Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 12/12.4.2

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What Does It Mean To Be An Ethical Teacher?

Learning Targets:

  • 1. Readers will be able to understand the definition of ethics.
  • 2. Readers will understand the qualities of an ethical teacher and be able to examine their own classroom (or future classroom)and decide if they are "ethical teachers".


According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of ethics is the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation or a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, 2009). Teachers everyday must deal with what is good and bad in the classroom. They have to make the call on their own everyday and they hold the children's wellbeings in their hands. Teachers decide on a daily basis what they will allow in their classroom and what they will not.

Ethics in The Classroom

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) code of ethical conduct gives teachers guidelines for the classroom.

• Appreciate childhood as a unique and valuable stage of the human life cycle.

• Base our work on knowledge of how children develop and learn.

• Appreciate and support the bond between the child and family.

• Recognize that children are best understood and supported in the context of family, culture, community, and society.

• Respect the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of each individual (child, family member, and colleague).

• Respect diversity in children, families, and colleagues.

• Recognize that children and adults achieve their full potential in the context of relationships that are based on trust and respect.

(NAEYC, 2005)

Eventhough NAEYC's code is aimed toward early childhood education, the principles are universal and apply to public school teachers.

"Good teaching involves enriching, not impoverishing, students' understandings of self, others, and the world. It means expanding, not contracting, students' knowledge, insights, and interests. It means deepening, not rendering more shallow, students' ways of thinking and feeling. And it entails paying intellectual and moral attention as a teacher(Hansen,2001)."

What An Ethical Teacher Looks like

A ethical teacher is fair, they use the same standards for every child and they are not bias. Being a teacher is a job but being a ethical teacher is a duty. Teachers not only must be ethical in the way they treat the children in their class, but in the way they grade and what they teach. In my opinion EVERY child deserves our BEST. A passion for teaching is an essential part of being an ethical teacher. An ethical teacher will strive to better themselves in any way so that they can impart that knowledge onto their students.

Problems and Issues A Teacher Might Face

Teachers face many tough ethical dilemmas and circumstances where an individual’s own moral code is contested by that of colleagues, administrators, the school community, and the union to name a few (Scheopner, 2005). Teachers will face many different types of problems and issues throughout the course of their work. Having a code by which you work will help you when you have an issue that your not sure how to handle. Handling behavior problems in an ethical way can be one of the most touchy issues. Problem behaviors come in a variety of forms and no matter what the issue, know how you are going to handle it(Richert, 2009). I know that as for myself being a assistant Kindergarten teacher problems can arise in the blink of an eye. Not knowing how to handle problems is usually the most frustrating part.

Final thoughts

In conclusion as a teacher, you must decide what is right for your classroom. Having a set of guidelines to look back to in times of trouble is always a good idea, but essentially it is up to you as the teacher and head of the class to make the right decision. Teachers are going to face many problems and probably never the same one. ALWAYS remember that anyone can be a teacher but only someone committed to what they do can TEACH. The most important of being a teacher is being an ethical one!


  • 1. Hansen, David (2001). Exploring the Moral Heart of Teaching: Toward a Teacher's Creed. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • 2. ethic. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved February 16, 2009, from
  • 3. (2008). Code of Ethical Conduct. National associtation for the education of young children, Retrieved Feb 10, 2009, from
  • 4. Richert, Kit How to approach behavior problems in the classroom. The Apple, Retrieved Feb 15, 2009,
  • 5. Scheopner, A.J. (2005) Ethics and ethical knowledge in teaching: A book review. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus, 1(3) Article 5. Retrieved [date] from


1. A ethical teacher is

      A. fair
      B. funny
      C. old
      D. willing to change

2. According to NAEYC's ethical code, The teacher should respect the dignity, worth and ___________ of a child

      A. creativity
      B. happiness
      C. playfullness
      D. uniqueness

3. A kindergarten teacher comes across a problem in her classroom and she is not sure how to handle it, should she

     A. become angry and yell at the childen
     B. ignore the problem and hope it goes away
     C. refer back to the code for ethical teaching for guidance 
     D. talk with other teachers

4. Being a ethical teacher means

     A. you are always striving to find new ways to manage your classroom
     B. you are set in your ways and never change
     C. you can never ask for help
     D. you should never give advice to another teacher

answers: 1.A 2.D 3.C 4.A