AAE) They believe that professional educators should belong
to an organization that promotes their professional above personal gain and that strikes and
boycotts are detrimental to students and to the reputation of teachers as professionals. I have
always had strong feelings about teachers unions and politics in school policy. The AAE strives
to take politics out of the equation and put what is in the best interest of children and education
first and foremost.
The AAE's core beliefs are stated in the overview to the AAEs Code of Ethics. (Code) The
Code is then broken down into four principles: Ethical Conduct toward Students, Ethical
Conduct toward Practices and Performance, Ethical Conduct toward Professional Colleagues,
and Ethical Conduct toward Parents and Community. I will look at each of these principles
separately.
Principle I: Ethical Conduct toward Students. One of the key components of this principle is
teaching character to students. Though parents are still thought to be the "primary moral
compass", teachers have a duty to teach children integrity, responsibility, respect for the law, and
other civic virtues. The goal is to create responsible citizens for our community as well as
promoting the personal growth of the student. Teachers are also responsible for teaching
students how to "evaluate the consequences of and accept the responsibility for their actions and
choices". I feel that this theme cannot be stated strongly enough. Too many students in today's
schools are not taking responsibility for anything, barely scraping by and then falling flat on their
face when they get out into the real world. It is imperative that we get back to teaching strong
moral virtues and responsibility to our students. The AAE's Code lists 5 different tenets that
teachers should use when working with students. First and foremost, teachers should treat all
students equally and fairly, and should discipline by following school policy and the law.
Teachers should be careful to not knowingly release confidential information or disparage a
student in any way. Protecting students is always one of a teacher's primary purposes. This
includes "protecting the students from conditions detrimental to learning" in the eyes of the
Code. Lastly, a teacher must present material in class in a non-bias way, giving students
balanced information that is without personal prejudice. I strongly believe that as teachers we
have these duties to our students.

Kristin Peterson

Principle II: Ethical Conduct toward Practices and Performance. This principle is all about how
a teacher should conduct them self. If teachers are to expect students to be responsible and
accountable, then they must also be responsible and accountable for their actions. They must
also attempt to uphold the reputation of the profession of teaching by following the law and
"demonstrating personal integrity". This must be done both while at school and also when they
are out in the public eye. Within this principle are 7 tenets for teachers to follow. The first of
these deals with a professional teacher being true to their qualifications by not applying for
positions that they are not qualified to teach, and then once hired, they are to follow the terms of
their contract. Next, teacher are bound to maintain their mental and physical health as well as
"social prudence" to perform their job. This is an important tenet as a teacher's stamina and
mental health can have a huge impact on their ability to be a competent teacher. Also, how they
are viewed by the public, plays back to how the profession is viewed as a whole, and students
don't want to be subjected to teacher improprieties outside of school. Tenet 3 requires teacher to
strive for the latest knowledge and maintain personal and professional growth. We live in an
ever changing world, and students need to be taught about the most current information we can
give them.
The one tenet that I have some difficulty with is tenet 4. It asks teachers to follow school
policies and the law as long as they "are not in conflict with this code of ethics". I don't feel that
a teacher can disregard a school policy or break a law just because it does not fit this code of
ethics. Instead, if there is a conflict with school policy, that conflict should be addressed with
administration to determine if policy can be altered to resolve the conflict. Ironically, this comes
back to ethical behavior.
The last three tenets discussed clearly identifying one's personal opinion vs. what school policy
is and not misrepresenting personal opinions as policy, the ethical handling of money entrusted
to them by students or the school district, and that teachers should not use school resources for
personal or partisan gain. Other than tenet four above, I agree with all of these statements.
Teachers must be held to a high standard if the profession is to be held in high favor. Just one
bad teacher in a small community can turn the entire community against the school, with
disastrous effect on the students.
Principle III: Ethical Conduct towards Professional Colleagues. If teachers wish to gain respect
as professionals, then they must act like professionals towards each other. They must treat their
fellow colleagues with respect and fairness. In doing so, a teacher must never reveal confidential
information about another colleague. Also, they must not lie about or disparage other colleagues
or their school district. Either of those will undermine the professional environment of the
school and cause detriment to staff and students alike. Lastly, professional educators should
strive to allow "freedom of choice" among fellow educators, and prevent coercion that puts
educators in ethical dilemmas with their personal beliefs. This last statement is focused squarely
at teachers' unions. Though there are certainly some benefits to teachers' unions, there are also
some disadvantages. One of those being influence over teachers to do what the teacher's union
thinks is best for the teachers, but may not be best for the students. In my opinion, the profession
of teaching has some repairing to do of its reputation. All too often in the news we hear negative

Kristin Peterson

things in regards to teachers, schools, and unions. If teachers would conduct themselves by the
above principle, many of the problems would be resolved.
Principle IV: Ethical Conduct toward Parents and Community. It takes a community to raise a
child, and school districts and teachers play a critical role in that endeavor. The AAE Code states
that it would like public education to remain public and private education to remain private, thus
eliminating the possibility of private institutions gaining control over public schools. I am not
completely in favor of that. I think that there are ways in which certain aspects of public school
could be run by private organizations. The key is for each state to set down a strict set of
guidelines or laws that put the interest of our children first and the saving of money second. The
code also "recognizes that quality education is the common goal of the public" and that schools
and teachers need to work together with the community to achieve that goal. One way to achieve
that goal is through consistent communication with parents. By providing adequate information
to parents, they can work in partnership with teachers and the school to create the best outcome
for their children. The varied cultures and values in a community must also be understood and
respected within the classroom. Students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and teachers
must be able to adjust their teaching style to allow for cultural diversity. Finally, a professional
educator must be active in their community, portraying a positive attitude towards the
community and the school. This comes back to how the community views teachers and the
school. By creating a positive partnership between the school, parents, and the community, the
students will have the best opportunities to achieve academic success.
The AAE's Code of Ethics truly represents children first. Most ethical dilemmas in our schools
should come down to what is in the best interest of the students. Being professional educators,
students should be put above personal gain or wants. This Code is a great compass when dealing
with an ethical issue in school. In one of my journal entries of an ethical dilemma, I was dealing
with a teacher who was giving arbitrary grades to students based on how well he liked them.
Using this code to evaluate the situation, helps shed light on where the ethical boundaries fall.
This teacher has broken several of the ethical tenets of the AAE's Code of Ethics. He is failing to
comply with school district rules regarding how to grade students. He is unjustly treating some
students based on bias toward them and he is not protecting the learning environment. In
principle I, he is not teaching integrity, moral character, or responsibility. By all these tenets, he
is not serving the students first and causing harm to many. This teacher also routinely puts his
interests first, as he will do personal work for his real estate business during class, taking phone
calls from prospective buyers or working up land contracts while students listen to a book being
read out loud. This also flies in the face of the Code. The AAE's Code of Ethics reveals that this
teacher should be turned into his building principal for further investigation.
Overall, I really like the AAE's Code of Ethics. Putting students first is in the best interest of the
students, their families, and our communities. Developing students with high moral character,
that are responsible and accountable will help our society for many years to come.

Kristin Peterson

References
Google, Definition of Ethics, Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/webhp?
sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Definition+of+ethics
AAE, Association of American Educators, Retrieved from:
https://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/about-us
Code, Association of American Educators Code of Ethics, Retrieved from:
https://www.aaeteachers.org/images/pdfs/aaecodeofethicsforeducators.pdf