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Mark P. Murphy
Educational Leadership
The Pennsylvania State University

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Narrative of a Critical Incident of My Professional Life

"Narrative of a Critical Incident of My Professional Life "

Note: This narrative was written by "Thomas" and posted by the blog administrator.

For more than a decade, my home country, Liberia, had undergone a deadly civil crisis. When I matriculated to the University of Liberia in September, 1987, I didn’t complete my study when a civil war hit Liberia on December 24, 1989. During this period, I escaped along with some people and was in the bush for several days. My intention was to flee to Ghana but the possible route for me was to go through the Republic of Ivory Coast, also known as Coted’Ivoire.

My siblings and mother who were in the country side escaped to Ivory Coast during the early stage of the war. I was happy to hear that they had fled. At last, I was successful to cross into Ivory Coast in August, 1990. While in Ivory Coast, I wrote and passed the United Nations teachers recruitment test designed to select qualified Liberians to teach Liberian refugee children enrolled in UN assisted elementary schools. Selected teachers were given in-service training to strengthen their instructional and classroom management skills. I started teaching in the school system in September, 1991. As a refugee and teacher, my allowance (salary) was relatively good to cater for my mother and siblings since I was only one somehow educated and working. In 1993, I informed my mother and siblings that I was going to resign and leave for Ghana. I explained to them that Ivory Coast being a French speaking country, I would not be able to meet my career goal in life and the level of contribution I envisaged to make to my family, community and country would not be realized. The concern of my family was the job and support they received; in other words, they could not think about the big picture I was considering. The dilemma experienced: Should I resign from the job and go to Ghana for a study that I wasn’t certain about in terms of financial resources, and forgo the earnings and family’s needs? This was a hard decision to make; however, after considering the economic and aesthetic values of knowledge, social prestige, and, self esteem, I convinced my family that resignation from the job was unavoidable, and I was prepared to take the risk. I resigned and departed for Ghana in April, 1993. After a period of struggle in Ghana, I was offered admission and won a UN scholarship.

In 1997, I completed my BS degree study at the University of Ghana. I returned home where there was relative calm. I secured employment with the University of Liberia as Teaching Assistant in Agricultural Engineering. I was never motivated by the professor whom I work with. I assisted the students in tractor driving and maintenance, mathematical problem solving, and marking of papers. He would permit me to read a book for day when I needed it for a week to digest the materials in order to help the students. My professional life became miserable and started hating the course because he was not just my pivotal person. I decided to return to Ghana for graduate study since I was not defining myself professionally.

Dilemma experienced: Leaving job and not certain of financial support for graduate study became a serious dilemma. However, I took the risk and resigned from the job as Teaching Assistant, and left for Ghana for the second time.

Upon arrival in Ghana, I secured a teaching job with at high school known as Precious Jewels Foundation School System. The principal and proprietor of the school was my former schoolmate at the University of Ghana. While in the school, I was appointed as elections chairman to conduct the student council elections for academic 2002/2003. The principal’s son was vying for the position of school president. Another student, a male, was opposing the principal’s son. Instead of the principal allowing the students to make decisions about their choice through ballots, he wanted me to determine the outcome of the elections in favor of his son. Dilemma experienced: Should I maintain my little earnings by faking the result in the interest of the principal or make a moral judgment as a result of my professional values and accept losing income? When the elections result was about to be announced in the school auditorium, the principal called me to meet him in his office. I refused to attend to his call because I considered it my moral obligation to remain impartial until the release of the final result. The principal’s son lost the elections and his opponent won with a very wide margin. This brought rift between the principal and me. As a result of my efficacy in instructional activities and leadership, I was supported by the teachers and student populace.

Seeking financial support for graduate study, I applied to the Association of African Universities head office in Accra, Ghana, for a Ford Foundation International Fellowship. The competition included 1400 applicants. After an initial review, 20 applicants of the initial 1400 were invited for personal interviews. A total of nine applicants were determined to be qualified for a fellowship and I was one of the nine. I was admitted at Penn State University for my Master’s degree study (2003-2005). Dilemma faced: Should I stay in America to defy immigration regulation and work or return home to contribute my quota to the development of my war ravaged country under a life threatening condition? In support of my inner conviction to impact lives of young people and community leaders, I returned home and secured job with a regional based NGO, Social Enterprise development Foundation of West Africa, and was able to contribute meaningfully to the development of my country.

