Troy Hutchings, Ed.D.
Senior Policy Advisor, NASDTEC
Ethics During a Pandemic
Professional ethics is greater than a code. It’s a spirit. An ideal. Remaining steadfast to the calling that propels our life’s work.
I was reminded of this yesterday during a phone call with a school district administrator. I started our meeting with an apology – maybe now wasn’t the time to discuss a tangential topic like professional ethics when her large urban district, like all districts, was grappling with the impact of the Coronavirus.
“Nothing is more important than professional ethics at a time like this,” she stated with conviction.
Her response was not what I expected. And in all honesty, I was struggling to make the connection between the Model Code of Ethics for Educators and the pandemic.
But it wasn’t about a code of ethics.
When the administrative team at her district was faced with developing a strategic plan specific to this crisis, the prospect of completely redesigning schooling was the most viable option – and it needed to be completed in a matter of hours. Imagine the pressure.
The clock was ticking.
But they decided that all decisions needed to emanate from a community-created framework – the district’s mission, vision and the pillars of their strategic plan. They worked diligently with a focus. Overriding objectives were created, all aligned to the district’s mission, which then gave birth to short-term and long-term strategies needed to provide for the basic needs of the students, the employees and the community during this time of crisis.
Facing an overwhelming avalanche of decisions, I can almost hear the superintendent say to her cabinet, “Let’s take a deep breath and step back for a second – let’s revisit the core of what we believe.”
We sometimes forget that schools are the epicenter of society – involving not only educational practitioners, but also resource officers, nutritionists, social workers, probation officers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, court-appoint advocates, as well as medical and mental health professionals who all work cohesively within the schooling environment – and we haven’t even mentioned basic provisions such as breakfast and lunches.
Providing educational services is about putting systems into place to meet the needs of ALL students and their families in an equitable fashion. Can you imagine the enormity of that task?
Think about it – even during heightened anxiety, increased scrutiny and with little time, the district’s core ideological framework became the starting point for the myriad important decisions that would need to be made during an unprecedented crisis.
All decisions flowed from that touchstone – an ideal to frame a district’s ethos, and a collectively agreed-upon vision to guide those important decisions.
Now that’s acting in the public’s best interest. That’s professional ethics – even without a code.