This essay will be drawing from literature and delving into what it means to be an ethical teacher and what the implications are of an ethical approach for early childhood educators in regard to the learners, family/whānau, the teaching profession and society. Strategies and links will be discussed in regard to the implications in a way that ensures educators are being inclusive and ethical in their approach.
An ethical teacher is inspired and led by a set of beliefs that promote positive attitudes and actions that benefit the students. Being an ethical teacher means to role-model and behave in a professional manner through issues and dilemmas that take place in the classroom and beyond (Douglass, 2015). Ethics are a set of values and beliefs that guide teachers to what they ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do, based on their personal moral judgements. As each educator has their own personal values and beliefs, morals can differ and judgements can be blurred between two differing beliefs and perspectives (Douglass, 2015).
Early childhood educators in New Zealand are expected to uphold Our Code, Our Standards (Education Council, [ECNZ], 2017) and model the expectations and aspirations of our founding curriculum through their teaching practices and throughout their learning environments (Education Council New Zealand [ECNZ], 2017).
Within the early childhood sector, educators must consider multiple theoretical perspectives, such as the ethics of care and the code of ethics.
When considering ethical care, educators must be aware of their own values, beliefs and morals, using these to form strong, reciprocal relationships that promote the best outcomes for children in their care. This can be done through interactions, communication, providing compassion and listening (Hawkins, 2014).
Educators should consider the importance of forming relationships with children, as relations are at the forefront of care ethics (Noddings, 2012). Through the early years of children’s lives, they are becoming aware of not only themselves, but their surroundings (Noddings, 2012).
The way in which educators approach children in regard to ethics of care, is seen throughout the way the educator expresses and meets the needs of the cared for (Noddings, 2012). Children must feel that they are in an environment where their needs are being met and where they have strong relationships that ensure they are being heard and catered for (Taggart, 2016). Noddings (2012) goes on to talk about the importance of teachers engaging in caring relations, allowing children to approach their teachers in their own time and using directed energy to support the child and their needs. Through building strong relationships and showing a commitment to care ethics, children gain a sense of belonging, showing signs that the caring has been recognized and that they are being heard and responded to (Noddings, 2012).
Forming strong ethical relationships can be paramount to the success of a child’s wellbeing, confidence, learning and development. When children build relationships with people, places and things, it is believed that the opportunities for children to use working theories is extended (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017). Through these opportunities, children’s aspirations, ventures and achievements are valued and become more successful (MoE, 2017). Teachers that are guided through Te Whāriki (2017) and Our Code Our Standards (2017) are more likely to pay more attention to providing an environment that is enriched with resources and tools to support each individual. Through providing this environment, open-ended, equal opportunities to engage in all areas of learning will be evident (MoE, 2017).
Held (2014) explains that in regard to the ethics of care, there are no set rules. When it comes to showing care and compassion towards children, considerations to doing the ‘right thing’ are highly regarded. Noddings (2012) backs up this statement by discussing natural and caring ethics and stating that naturally we respond out of compassion, love and inclination in most interactions, but often bring ethics into this when there are minor or major disruptions to the child and their care ethics.
Educators must ensure that the rights of the child are being met and that these are being held in conjunction with OCOS. This can be seen through providing children with choices, advocating for them by informing others of their rights, recognizing them as contributing citizens of society and open-ended experiences (ECNZ, 2017).
When relationships are formed between teachers and family/whānau, it allows children to feel a sense of belonging, ensuring that the success of the child is achieved (MoE, 2017).
Relationships with family/whānau are crucial as the commitment and communication between parents and teachers contributes to high quality learning as there is a shared understanding of the child as a whole (Goodman & Cherrington, 2005). Once relationships between family/whānau have been formed, collaboration should follow. Collaborative relationships enable open lines of communication, ensuring that all parties involved are open, honest, reciprocal and transparent and that the welfare and needs of the child are being supported by all stakeholders (Goodman & Cherrington, 2005).
When reciprocal, respectful and responsive relationships are formed, family/whānau hold trust in the teaching team, feeling a sense of comfort and belonging, knowing that their child is being cared for and that they are being guided by a team that is nurturing and supportive (Thomas, 2012). Strong relationships ensure teachers have background knowledge of the child, to ensure that planning for their child’s needs and parents aspirations are being met.
Te Whāriki (2017) discusses the importance of forming relationships with family/whanau and the impact that that forming collaborative relationships can have, such as a sense of belonging, open communication and an environment that supports the child and their learning journey.
Goodman and Cherrington (2015) states that through building relationships and partnerships between teachers and parents will strengthen and support children’s learning and dispositions and allows parents the opportunities to support learning at home.
