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What do I do with that information?

The job of being a teacher is complex. You wear an array of hats, and although teaching is considered our core business, the reality is we do far more than that. You’re often the safety net that is in place for many aspects of your students’ lives that go well beyond the fence of the school grounds. In some cases, you’re also there for their families. But it doesn’t stop there. We play a pivotal role in supporting our colleagues in all aspects of their lives, too.


With the support we provide to so many different people, there are often challenges that come with it. Amongst all of the different challenges, for me, it was the sensitive information that I was privy to that would keep me awake at night. Sometimes, it was information of a professional context, and at other times, it was personal. This was especially the case living in a regional town.


I always struggled with the moral dilemma. What should I do with this information, and should I share it or keep it to myself? I’m not talking about a disclosure that requires a mandatory report; I’m talking about day-to-day conversations or information that can either explain a person’s behaviour or leave you wondering if they are really ‘ok’.


It’s never black and white, but to try and help you navigate these tricky situations, my best advice is to start with the ‘why’.


Why did they tell me this? Was it because they wanted to get it off their chest, or did they share it because they wanted me to help? By telling a trusted colleague, am I adding another layer of support for the person, or am I breaking their trust? There is also a link to feedback here. Do I need to give honest feedback, albeit what they may not want to hear, or do I soften it because I like the person and want to support them?


Or, it may be when critical information was shared with me about a student and their family. Is that information just for me, or do all teachers need to know?


These are just a couple of the many moral dilemmas that we face daily. ‘Do I share’ or ‘don’t I share’? It’s often a blurry line that I’d always approach with trepidation. Complex situations would often have no right or wrong answer, so where possible, in addition to the ‘why’, I’d always endeavour to use these questions as a guide:

  • What’s the potential harm caused to the people involved if this goes wrong?
  • Am I protecting the person or avoiding the problem?
  • Is there a way that I seek their permission to share this information?
  • Am I not sharing because of the fear that one person may gossip rather than the majority doing the right thing?
  • Morally, is it right?


To put it in layman’s terms, the question can be as simple as, ‘Will I be comfortable that I can sleep tonight knowing that I decided for the right reasons?’


If I start with the end in mind, I’m ultimately looking to do everything possible to protect the reputation of my students, their families and my colleagues. Sometimes, it also means a problem shared is a problem halved.