Submitted by Mary Tickner

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we are inundated with articles advising us as to how our lives can be improved by changes in diet, meditation, new cars, holiday trips and, most importantly, how to adhere to these resolutions and changes. However, as teachers, we do not need to concern ourselves with creating such resolutions because we already have them made for us in the form of what are sometimes called “Ethics”. Our only problem is to follow these resolutions or rules when confronting a conflict or a problem that is not covered by a code of ethics.

When one enters the teaching profession, it is important to know what is considered to be proper conduct as a teacher. Many professions, such as doctors, and lawyers have extensive regulations governing membership behavior. As musicians, the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers Association and the Music Teachers National Association (U.S.) have published their own codes of ethics. As well, all provincial organizations have codes of ethics that can be quite specific. In general, all adhere to the common sense of good business-like relationships between students, parents and the community. The following summarizes some of these rules of conduct that apply to most situations:

  • Teachers should make no false claims regarding themselves or their pupils
  • It is unethical, either by inducements, innuendoes, insinuations or other acts to proselytize a pupil of another teacher
  • It is unethical to criticize adversely the work of another teacher
  • Every teacher is responsible for the well-being of every student during the time that such student is in the teacher’s charge
  • Teachers shall assist in maintaining the integrity of the profession, and should participate in its activities
  • Teachers should participate and promote community musical events
  • Teachers should be both factual and courteous in studio relationships
  • A teacher must be both candid and objective when advising a student as to the student’s capabilities
  • A teacher should respect the dignity of the student and your colleagues

These are only a few of the rules of conduct found in professional groups. The Alberta Code of Ethics is much more extensive.

Why am I writing about ethics? Because of a conversation I had with a student of another teacher who asked me to teach her “since everyone does this”. After a half hour, she understood that this was unethical and unprofessional and I suggested she discuss this with her teacher. Whether you are a beginning teacher or one of great experience, doing the “right” thing matters, particularly when dealing with student-teacher situations. We have an obligation to set examples that will guide students in making decisions that reflect our own values.