Teacher Dispositions (Essay)

Different groups define teacher dispositions in competing ways. NCATE defines it the most radically stating they are values, commitments, and ethics that influence teachers’ behaviors and actions towards students helping to create an ethical environment for teaching. Others, such as Damon and behavior scientists describe dispositions as characteristic traits of personality development. These definitions compete because on the NCATE side dispositions lead to action that can effect children while behavior scientists describe them and part of the personality subject to change and as an individual grows and matures these traits change and evolve.

Given these two discrepancies, the important dispositions for teacher candidates/teachers to possess in my opinion are the personality traits associated with acceptable teaching practices as defined by the society in which the teachers are teaching. For example, a teacher candidate/teacher in Utah would have different acceptable dispositions than a one in Connecticut based on the political, moral, and social background and differences of each state. It is similar to the pornography laws of the United States regionally defined based on neighborhood acceptances. 

It is important to define dispositions for teachers because of the social cognitive theory that explains of the importance of models as defined by Ormrod. Teachers are models for their students both intentionally and unintentionally. It would be unwise of a society to invite influential models to instruct their children and model behavior they, the society, deem inappropriate.

Consequently, the university had an obligation towards Mr. McConnell in preparing him to enter the teaching profession. This responsibility did not include expelling him because of dispositions explained in a paper asking for such clarification. Rather in my opinion, the university should have been showing him the rational behind their dispositional beliefs, which he challenged, and teaching him the importance of dispositions, as he will become a modeling teacher. By accepting and instructing, Mr. McConnell in social cognitive theory together with the discussion of his dispositional beliefs and the fear they had of those beliefs transferring to students the situation could have been better resolved.

As a practicing teacher, I have thought about the importance of my personality traits and my “dispositions” in relation to my teaching and the influence I exert as a model for my students. Having many experiences across the country teaching I feel justified in stating that the societal acceptance and requirements differ across the country in regards to teachers’ dispositions. I have taught in public schools in Utah, California, and finally Connecticut.

Each state has different acceptable teacher dispositions. For example district policy in California (and currently in Connecticut) at the time I taught was you could not hold a student after school without 24 hour notice to the parents; this was not the case in Utah. Regional differences abound as well, for example teaching in one school in Connecticut different teacher ethical responsibilities were require verses teaching in the technical high school system (where I am currently teaching). For example, parental notice had to be delivered in writing before a student was “allowed” to fail. One is not better than the other just different requirements imposed by the community.

It would be difficult to restrict any willing teacher candidate from attempting to find employment after completing licensing requirements, including teachers such as Mr. McConnell. However, given that most schools hire teachers after and extensive interview process, sometimes including a sample lesson taught, it is conceivable that if Mr. McConnell expresses his differing views (as he did in the paper) he may not find teaching employment. I would be in favor of allowing Mr. McConnell to continue his education, learn all he could from the pre-service program and allow him the opportunity to demonstrate his interpretation of his controversial writings that were so acceptable (A- grade) to his professor. It was clearly stated in the article that Mr. McConnell had never demonstrated he would follow his declared views especially where outlawed.

I believe that allowing Mr. McConnell this affordance of continuing his education and applying to teach the society, not an accrediting agency, society will ultimately decide if Mr. McConnell is an acceptable public teacher. It is also important to remember, that even if Mr. McConnell is hired to teach in a public school, perhaps due to his not fully divulging his dispositional view that there are teacher evaluations, and initial teacher programs. These programs and evaluations could force him to reveal and change his dispositions, hide his dispositions to the extent that no modeling of the unacceptable dispositions could exist, or leave the public arena for a different type of teaching environment or profession.

If I had the responsibility for hiring and evaluating teachers in a school, which believed the way NCATE defines dispositions as equality for all students to gain and education I would find it difficult to hire Mr. McConnell if he presented or demonstrated his dispositional views. It would be difficult because of my social cognitive theoretical beliefs that a teacher has such a responsibility towards his or her students as a model. The positive and negative influence teachers has over their students is too great for me to allow, knowingly, a potential negative influence into the classroom. I believe this is the same reason each teacher is required to submit to an FBI background check prior to teaching; we as a society recognize this importance and the potential danger that could arise if someone inappropriate gained full access to our children.

Teaching I face the responsibility (and noticed it more since this case was presented) of modeling acceptable behaviors and my ethical responsibility. The decline of ethics that I have witnessed among my students leaves me puzzled, and at times I have worried the direction society is facing if I am in front of the next generation. After reading Ormrod’s social cognitive theory and the importance of models, I am determined to be a better model. It was refreshing to read what I’ve witnessed in the classroom and see a theory meld the two extreme theories of behaviorism and constructivism together.