Skip to main content

Carrie Welsh: Hi, you’re listening to the Ethics and Education podcast from the Center for Ethics and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m Carrie Welsh. This episode is taken from a longer conversation I had with Professors Lauren Gatti:

I mean, I do think that this moment is bringing up all of the stuff that the book addresses in terms of the numerous and kind of overwhelming numbers of responsibilities that the teachers have.

And Paula McAvoy,

you’re in this role within society that carries a lot of responsibility and really complicated thinking.

I talked to them in early fall 2020, just as schools were figuring out schooling in a pandemic.

Lauren Gatti: I think the moment is really bringing to light the different Well, first of all, the lack of safety nets we have in our country in the way that schools have been kind of left to take care of kids and families in ways that our society is increasingly not taking care of them. So when I think about, like, that people are are worried about how are their children going to eat, like the fact that that has fallen. So publicly like this is the school’s responsibility to feed children shows me like they’re bigger. Just like the holes in the safety net, I think has become obviously glaringly obvious. But also, like the role of teachers in schools, I think, has become really highlighted, um, and teachers, especially trying to figure out, like, if their own health like how to balance the is it worth? Is it okay for me to go back to school to see my children, because I want schools to open I know, the kids need to be in school. I know, kids need meals, I know, kids need structure. At the same time I live, I’m immunocompromised. And I don’t know if I can actually compromise my own well being and maybe die. I mean, like, so like the the situation that teachers have been put in is unconscionable. But I also think it points to like the bigger kind of complicated place that teachers have in our society. I know Paul, what do you think?

Paula McAvoy: No, I was thinking that was a great answer. But yeah, I mean, I think the same thing, but it’s brought to the foreground, that teachers, that the judgment that the teachers make is so much more beyond what should I teach tomorrow, right, that you’re in this role within society that carries a lot of responsibility and really complicated thinking.

Lauren Gatti: And I think this would highlight kind of the confusing professional space that teachers occupy, like, are they essential workers? Like, what does that mean? Are they in the same kind of realm as a physician, a nurse, an EMT? Or somebody who works at like, a nursing home, you know, or are they something else? And so, I think that when we think about like the ethics of teaching, like in kind of the weird, professional space that teachers occupy, I think that this again is like highlighting how, how confusing it is and how kind of unique teachers are in terms of a professional landscape and how do we define who they are and what they are in society.

Carrie Welsh: Thanks for listening. I also recommend our other episode with Dr. Gatti and Dr. McAvoy, “Just Teacher.” If you’re an instructor and you’d like to use this audio piece in your class, we also make study guides as a teaching companion to our podcast with ideas for readings, discussion questions and class activities, which you can adapt to online classes. You can download the study guides on our website.