Case: Two Best Friends Talk in Their Native Language

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 335 | Read Time: 1 min. 35 sec. Category: General
Two of my students are best friends who moved from another country. Even though they can speak English, I find them talking in their native language from time to time. I have tried seating them farther from one another when we all work together or having me, or another student sit between them, but nothing has worked so far. What should I do?

What to do?

  • Some of the state laws, district policies, or school culture do not allow for use of the native language in the classroom. Check with your state/district/school laws and policies to learn about the requirements and make sure to follow the law or policy while advocating for best practices. If this is the case, inform students and/or parents about the requirements.
  • Try to understand whether the native language is used for academic purposes or chit-chat. Listen to students as they are speaking. Are they looking at you constantly while they talk to each other? Follow their facial expressions or gestures.
  • Academic Purpose? Sometimes students take the opportunity of using their native language in order to comprehend or clarify key concepts without the use of academic terms, phrases, and other vocabulary in the second language. It is normal for students to want to communicate in the language they know best. If the native language is used for academic purposes - and there are no laws against it, students can be allowed to talk in their native language. You can ask the students to report to you a summary of their discussions in English later. Teachers should be explicit as to when students are able to discuss in their native language. Be patient and observant.
  • Chit-chat? Regardless of the language used in the classroom, chit-chat should be limited to all students. Teachers should focus on limiting the time for the chit-chat such as allowing 2-minute chat times for groups or before class begins.

Case: Testing

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 224 | Read Time: 1 min. 2 sec. Category: General
I am a first-year teacher and at our open house, a parent handed me $100. The parent told me that the money could be used for anything I needed. Should I take the money? 

What to do?

  • Depends on how you would like to use the money.
  • Personal Gift: In most states, public employees including teachers are prohibited by the conflict of interest law from accepting gifts worth $50 or more. Therefore, this money cannot be used as a personal gift.  
  • Classroom Gift: It is acceptable to receive the money as a “Classroom Gift” and use the money to buy classroom supplies. In this case, you must record the money given to you for classroom supplies and keep all the receipts. In other words, you need to ensure that you are ready to explain where the money came from and how it was spent. Depending on your district or school rules and procedures, you might also be required to inform your principal about the gift and purchases.  
  • Regardless, we strongly recommend that when possible you provide a list of “classroom needs” to the parents and ask them to gift their selection of needed classroom supplies instead of simply giving you cash money.  

Case: Using Outside Offer to Get a Salary Raise

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 212 | Read Time: 0 min. 58 sec. Category: General
Is it legal and ethically acceptable to search for another teaching job offer and use it to get a salary raise? 

What to do?

  • It seems that the only way to get a raise in the teaching profession is to get another job offer and yes this is legal and ethical. However, there are things that need to be considered.
  • First of all, make sure to get the outside offer in written and signed before talking to current school. Other forms of offers are usually not valid for salary negotiations.
  • Bring your outside offer to the table only if your intent is to leave unless pay is increased. In other words, your current employer would simply say goodbye to you.
  • Asking your current employer to match the outside offer indicates that you have been looking for jobs/interviewing.  Your current employer might match the offer, but then they'll likely consider you a risk and be less inclined to offer promotions or better assignments.
  • In short, it is strongly recommended that if you feel you are underpaid in your current job, try to make your case on its own without the outside offer.

Case: Tutoring My Own Student Privately

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 182 | Read Time: 0 min. 51 sec. Category: General
I teach fifth-grade in a public elementary school. A parent of a fourth-grade student (not my student) asked me to tutor his kid privately in his home using my own materials. He said he heard about me from other teachers (I do not advertise any tutoring services) and he will pay me by the hour. May I do this? Would it be legal?

What to do?

  • Yes, this might be possible because the described facts do not raise any concern under the conflict of interest law. However, it is still strongly recommended that teachers should not get involved in any private tutoring services for the students that are in the school district area. 
    Public school teachers are subject to the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A (1). Some of the examples of the violation of this law can be private tutoring (a) your own students, (b) at school using school resources, (c) advertising private tutoring to parents (d) recommending a student to be tutored by another teacher at school.

Case: Teacher Wearing "Jesus Loves You" T-shirt

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 170 | Read Time: 0 min. 43 sec. Category: General
In our public school, a fifth-grade teacher has been wearing a tee-shirt that states in bold letters “Jesus Loves You” almost every Friday. When our principal asked him not to wear this t-shirt, the teacher claimed civil rights and threatened to sue the school. Who is right in this circumstance? 

What to do?

  • When it comes to specifics on teachers’ religious garb at schools, it would be best to consult the summary of The First Amendment Center’s “A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools”.
  • In this guide, it is specifically said that “teachers are permitted to wear non-obtrusive jewelry, such as a cross or Star of David. But teachers should not wear clothing with a proselytizing message (e.g. a ‘Jesus Saves’ T-shirt).”

