My work as a business instructor in a career college is never short of fulfilling. Our typical student is one who, for whatever reason, decided not to attend a traditional academic institution. Typically, our students come from lower socioeconomic standing and have more than their share of personal baggage that weighs them down. The instructors that tend to be the best at their jobs are those who have a passion for changing the lives of their students for the better and helping them to move past their encumbrances. In fact, our school motto is all about changing lives for the better. What makes this work is when all of our employees believe in our mission and make caring for the best interests of our students our top priority.
I was recently asked to take on the role of faculty advisor for a new “community classroom” outreach program. This program will be to have our students get involved with a local organization that helps keep troubled youth off the streets, but they have no formal operating structure. Our goal is to assist them, through student involvement, to develop a business plan and decide what kind of organizational structure would be best for them. I accepted without question, as it seemed I had no choice but to do this. My lack of choice stems from obligation to the community, and is based on the organizational climate of our school, which tells me that I must accept this challenge.
“Leadership helps set the values and culture of the organization” (Penn State University, 2018). This holds true at our school and governs everything we do. Our director of education is heavily invested in the community through connections with his wife who is a community organizer and activist. He constantly ensures that everyone who works in the school understands that our jobs go far beyond teaching and that we need to be invested in the success of our students, which often includes counseling and some TLC. There is an alignment with our corporate tagline which is “Changing futures. Changing lives.” The director aims at having total compliance and understanding that we are to do what is in the best interest of our students, and that we will be successful as a byproduct of that mission – and it works. The leadership in our school has made a conscious effort to ensure that everyone understands and practices the collective moral sensitivity as an empathetic concern, a moral judgement that focuses more on others than on self, and a collective moral motivation and character that dictates how we behave every day and governs our actions (Arnaud, 2010).
Like most individuals that teach, I am motivated more by an obligation to others than I am to any obligation to myself. It is easy to do our jobs and collect a paycheck, but it is so much more fulfilling when our belief in behaving morally and ethically is something that is espoused at all levels of the organizations for which we work. It comes as no surprise to me, or to the leadership at my school, that when asked to take on the challenge of strengthening our community by student peer-to-peer involvement, the answer was not even spoken – it was understood that I would accept.
Arnaud, A. (2010). Conceptualizing and Measuring Ethical Work Climate: Development and Validation of the Ethical Climate Index. Business & Society, 49(2), 345-358.
Penn State University. (2018). Ethics and Leadership. University Park, PA.