Ethical Issues in TEFL Teaching
Considerations for employers, teachers and students.
I’ve never attended a training session that helped me develop my ethics.
Teaching skills? Sure. Technical, training and interpersonal skills? Also yes. But in 15 years, I’ve never seen a workshop on ethical considerations within the TEFL industry.
At first, it appears unnecessary — most teachers genuinely care about their students and their work. That’s why they’re teachers.
Character development is personal, and ‘training’ a person on how to be more ethical can be seen as patronising (and oxymoronic, arguably).
We don’t work in a moral utopia. Many of us work in companies that have discriminatory hiring practices. Or that bend the rules to get sales. Or that ignore health and safety… or any number of other issues.
So what can we do about this?
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We must identify these ethical problems, agree on a standard, and push for change.
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
- Marcus Aurelius.
Ethical Considerations in TEFL
One great example is the work being done by TEFL Equity Advocates, who speak out for equal opportunities in TEFL for ‘non-native’ speaking teachers. I’ve spoken about this topic on this podcast with the folks over at the TEFL Training Institute.
I’ve also started compiling a list of the collective ethical considerations we all share or are affected by. Here they are (in no particular order):
Fairly represent what your products and services will do (marketing and sales, I’m looking at you).
Be aware of students as individuals, and not treat them as just another sale.
Practice non-discrimination in recruitment practices, as far as able to by local law.
To pay a fair, liveable wage and benefits.
Have a written contract, in English, which is representative of the job offered.
State total working hours in your contract, including extra-curricular duties.
Fulfil the terms of the employment contract.
Don’t withhold documents or pay if teachers end their contracts early.
Ensure work environments (and living environments, if managing living accommodation) meets a minimum health and safety standard.
Offer regular professional development to staff.
Treat all staff with respect.
Offer pastoral support for foreign staff to get acclimatised to working in another country.
Provide a safe environment for learning. Allow no psychological or physical bullying, intimidation or harassment.
Deliver the best lessons we’re able, as consistently as we can.
Teach subject matter that is accurate and up-to-date.
Don’t push any agenda when teaching, be it cultural, religious, or similar.
Towards Other Teachers
Treat colleagues with respect.
Don’t engage in discriminatory behaviour.
Offer support outside of school, if and when needed.
Be aware of colleagues struggling with health issues (physical, mental, or emotional).
Fulfil the terms of the contract, as stated.
See you again in two weeks.
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