A young colleague of mine is in a program at Mercy College to get an administrative degree. I like her very much but I'm not completely confident in what she's gotten herself into. Last week, she said she'd been assigned to ask the chapter leader a question. I told her to go ahead. I was pretty surprised to hear that her professor had asked her to have me cite instances in which teachers behaved in an unethical fashion.
Personally, I found the question itself to be unethical. I'm not saying that I or any teacher is necessarily a paragon of virtue, but why would I, in my capacity as representative of working teachers, share some horror story for a bunch of potential administrators to chew over and plan to deal with? Was I supposed to share some story about how someone I represent went out and committed an atrocity?
One of the things about this job is, even if someone did commit an atrocity, I can't really tell people. So many things happen in this job, and I can't talk about them with anyone. Some good, some bad, but all pretty much private. I have forsaken many a good blog while doing this job, and that's tough for me, because I need something to blog about almost every day.
I'm naturally talkative, and naturally curious about what people have to say. That works for me as a teacher, but I really hate keeping secrets. Yet if you're chapter leader, you kind of have to. If your colleague is accused of throwing a cheeseburger at a student and it's true, you can't tell many people. If it isn't true, you also can't tell many people. If the teacher says, "I'm sorry and it will never happen again," you can't report that. If the teacher says, "I'm glad I did it and I'm gonna throw another one tomorrow," you can't report that either.
For the record, no one in my building has been accused of throwing cheeseburgers. But if someone had, and I shared it with my colleague, I wonder what sort of class would ensue. Would all the incipient administrators have a good laugh over the miserable behavior of those stupid teachers? Would they sit and concoct strategies to have those teachers fired? Would they smugly discuss how they are arbiters of morality and we just don't make the cut?
Do teachers do bad things? Can we be unethical? Of course we can. If you assemble a large enough group of people you will always find some who act that way. Now I've never been to admin school so I don't know what they discuss or why they do it. But in teacher school, we never got into discussions of unethical administrators. And why would we, since no administrator in history has ever doled out schedules on the basis of who he likes or dislikes. No administrator has ever given plum assignments to his BFFs, and no administrator has ever punished a person he disliked, or who questioned his judgment, with the worst classes, classrooms and time schedules.
Also, no administrator has ever taken the job to "get out of the classroom." This couldn't be true, because that would imply that said administrator didn't like teaching, and how could anyone who doesn't like to teach be an authority on teaching? How could anyone who didn't like teaching inspire others to love it? It would be like me teaching math, which I don't much love. It would never happen. Actually I have taught math, but not by choice.
I told my young colleague that I found this request in itself to be unethical and unreasonable, and further told her she was welcome to tell her professor my answer and give her my contact info. I'd be happy to discuss it with her. But I notice that sometimes administrators don't like to reach out and make phone calls.
For that, they often rely on unethical teachers.You know, like you and me.
Views expressed herein are solely those of the author or authors, and do not reflect views of my employers, the United Federation of Teachers, the MORE Caucus or any other union caucus.
Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.