Preventing Favoritism in the Classroom
Educators are integral part of their students’ lives and the community they service. Educators are often held at a higher standard than other members of the community. Education is a job that requires good judgement. So, it is vital that they abide by a set of ethics or morals. Ethics is a guide of how to ensure that all decision making is done fairly and justly. Educators in the state of Texas follow the Educator’s code of ethics, this code lists standards that must be followed in order to give all students a fair, equal, and ethical education. When the code is violated, a string of problems can occur and they must be addressed in a timely manner. Administrators need to make sure that all teachers understand the code of ethics to prevent these violations.
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For example, Mrs. A is a well-liked teacher and has great relationships with students both past and present. It must be noted that she works for a small district and it isn’t uncommon that teachers may have relationship with their students outside of the classroom due to familial ties or friendships with parents. Mrs. A finds a few students that she really enjoys having in class who otherwise do not have a relationship with her outside of the classroom. They are students who are easy-going and very complimentary of her teaching style. She will let them pick their seats when seating arrangements need to be made. Mrs. A has allowed them to turn in work that is only half done or gives them good grade on work that has not been turned it. She will shorten assignments just for them. None of these students have any accommodations. Mrs. A will give them food not as a reward that was earned but as something special to just those students. She will buy them snacks of their choice. Mrs. A openly gives these gifts to her set of “kids”. These students will call her “Mom” and tell her she’s their favorite teacher. Mrs. A will let them come to her class whenever they feel like it and she never sends them back to the class they belong in. While other students are asked to leave her classroom, despite needing to speak to her about an assignment. Mrs. A has added them to her all of her social media accounts and comments on all of their pictures or status updates. Mrs. A has been known to indulge them in private information about other teachers and administrators. These students are always privy to private information about the school. It is very clear to all of the students that those are her favorites. It becomes a joke among the students and other teachers. At this point, Mrs. A has broken standard 3.8 of the Educator’s Code of ethics. This particular standard says, “The educator shall maintain appropriate professional educator-student relationships and boundaries based on a reasonably prudent educator standard.” (Texas Administrative Code 2018). The boundaries between student and educator have become blurred. The teacher has now become too friendly with the students. The students have taken advantage of their favor in her eyes. However, the teacher still doesn’t see that she has blurred the lines. She feels that she is just being a support to the students and gaining their respect. Mrs. A would rather “help” these students than see them struggle. The violation has now created several problems in the classroom. Students feel that teacher has her set of favorites and they won’t ever get treated fairly. Students have mentioned this to other teachers and it has been brought up in team meetings. Although, students complain, none have gone to an administrator. One day a parent calls the principal after a student has told the principal of the open favoritism. The principal must now address the issue with the appropriate action.
There are several ways this violation could have been prevented. One way that this violation could be prevented is for the administrators to give very clear examples of what favoritism is and how it can create problems in the classroom. This can be done at the beginning of the school year during in-service or planning days. Administrators must be very clear on the types of nonverbal and verbal language that can be read as favoritism. Administrators should explain that although a student maybe related to you or their parents are a dear friend, their child is still a regular student and must be treated the same way as everyone else. Another way, administrators could prevent this is to look for educator-based videos on ethical behavior in the classroom. These videos could serve as a demonstration of all types of unethical behavior that could possibly occur in the classroom. Although the videos may show scenarios that are exaggerated or more provocative than just a teacher simply liking one student more than the others, it still puts things into perspective of how other students may see the relationship. The best way administrators can prevent these types of situations happening in the classroom is to create a classroom management system that can be implemented in any classroom on their campus. This single classroom management system should be modeled after how the administrators monitor their own staff. Administrators must remember that they cannot play favorites among the teachers either. Teachers can sometimes feel like the administration has their own set of favorites. This classroom management system must have check and balances and must be followed through by all teachers in the same fashion. The administrators must keep a close eye on those who aren’t following through and discuss this with them. Consistency is key in preventing unethical behavior in a school setting. This implementation of a campus wide management system should be done at the start of the school year. The earlier this type of plan is acted upon the less likely behaviors as exhibited by Mrs. A will occur.
Every year ethical violations occur in classrooms across the state of Texas. Although, we focus on the most scandalous it is often these tiny ones that can cause the most damage. Students may end up feeling left out and stop giving their best effort. Administrators begin to have more problems with their teachers and staff. If teachers and administrators continue to review and abide by the Educator’s code of ethics than many of these problems will disappear or resolve themselves. Teachers need to remember that they are always held at higher moral standard than the rest of the community that they service. When teachers and administrators follow a strict set of ethics there will be a sense of security on the campus and in the district.
(October 2018) Texas Administrative Code