A teacher was disciplined recently for ‘moonlighting’ as a stripper, a ‘naked waiter’ and appearing in porn films. He made a robust defence of his actions as ‘legal, moral, acceptable’ and entirely separate from his professional role. But others judged that “in the prevailing view of society” his actions fell below what the public would expect of the conduct of a practising teacher.
A couple of years ago, a student teacher confided in me that she had once worked as a lingerie model and was worried that now that she was training to be a primary school teacher, it might affect her career, especially if pictures were to emerge that would be viewed by parents and pupils.
How interesting that, in this case, a perfectly innocent, legal and amoral activity undertaken in a ‘past life’ can take on quite a new significance when someone becomes a teacher.
I couldn’t offer much advice to that anxious student because she was worrying about the moral judgements of other people – and that is a variable we cannot control. The “prevailing view of society” can at times be seen through a very wide lens or very long and narrow blinkers.
All I could say to her was that we all have to be true to ourselves and live our lives by the moral standards, codes and values that we believe to be right. If other people don’t like that… (criminal behaviour aside of course) well… that’s just tough!
But I emphasised to her that such attitudes, opinions and judgements were not professional, they were moral. She had every right to private behaviour that was legal and consenting.
While she might occasionally come across some people, perhaps even parents or pupils who think that modelling lingerie sits somewhere on a scale of immorality, that is a moral universe they are entitled to in a free society, but not one that they are entitled to impose on others.
We can’t please everybody all the time, and nor should we be trying to – especially as teachers.
Is your morality a professional matter?