Ethical Imperatives in the Classroom

Ethical Imperatives in the Classroom

A Story by Ben

This is an essay for an application I'm filling out. I'd like feedback, but this essay is mostly a reflection on a difficult situation I faced recently.


People with authority over others often face difficult decisions. Teachers often arbitrate their students’ conduct and assignments in the classroom, making decisions rooted in theories of classroom management and educational pedagogy. Sometimes, however, these decision-making responsibilities present ethical quandaries for which no amount of education or training can prepare a person. Certain responsibilities place the teacher in a position where doing the correct thing and doing the easy thing could not possibly be more divergent. When faced with the decision to fail a student for not attending class or to let him pass, I chose the former because, though I would be the only person to know of my decision, failing the student was the ethical choice to make.

            I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) as well as first-year and developmental composition at Eastern Kentucky University. When the quarter ends in the ESL department, each teacher tallies student attendance and grades and is responsible for reporting the results. One student in particular earned a passing grade, even made an ‘A’ on his final exam, but was truant to the point of failure. Per our department’s regulations and the requirements of his student visa, he was to fail; he had the skills to graduate into the next level of classes�"but he did not meet the attendance requirement. No one would know if I were to “forget” a few absences, except me.

            The desire to skew my data in favor of my student soon welled-up in my stomach, but I knew it was unethical; no matter how I analyzed the student’s attendance, it was impossible to argue that he had earned a passing attendance grade. At the end of the quarter, I told my ‘A’ student he had missed too much class and that I could not recommend him for promotion.

            He begged me for leniency, begged me to fudge his attendance grade, do him a favor because�"as he told me time and again when I warned him of his truancy�"he had learned his lesson. Clearly he hadn’t, and I remained steadfast in my decision to not promote him. After he stormed off, my next task was to inform my supervisor of the situation.

            Due to the volume of his absences, my supervisor told me the student had to be dismissed from the program. He could not legally remain in the United States as a student and would have to return to his home country until he could find another intensive ESL program.

            My first inclination would have been easier, but it would not have been ethical. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to serve my students while obeying the regulations and by-laws of my department. After finding out that the student would be dismissed, I went to my office and stared abjectly at the wall. It was one of the most difficult decisions I had ever made, but it was the ethical one: other students with similar attendance problems had been dismissed. Perhaps my decision not to ‘let it slide’ could help him in the future. Next time, perhaps he will listen when his teacher warns him.

© 2011 Ben

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


That would be a very difficult situation to be in. Given the severity of the consequences (dismissal of the program, revocation of his visa), that would be a horrible position to be in. However, following the parameters of the program was absolutely the right thing to do. Bending the rules, even once, places you on a slippery slope that it is difficult, if not impossible, to climb back up.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Considering that the student was very much informed of the ramifications of his actions and still disregarded... You did the right thing in my opinion. With no reasoning behind the missing of classes - that shows blatant disrespect.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Share This
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


2 Reviews
Added on March 2, 2011
Last Updated on March 2, 2011



Richmond, KY

Most of my fiction is grounded in reality but seldom remains there. more..

No Good Deed No Good Deed

A Story by Ben

Schlencant Schlencant

A Poem by Ben