Saturday, 7 October 2017

Week 29 - Influence of Law and Ethics

An ethical dilemma I have been faced with related to online interactions is to do with how accessible we are as teachers through emails by children, parents, and colleagues. These days we can email any of these people/groups at any time and they can do the same to us which causes some ethical issues and makes it hard for when to draw the line for communication. I will analyse the situation through Hall’s (2001) guiding questions.

Which stakeholders should be given priority? Why?
The stakeholders are the people receiving and sending the emails and I suppose a lot of this depends on the specific situation. The main reasons this is an issue is what should be the expected time to respond to an email and the reasons for emails and how we word them. So really it needs to be a balance between both people’s needs and there should be respect and understanding about the other person and the life they lead. In our code of conduct (Education Council, n.d.) we have a commitment to professional relationships with colleagues, children and families so this is important to consider when communicating with these different groups too.

What restrictions are there to your actions?
Some emails require pretty immediate responses even though you may otherwise be occupied. Also some emails may challenge you professionally so you need to seek help for another colleague on how to respond to the email. Also sometimes the tone of the email may be misinterpreted. Also with children they are less experienced with sending emails so their emails may seem less respectful or at inappropriate times or they want an instant response and will re email if they don’t get a response.

What courses of action are possible?
For the students - teaching them how to respectfully email people, setting up a class agreement about emailing and teacher student email relations and what are the restrictions on this.
For parents - there may need to be a contract drawn up about respectful communication, timing etc…, I think it would be important that parents sign this so we have something to fall back on too. Maybe we ring parents about issues or call meetings so there is less misinterpreting tone and they might see teachers as more human too.
For colleagues - an agreement drawn up to about responding time. Talk to people in person.
The main objective is to make the guidelines very clear so there is no confusion and people are allowed to have a life and are talked to respectfully.

How should the course of action be implemented?
Teaching the children how to be digital citizens and email etiquette at the beginning of the year and at the age they get their own school email so it is consistently reinforced and everyone is on the same page; teachers are consistent too.
For contracts with parents and colleagues, this would be consolidation with all parties involved and then draw up a draft agreement, review it again and then get all parties to agree to the contract. I think it would be important to review this each year and get it re-signed/agreed each year so it is up to date and includes the most important ethical issues in this complex communication.

So overall this is a complex ethical issue and one that often breaks the code of ethics for teachers so I think it is important that more actions are put in place to protect teachers and allow us to follow our code ethics while using email to communicate.


Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program.(2012) Ethical and Professional Dilemmas for Educator: Facilitator’s Guide. Retrieved from

Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from

Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from


  1. Hi Morgan I completely agree with you on the ethics of online interactions. You have come up with some great ideas to help solve the issues. I agree that it is important that we teach children how to be digital citizens. I think they also need to understand that teachers aren't teachers 24/7, we have a life outside of school too.

  2. These are really important points and I think we need to do something about them, along the lines that you've suggested.

    I take it for granted that email is asynchronous communication. I am often fully engaged with face to face people things from early morning until late in the evening with no breaks. So other communication that needs to happen (usually with staff, never students or parents) is usually sent late at night. Similar thing with the holidays. There's big picture stuff and professional reflections and directions that I can't do during term time. So the holidays is time for a lot of that. To my mind people will do something with it, when needed at the time when needed, not at the time its sent. Perhaps those things would be better done in meetings - but no-one wants more meetings.

    We've never really sorted it out together - its just evolved - and I think its time we did sort it out.

    One of the really difficult things I'm finding with parents, is I sometimes get (usually late at night) an email forwarded from a teacher which is a frantic email from a parent. I usually respond to the parent straight away and tell them what we're going to do about it - and they'll respond straight back - they were waiting. That's a stress - I might arrive home at 10.30pm, check my emails before I leave the car and BAM that's there to deal with. I feel if you don't get in immediately and give indication of what next it would be all over social media by the morning. Sometimes by the time I get it there will already have been phone calls and texting between parents. Then there will also be other emails from parents asking what's going on. I've thought about this a lot and don't like how it feels like we're "over a barrel" and I don't think some parents will restrain themselves because if they can't get instant media satisfaction with us, they'll seek it elsewhere - Facebook and we don't want that. Tremendous stress for educators though.

    Again, I think its part of our building up of culture that we start thinking about parent's codes of ethics and what's acceptable and not acceptable for parents to do.

    We should look into all you've suggested for the set up of next year.

  3. Hi Morgan,
    I agree that teaching students to become digital citizens is important. I thought it was interesting to read your journal reflection from a senior teacher point of view as your students use technology more regularly as a form of communication than my younger students. It has given me some thoughts of how I can better prepare them for their movements up the school. Keeping a work/life balance is hard in itself, I agree that students need to be aware we take our teacher hat off... sometimes!