Thursday, December 16, 2010

When Does One's Work Ethic Become Unethical?

Today is day seven I've spent at home recovering from pneumonia.  Now, I do take some responsibility for being ill.  In a week, Santa will be bringing me some proper snow boots, I'm sure.

But last week, for two days, I taught in two university classrooms with no heat.  Nada.  Zip.  Nie. The radiators were cold to the touch.  What's a teacher to do in this case?

Naturally, I feel most teachers have a very strong work ethic.  We will battle it out, grin and bear it.  But should we consider setting some limits, especially when our health is at stake?  Because two days of bullet biting in an icy classroom has resulted in five days of missed classes and hundreds of euros of lost income.  I ask you, should I have refused to teach under those conditions?  Chances are, I wasn't the only victim that day.  Chances are some of my students also fell ill. 

With the current ELT discussions about what are the bare necessities of a language classroom (e.g. anti-material Dogme arguments, technology, etc), I ask: what are the bare necessities for staying healthy in the language classroom?  In my experience, three things: proper heating, ventilation and availability of fresh water.  Without these things, can we say it's unethical to teach and even learn in that kind of an environment?  In a country that is labeled as having one of the best health care systems in the world, I don't think it's too much to ask.