Applying the Value Audit Process: Begley, P. (2005). A Value Audit Guideline. Penn State

Step 1: Interpretation of the Problem (ethic of critique)

-The stakeholders include: Family members (mother, brothers, and sisters), principal, teachers, professor, students, friends, organizations, and I.

-What arenas of practice are relevant? The relevant arenas of practice are self, profession, organization, community, and culture. For example, “self” is relevant as an arena of practice because my focus is to bring about self esteem and self actualization socially, economically, and professionally. In this way, my moral stand in decision making is paramount. The meta-value of profession is critical as an arena of influence.

-Does the conflict exist within an arena or between two or more? Example: personal vs. organizational. The conflict exists within an arena. The conflicts existed within an arena and also between two or more people, in relation to my values, the meta-values of my profession (i.e. aesthetic, economic, and ideological purposes) community, culture or organization. For example, making a decision to leave my family and resign from a job in Ivory Coast for a study which I didn’t have money for, was indeed a conflict within the self. The situation at the high school was a conflict between two or more people.

-Can the values in conflict be named? The values are integrity, goal-achievement, commitment, responsibility, honesty, justice, courage, and patriotism.

-How much turbulence are the values in conflict creating? The degree of risk was high for all dilemmas experienced. For example, if I had not gotten a scholarship, I wouldn’t have gotten my first degree.

Step 2: Towards Humane Response (ethic of care)

-What motivations and degrees of commitment are apparent among the stakeholders?
The levels of motivations among the stakeholders include the following:
Concerned with self, personal preference, habitual, comfort. Earning a higher degree would give me a higher income; high self esteem; and a high social prestige.
Concerned with desired outcomes, avoidance of undesirable. My family didn’t want to starve (avoidance of undesirable); therefore, my being on the job to help sustain them, was their desired outcome.

Concerned with ethical postures, first principles, will or faith. My decision was and has been basically embedded in faith.

-Is the conflict interpersonal or intrapersonal? The conflict is interpersonal and intrapersonal. For example, when the dictatorial and unprofessional practice of the principal was opposed, it became an interpersonal conflict. Taking a moral stand to announce the fair results of the elections became intrapersonal (within me).

-What are the human needs, as opposed to organizational or philosophical standards? Human needs are physiological, security, self esteem, and self actualization. These needs were considered at levels. For example, when I resigning from a UN job in Ivory Coast to travel to Ghana for study, my mother and siblings were concerned about food to eat and house to live in, which represent physiological and security needs. On the other hand, I was concerned about self esteem and the thought of empowering them economically in the near future.

Step 3: Ethical Action (ethic of justice)

-What actions or response would maximize benefits for all stakeholders?
For example, I rendered fair judgment in declaring the election result of the high school openly. I remained impartial and the student populace and teachers accepted the result as being free, transparent, and fair, although the principal wanted the result to favor his son. Secondly, my desire for further education enabled me to secure employment after completing master’s degree and was able to build a better house for my mother.

-What response would respect individual’s rights? Response in line with values that an organization or institution is subscribed to or a meta-value of one’s profession. For example, in the case of the high school, our individual rights were respected.

-Are desired ends or purposes interfering with a selection of a means or solution?
Yes, indeed, the desired ends interfered with the process of selection a solution. For example, the desire of self esteem interfered with the sustenance plan of my family since I had to resign a job that was sustaining all of us.

-If an ethical dilemma exists, I can resolve it by taking a moral stand. I took a moral stand at the high school in opposing the principal’s dictatorial and unprofessional behavior. I ignored his threat of dismissal and did the right thing.

1 comment:

Chiachen Chang said...

Interesting narrative! This analysis provides many good dilemma examples of making realistic-oriented decisions or ethical-oriented decisions. Decisions corresponded with actual needs are made for the most parts when these two alternatives are in disharmony, whereas some decision-makers might prefer ethical-oriented decisions. Firming in the right decisions is essential in many cases. The self-discipline, determination, wisdom, and accountability values that enabled you to do the right decisions and to overcome the integrity, goal-achievement, commitment, responsibility, honesty, justice, courage, and patriotism value conflicts you encountered were very impressive and adorable.