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Posts Tagged ‘ethical decision making’

This week I attended an interesting session on ethical decision making. The session by former Surrey School Superintendent Mike McKay picked up on the work of Rushworth Kidder and his focus on mapping ethical dilemmas.  Kidder’s work was heavily referenced in the early 2000’s, and is still very relevant today.

For me, one of the impacts of these sessions where you wrestle with case studies that have a right vs. right approach is that you think back on decisions you have made that you might make differently now.  We all have them. Sure you made the right decision, but was there more than one right decision you could have made?   Decisions are products of the time, the values of the school we were in, the standards of the district, the level of experience we had, and a general view of the world. 

I have written before about Stuff I Was Wrong About, but this is different.  This is not about hunches I had that proved not to go the way I thought they would, these are decisions I made that I would now process through my current ethical framework and likely come up with a different decision.  

Kidder wrote about:

5 core values:  compassion, fairness, honesty, responsibility and respect

4 ethical lenses:  Justice/Mercy, Short or Long Term, Individual/Community and Truth or Loyalty

3 decision making principles: Greatest Good/Greatest Number (ends-based), Precedent (rules based) and Do Unto Others

Here are three I have, as a teacher, a coach and an administrator, that I still think about today – and as Cher says, “If I Could Turn Back Time”

As a Teacher –  A couple stand out around assessment and evaluation.  First, I would post marks on the wall.  They were not with names, but students numbers, but everyone still likely knew who was who.  And this did nothing for those who were struggling, if anything it probably discouraged them. I was thinking this would help improve responsibility.  Similarly, I remember failing students with 45% in a course without taking the extra time to see if I could support them to get to a passing grade.  I wanted to have standards, but did so at the expense of compassion.  I thought this was being fair at the time.  I would definitely think different now through both situations.

As a Coach –  Early on in my coaching career, I would cut teams down to a number that would allow me to maximize playing the best players.  And then, I would still be unbalanced in how I allocated playing time, even at younger high school levels.  If I went back, I would take more kids on teams, and play the less skilled players more – even if it meant losing a few more games along the way.  I often say, “Winning is fun,” but when you travel an hour for an exhibition game early in the season – everyone should play.

As an Administrator – I think about a couple of these the most.  Almost all schools I worked in used grad (or the threat of taking away grad) as a way to help maintain behaviour of grade 12 students.  As in “if you do X you won’t be allowed to attend grad.”  And I get it, still.  Grade 12s can be a pain in the last few months of their graduation year, with credits earned, future plans secured and a need to celebrate their accomplishments.  That said, I really regret taking away grad from students.  Grad is one of those life events that deserves to be celebrated.  You look back at grad photos decades later, you tell the stories of your grad to your children and grandchildren.  And, kids do dumb things and there should be ways to deal with the behaviour that allows students to make amends.

In a post I wrote in 2016 on parenting (I Used to Blame Parents) I wrote, “All of my black and white views from my early 20’s are really now very grey.”  As I think through these right vs. right dilemmas, and a series of other scenarios I worked through with colleagues, as I know more and have seen more, I am far less absolute in my thinking.

I am sure we all have some decisions we wish we could go back and see through different eyes.  I am continually reminded of a piece of advice I got from a former principal colleague, he said when challenged by a frustrated teacher, and asked how many chances he was going to give, he said “always one more.”

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