Ethics Lesson For the Substitute Teacher (page 2)
What are “Ethics,” and How Should They be Applied?
Most states have a written Code of Ethics and Professionalism that outlines the ethical standards for teachers. As a sub, you should be aware of these standards and follow them in your dealings with children. Although every state takes a slightly different approach to this issue, a number of important ethical guidelines almost always appear.
- Protect children from conditions harmful to learning and keep them safe.
- Be aware of Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Food and Drug Administration (OSHA/FDA) precautions. Follow guidelines for blood borne pathogens. Do not touch or have students touch bodily fluids. When there is an accident, let the nurse handle it. She is knowledgeable and prepared.
- When you are on recess duty, keep your eyes on the students at all times.
- If you sense at any time that a student might become violent, call the office immediately.
- Never leave the classroom unattended. If you must leave to go to the bathroom, ask the teacher next door to watch your class.
- Protect students from unnecessary embarrassment, harassment, and discrimination.
It is as important to keep children psychologically safe as it is to keep them physically safe. I was teaching a second grade class when a little boy bent over and ripped the seat of his pants. No one noticed but me. I quickly stood behind him and had him come into the doorway, shielding his back from view. I knew that if the children saw his underwear, it would give them an opportunity to tease him mercilessly.
Once he was safely out of sight, I gave him a jacket to tie around his waist as he marched to the office. I then alerted the office to call a parent to send in a new pair of pants.
In our diverse culture, it is not unusual for discriminatory behavior to rear its ugly head. If you see one student harassing or discriminating against another because of race, religion, or sexual orientation, you must act immediately. When I have been witness to “ugly” talk like this, I take the rude child aside and talk privately about how hurtful his or her language is. I also say that I intend to tell his teacher about it and suggest a phone call to the parent. If the hurtful behavior continues, send the child to the office or write up a referral. Bullying and teasing must never be tolerated.
Here are some additional guidelines for ethical behavior:
- Respect the privacy of students, their parents, and your colleagues. When you enter a school, you are a professional. Just as a lawyer or psychiatrist will not divulge a confidence, a teacher should maintain the same standards for student confidentiality and privacy. What happens in school stays in school!
- Maintain honesty with colleagues and children. Brian Walton was a small man with a slight lisp, eyeglasses, and a meek demeanor. When he began subbing, Brian thought he’d invent a new image, a background that would impress and possibly even frighten the children so that they would behave well in his class. From the moment the students entered his room, Brian acted like a tough guy, telling the students he had a background in law enforcement. He bragged about his experience using all kinds of deadly weapons (completely inappropriate), trying to frighten the children into submission! His stories were so outrageous that the students knew he was lying. Children are perceptive and can spot a phony a mile away. Always be genuine.
- Be punctual, be dependable, and dress professionally. Try to arrive at least one half hour before the children, giving yourself enough time in the morning to read over the schedule and plans for the day. You’ll create problems for yourself if you run into the classroom just as the students arrive. Punctuality pays.
Dependability is a key attribute that leads to repeat subbing assignments. If you commit to an assignment in advance, be sure to be there on time and with a smile on your face. Don’t cancel. People are depending upon you. If you’re unreliable, you will not be called again.
I have always found that dressing well commands respect. A man in a button-down shirt and tie looks like a real teacher, not a sub. Women should wear a skirt or dress pants, a blouse or sweater, and closed shoes. The more professional you look and act, the more respect you will get. As subs, we need all the help we can get, and dressing well is a painless way to get it. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your sub wardrobe. Discount clothing stores are loaded with nice apparel for teaching.
What are Crisis Codes?
Many schools have become proactive about critical incidents. These include events like school shootings, bomb threats, and explosive devices. If you attend a substitute teacher orientation, you will learn about this important issue. If not, it would be wise to ask in the school office. Find out if there is a written pamphlet on crisis codes. The codes are usually represented with colors, building up from Code White (a minor incident) to Code Red (a major incident demanding full lockdown).
Full lockdown means that there will be no movement in the building except for police or fire officials. There will be evacuation plans that may be announced on the school PA. Usually the students are aware of these rules, but as a professional, it is your duty to learn the crisis code procedures required in your school.
What are the Legal Issues of Subbing?
Many teachers (myself included) sometimes have the uneasy feeling that fear of litigation has changed the school environment and teaching—and that the change is not necessarily for the better. However, it is the teacher’s obligation to follow the dictates of the school district in order to avoid legal entanglements. Among many guidelines in this area are:
- Never touch a student. The climate in our society frowns on physical contact of any kind. In the lower grades this is difficult to enforce. Young children want to hug you and hold your hand. You must use good judgment here. In middle school the rule is clear. Play it safe, keep your distance, and follow the rule of no touching.
- Never discuss your personal religious or political views or try to persuade students to follow them. Although it is perfectly fine to discuss politics or religion if such topics are relevant to the subject matter being taught, it is unethical to proselytize in any way.
- Never use language or act in any manner that could be interpreted as sexual harassment. Be especially careful of inappropriate humor, improper references to a student’s appearance, or any comment that could have a double meaning.
- If you witness an accident, be sure to report it to the office. The school nurse will prepare an accident report and will ask for your input.
If I Suspect Child Abuse, Should I Report It?
School employees (including substitute teachers) are instructed to notify school administrators if they have any suspicion of neglect or abuse. Administrators and other professionals are trained to handle the situation properly. If you suspect neglect or abuse, the first person you should notify is your principal. You need not have irrefutable proof, but I do recommend that you document any conversation or other evidence that caused you to report possible abuse or neglect.
What is a Drug-Free Workplace?
Most school districts and boards of education have a written policy about smoking, drugs, and alcohol. There will be no possession or distribution of controlled substances.
Employees who violate the drug-free workplace policy will be subject to disciplinary action. As a sub, it is very important that you adhere to these rules and regulations.
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- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Problems With Standardized Testing