Ethical practices are an integral part of the early childhood education field. Creating learning environments that are safe, appropriate, and professional go hand in hand with ethical practices. Ethics guide our sense of integrity, honesty, and courage, and provide the impetus to design developmentally appropriate environments for young children. Ethical practices also guide us to act in ethical ways on behalf of the children and families we serve.
Ethics call on early childhood professionals to put children’s needs first and to be mindful of the important role we play in their lives. Ethics help us to engage with children and families in respectful and equitable ways, keep them safe from harm, and support their growth and development in all the learning domains.
Ethics require educators and caregivers/providers to work closely with families and co-workers to communicate, make decisions, and work on behalf of each child’s best interest. Our actions can leave a lasting impression on both children and families and therefore require us to reach for and maintain high levels of quality, intentionality, excellence, and professionalism both in and out of the classroom.
For this module’s discussion forum, review the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct Supplement for Early Childhood Adult Educators and respond to the following ethical dilemma.
Imagine that you are working in an early childhood education setting that serves a diverse population of students. Enrolled in your class (or program if you are a Director) are boys and girls, children who speak English and other languages, children with identified special needs, and children from diverse cultural backgrounds. If you are a nanny, imagine that you are talking with the parents that you work for about some of the families you have met at the park.
During break one day (or during a conversation with the parents) you realize that your co-workers (or parents) have strong feelings about some the families that you work with. There are several Somali families enrolled at your Center now (or at the park) and you overhear one person in particular talking about the families. You are surprised to hear them use negative terms to describe the family, such as “weird,” “unusual,” and “scary.”
A few days later, after one of the Somali families drops their child off at your center (or after encountering Somali families at the park), your co-worker (or the parent) starts to talk about the family. “They are so strange. Did you see what they were wearing? Did you smell their clothes? No wonder their kids don’t have any friends here. They should go back to their own country.”
What should you do? What is the most ethical way to handle the situation? Would you try to talk with your co-worker (or the parents if you are a nanny) yourself? Would you share what you’ve overheard with your Program Director or course instructor? Would you say something to the children who may have overheard the conversation?