Significant Learning Incident Essay Example

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Learning Incident

Learning Incident

Context of Incident

St. Teresa’s School, a co-educational school was where I was accepted for my placement. This school was catering for the needs of the children ranging from the Foundation or Reception level all the way to year 5. Based on the KidsMatter framework, St. Teresa’s School undertook to promote the mental health and wellbeing of these children as well as assist them to form some respectful relationships through developing their sense of belonging and inclusion. My focus was to work with the children both on the individually and in groups to help in promoting their mental health as well as assist them in maintaining healthy relationships with other people. I also helped the children to build resilience. During this period of my placement, I would like to make use of art in presenting my ideas as well as to communicate with the students. I believe the use of art will help me communicate with these students in a more efficient manner as well as help me understand their feelings and their minds so I could manage to develop effective solutions and goals which will be useful for them in the long run.

The Incident

In the school where I am placed, St. Teresa’s School, there is a male teacher who handles years two and three students. This teacher and the students have a good relationship as they like him a lot. Additionally, this teacher and the students have a lot of interactions which includes some physical contact with them like cuddles, hugs, and holding hands. I often observe this male teacher and the students in physical contact when in the school’s playground and classroom as well. During my first day of internship in the school, I asked my supervisor whether such interactions with the students were acceptable where the supervisor confirmed that such behaviors were unacceptable. I also decided to check the ‘Protective Practices’ for the staff members in their daily interactions with the young people and children. The ‘Protective Practices’ shows that there are boundaries between the teachers and the students in their interactions which means that what this male teacher was doing was not acceptable.

This particular incident was critical to my learning as it enabled me to understand various aspects of social work practice regarding professionalism, boundaries, and the use of power while attending to clients. One of the things that I learned was that the code of ethics had incorporated guidelines on professionalism and professional boundaries (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2010, p. 22). According to the Australian Association of Social Workers (2010), social workers are not supposed to engage in any sexual conduct with the people that they are involved in a professional relationship. As clearly outlined, it includes students as well. In this case, the male teacher was cuddling, hugging, and holding hands with the students, which are sexual conducts. In the same light, the Code of Ethics stipulates that the social work professionals need to be responsible for the use of their authority and power in efficient ways that serve humanity (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2010, p. 13).

These being children, they are probably not aware if their teacher is doing the wrong thing when interacting with them the way that he did. It is up to the teacher to teach these children the boundaries that could not be crossed regarding their interactions with each other. Thus, the male teacher violated the Code of Ethics by engaging in some of the interactions with the students. The social theory also outlines aspects of boundaries and accountability when in a professional setting (Malcom, 2014, p. 39). It stipulates that social workers need to be accountable to their clients as well as their colleagues. The same social theory requires the social worker to locate the limits of required and permitted practice when in a professional setting (Malcom, 2014, p. 39). Violating this made him seem very unprofessional in his conduct.

In the first instance that I saw the way the male teacher was interacting with the students, it immediately occurred to me that whatever he was doing was wrong professionally and ethically. This is the assumption that I had. Since this was only an assumption, I decided to approach my supervisor to inquire about that as well as took to read the ‘Protective Practices’ to see if this was wrong. After these consultations, I was sure that whatever this male teacher was doing was totally unprofessional and unethical. Just like at the beginning of the incident, I still thought and felt like the teacher was taking advantage of the innocence of the children and the fact that these kids liked him a lot. With this knowledge, I plan to take this experience with me in every organization that I will work with. Additionally, I think the management of institutions where such cases are experienced also need to act on these incidences swiftly and accordingly so that they ensure such incidents do not recur.

The learning outcomes entail issues to do with professionalism, the use of power in the workplace, boundaries that not need to be crossed in a professional setting as well as the use of social theory to guide in daily undertakings. I have learned that social work upholds high levels of values, ethics, and morals. There are various documentations which seek to provide guidance on the way the social workers need to behave in the workplace some of which include the Code of Ethics and the Modern Social Theory. As a social worker student, I have learned some of the issues that can be experienced in a professional setting and how they can be handled professionally. The social work practice deals with humanity and how best to serve the clients for the common good of the community. Therefore, when I enter the profession fully, this will be my mindset. The social work theory is a good guidance when it comes to guiding the social work practice. It can be accurately and efficiently integrated in the social practice and offer guidelines on how to go about with issues that may arise during the practice.


Australian Association of Social Workers 2010, Code of Ethics, AASW, Brisbane.

Malcom, P 2014, Modern Social Theory, 4th Edition, Palgrave Macmillan, China.