August 2017

Legal & Ethical Classroom Considerations

By Carolyn Stone, Ed.D.
Teachers as a Barrier to Classroom Curriculum
You have a teacher who has never allowed you to come into her classroom to deliver your curriculum. Your curriculum advantages students, and you are distressed that her students never get to benefit. How do you proceed?

Teachers’ motives might be to protect instructional time, but sometimes teachers may fear classroom visitors will learn of their failings. Politically astute school counselors will figure out how to frame their classroom curriculum lessons to connect them to the academic success equation. It is a reasonable and legitimate response for a teacher to be protective of classroom instruction time. Teaching is a demanding job, and teacher’s evaluations are more and more dependent on student success on high-stakes tests. It is also the skilled school counselor who will negotiate the political landmines to assuage the fears of those teachers who worry the school counselor might discover something negative about them or their classroom. It may be tempting to write off teachers who won’t let you into their classroom, but for students’ sake it is better to figure out how to keep the lines of communication open and to address whatever concerns the teacher has so you can deliver classroom instruction. Providing information to teachers in general terms about how the lesson will help their students and involving the teacher in determining or approving at least a portion of the content will go a long way in forming an ally for your program.

A Teacher’s Classroom Management
Over the course of time, you have learned a great deal about different teachers’ classroom management effectiveness. One particular teacher has a chaotic classroom, which has a negative impact on certain students. School administration seems to be unaware of her ineffectiveness in classroom management skills. What is your role, if any, in this situation?

The school counselor cannot afford to come across as an informant or align too closely with anyone’s “camp.” The school atmosphere is not unlike the United Nations, and in potentially divisive situations the school counselor thinks like an ambassador. Having a solid, professional relationship with the principal allows the school counselor to better benefit the students and teacher in this situation. Genuine respect for teachers’ difficult job goes a long way in becoming a trusted ally and pays huge dividends for students. School counselors who trust administration to handle information about teachers appropriately will feel more secure that shared information will be used to help the teacher make strides toward a better academic and social environment. If the school counselor is uncertain the principal will deal deftly with a delicate situation or fears the knowledge might be used as a hammer, another plan may have to be developed. The principal and the school counselor need a solid relationship built on mutual understanding of the need to protect each other’s positions with teachers.

Carolyn Stone, Ed.D., is a professor at the University of North Florida and chair of ASCA’s Ethics Committee. She can be reached at cstone@unf.edu.