Case: Searching Backpacks

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 287 | Read Time: 1 min. 18 sec. Category: General
Yesterday something strange happened. In my neighbor's fourth-grade classroom, a student claimed that an envelope of field-trip money that her father gave him was missing from her backpack. The teacher asked all of the students in the class to look for it. When it was not found, the teacher asked everyone to empty their backpacks and pockets on their table. The money was not found. Today, I heard that some of the parents filed a complaint with the school principal protesting the search of their children. Was this search reasonable under the circumstances? 

What to do?

  • It is legal for schools to search school property students use like student desks, student lockers, etc. without parents or students’ permission. On the other hand, according to Supreme Court (Case New Jersey vs TLO in 1985), it is only legal for school personnel to search a student or student’s personal property such as pockets, backpacks, purses, cars, etc. only when "when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of school” (1). 
  • While there is no exact definition for “reasonable grounds”, searches based on rumor, hunch, or curiosity are not justified.
    Therefore, the teacher cannot search the book bags of the entire class and certainly not in the presence of other students. The teacher simply should have informed the administration and parents of the student about the loss of the money.   

Case: Not Participating in Pledge of Allegiance

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 66 | Read Time: 0 min. 19 sec. Category: General
I teach 4th grade at a small elementary school. It is a school policy that at the beginning of the day, all students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. One of my new students refuses to recite the pledge and refuses to be in the same room while the recitation is occurring. What ethical and legal considerations should you consider in dealing with this situation?

Case: Cheating During Exams

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 188 | Read Time: 0 min. 50 sec. Category: General
I teach third grade. Recently I am seeing that students are attempting to cheat on my quizzes when I am not looking directly at them. How should you handle this in an appropriate way??

What to do?

  • Establish your plagiarism/cheating policy and consequences and remind your students just before the test.
  • Switch the seating arrangement for any future exams, especially if there are particular students sitting close that are suspected of cheating off one another. Leave space between each seat and ask students to put everything under their seats for a clear desk.
  • Always be in control of the classroom - stand in the back of the class as well as in the front during exams.
  • Do not allow students to leave the classroom until they finish their tests.
  • Continuously coughing, tapping the bench or their foot, or whispering are signs of possible cheating – be aware.
  • Protect your physical and digital spaces. Do not allow students to be in your classroom when you are not there.

Case: Everybody Be Quiet, or No Recess for You All

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 483 | Read Time: 2 min. 19 sec. Category: General
I am having a hard time managing my entire classroom. From time to time, I find myself shouting to my entire class “be quiet”, “is everyone listening”, “are you following me”? I end up punishing my entire classroom such as “no recess”, “stop this project” etc. It seems that things are getting out of hand. What do I do?

What to do?

  • Set Classroom teachers are usually comfortable dealing with individual student misbehaviors. They give warnings, reduce points, talk to students during or after class. However, when it comes to misbehaviors coming from a group of students or the entire class, it is hard to know where to start.
  • When this happens, first of all, you should try to avoid disciplining the entire class at once. Punishing the entire class will never end well and it will not solve your problem. Holding everyone accountable when only a few are misbehaving creates resentment and will damage your influence. In addition, punishing everybody at once will alienate your most well-behaved students. They will be confused about what they did wrong, and they will feel resentment.
  • Even though it might seem that everyone is misbehaving in your class, most of the time you will find that your students are simply following the steps of a couple of leading trouble makers. We call these students “classroom clowns”. They usually have given up learning from your teaching and they will do anything to distract you or the other students during your teaching.  You need to identify who these trouble-making leaders are and deal with them one student, one misbehavior at a time. Once you start dealing with these individuals, the followers will stop.
  • Keep in mind, this is no different than highway troopers giving out tickets for highway over-speeding. Think about it. Police officers never stand in the middle of the highway and scream to speeders “slow down or you will get a ticket”. They never punish everybody at once. They do not get frustrated. They simply stop and give tickets to individual drivers one at a time, in front of every other driver passing by. After a couple of tickets, like magic, everyone else simply slows down following the speeding rules.
  • Deal with your “classroom clowns” by focusing on their behaviors rather than students themselves. Apply your usual classroom management tactics you usually use for misbehaviors. Talk to them about their inappropriate rumor, call on them and get them to participate, give them a role or responsibility in class, move them away from their friends, tell them you want to talk to their parents. You can also seek help from school counseling if the issue is not something you can handle. 

Case: Kissing Game During Recess

Published on Mar, 2022 | Words: 56 | Read Time: 0 min. 16 sec. Category: General
Some of my third-grade students have made up a new game at recess. The boys would chase the girls with kissing gestures and sometimes kiss them when tagged and vice-versa. I have witnessed this game and told students to stop. However, after a week, students started playing the game again. What should I do?
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