The Principal's Prism: The Ethic of Care

The Qualitative Report
James Lane
Presentation Date: 
Friday, January 13, 2017
Event or Conference: 
The Qualitative Report Eight Annual Conference
Presentation Type: 
Paper Presentation
Boyer's Domain: 
Presentation Attachment(s): 
Presentation Location: 
United States
The Principal’s Prism: The Ethic of Care Consciously or unconsciously, all K-12 school administrators filter their decisions through ethical lenses. These may include ethics of critique, justice, community, the profession, or others. Although the foci may be determined by the characteristics of the specific issue, all decisions made by school leaders must be viewed through an overarching prism of care. While an increasingly polarized society tends to frame issues as right or wrong and etched with stark hues, a view through a prism of care reveals complex shareholders who require support. Central are the needs of students, though these may be affected by the personal rights of teachers, their legal obligations, and their professional expertise. Even when advocating for students, principals must wrestle with protections of staff, as well as the obligation to broaden teachers’ awareness of the needs of students and provide the training to help them meet those needs. My research began with intense autoethnographic reflection to discover ways that I applied the ethic of care in dealing with ethical dilemmas while interacting with students, parents, staff members, and community members. I have since expanded my reach to consider ways that school leaders apply the ethic of care. Topics include student grouping, curriculum choices, the influence of student privilege in course selections, social justice, and teacher training, reprimand, and suspension. Significant issues present ethical dilemmas. All require applications of care. I discuss specific ways that I have focused my research to serve both teachers and their students by illuminating some of these dilemmas.