To form relationships with family/whānau, teachers can develop trust between all parties, being respectful, respondent to the diversity of all learners, through the use of transparent communication, a team approach and through the use of ICT. Finally, through building these relationships, strong communication is formed, supporting consistent connections between the child’s home life and learning environment are being made, further developing the child’s sense of wellbeing and confidence (Jones, 2006).
When identifying a teacher and the elements that surround this title, there are many key components to consider. In the teaching profession, one must hold qualifications, form relationships, autonomy and uphold the code of ethics (Thomas, 2012).
When considering the implications of ethical approaches in regard to the teaching profession, teachers must reflect on the code of standards and the responsibility and let that guide us through ethical actions, morals, attitudes and beliefs (ECNZ, 2017).
The code of standards was developed to set out the standards and expectations of ethical behaviours within the ECE environments. To be an ethical teacher, teachers must empower all learners to reach their highest potential, provide caring, creative and welcoming environments that are respectful, show integrity through interactions that are fair, honest and ethical, and lastly, teachers must engage in positive, collaborative relationships with learners, family/whānau, colleagues and the wider community (ECNZ, 2017).
By following the code throughout the teaching profession, teachers are providing a high level of education, showing a high level of commitment to forming reciprocal, respectful and responsive relationships, showing dedication to the ethics of care and promoting and providing a framework. When considering the strategies that can be implemented to promote the teaching profession, self-reviews, reflection, and continuous learning through inquiry and professional development can be paramount to the success of the teaching profession (ECNZ, 2017). To promote the teaching profession, teachers must behave in a way that positively promotes the career, environments and culture. To do this, relationships with family/whānau and the wider community must be formed to encourage others to learn and participate in the curriculum and provide an environment that is collaborative, diverse in knowledge and inclusive of all learners, ethnicities and cultures (ECNZ, 2017).
Another strategy that can be used to support the strength and growth of the teaching profession is through review. Reviews can ensure that there is continuous reflection being done through observations, group meetings and parental surveys. Thus ensuring that the environment and teaching practices are always being reviewed to ensure the learning environment is current, welcoming, diverse, ethical, supportive and contributes to the learning environment and all wellbeing of all stakeholders (ECNZ, 2017).
Through reviews/self-reviews, teachers have the opportunity to work together to gain a better understanding of what it means to be an ethical teacher, questioning policies, philosophies and actions in a way that is safe and supportive and adaptive and reflective towards their own teaching practices.
When considering the impact that society has on children, we must understand that children of a young age are absorbing and creating moral frameworks that they are being exposed to (Hawkins, 2014). Hawkins (2014) goes on to state that from three years old, children have the ability to distinguish racial differences and can form negative attitudes and prejudices from what they have been exposed to.
To rectify the negative moral frameworks, attitudes and beliefs, it is imperative that teachers foster a curriculum that challenges the negative prejudices, is equal for all children and promotes positive attitudes and morals (Hawkins, 2014).
Each teacher is expected to role-model the ethical values of the professional responsibilities and standards, reflecting on the document and being guided and inspired through the document’s information and expectations (ECNZ, 2017). Through upholding OCOS, educators are upholding expectations of being reflective and responsive to all children and their needs and ensuring positive attitudes are being role-modelled. OCOS allows educators to gain an understanding of ethical teaching and respond to situations in a way that is most beneficial for all stakeholders. When facing an ethical dilemma, the education council ensures that teachers have their own code of standards to look to when seeking guidance. The code is woven within each ECE centre, the environment, teaching practices, centre philosophy and throughout policies and procedures. Providing ethical approaches in regard to society, teachers have a responsibility to promote and protect the principles of human rights, sustainability and social justice. Teachers demonstrate a commitment to Tiriti o Waitangi and to foster learners to be active participants in community life, engaging in issues important to the wellbeing of society (ECNZ, 2017, p.21). To ensure teachers are upholding the expectations of the code, strategies can be put into place. Teachers can role-model behaviour that promotes respect for human rights, promoting an understanding of inclusion throughout their teaching environments, learning experiences and practices, creating environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all students, involving the community in the learning that is taking place within the learning environments (ECNZ, 2017).
Educators should include the ethics of care throughout learning environments as children learn from firsthand experiences from what they see and how they are treated. Thus, teaching children attitudes and behaviours that are fair and inclusive (Duhn, 2012).
In conclusion, there are many aspects that underpin ethical approaches when teaching. Each teacher in the ECE environment has their own set of beliefs, morals and practices in regard to ethics and these adapt and change for each teacher and each situation. Teachers must uphold the New Zealand code of ethics, allowing this to guide them throughout their practices and actions. When it comes to ethical practices, we must consider the learner, the family/whānau, the teaching profession and society and ensure that these are approached in an appropriate, respectful and ethical manner. For all parties involved, relationships remain the key aspect as they ensure that the child’s wellbeing and learning and development is being catered for in a collaborative, supportive and ethical way.