WEDNESDAY, MAY 16: Teaching is a very noble profession. Many teachers are committed, dedicated and love children and teaching. Many teachers thrive on turning on those “light bulbs”, touching the student’s spirit and opening up a passion for knowledge and inspiring the student to love learning.
Alas! There are a few bad apples in the barrel.
The media is saturated with reports of students bullying students, but little attention is given to teacher bullying and it is more common than people believe. Stuart Twemlow, MD, a psychiatrist who directs the Peaceful Schools and Communities Project, defines teacher bullying as “using power to punish, manipulate or disparage a student beyond what would be a reasonable disciplinary procedure.”
Aren’t teachers human?
Is it fair for us to expect them never to engage in persistent, unwelcomed behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticisms, nitpicking, fault finding, also exclusion, isolation, singling out and treating students differently, shouting at students and humiliating students?
Why do teachers bully?
Teachers bully for various reasons.
Does the student remind them of someone they dislike?
Are the teachers insecure and do they bully bright students out of envy?
Do teachers take out their frustrations in the classroom because of their personal problems and frustrations?
Are teachers scared of students who bully teachers and to avoid appearing weak, they also bully?
Teachers also bully to hide their inadequacy. If a teacher chooses to bully, then, they are admitting their own inadequacy.
Teachers who bully project their own inadequacies on defenseless children.
Teachers who bully avoid facing up to their inadequacy and doing something about it.
They avoid accepting responsibility for their behaviour and the effect it has on others.
By bullying, they reduce their fear of being seen for what they are, namely a weak, inadequate and incompetent individual.
Twemlow identified two categories of teacher bullying. They are the “sadistic teacher” and the “bully-victim teacher.”
The sadistic teacher may get some pleasure from bullying a student. They humiliate students. They hurt students’ feelings and they are spiteful. Students often express that they are mean, cruel, irritating and even make students feel rejected. Twemlow feels that “sadistic” teachers should not be teachers.
“The bullying-victim” cannot control the class and often responds with rage and bullying. These teachers could benefit from training in effective classroom management.
Teachers who bully have often been bullied in childhood.
Peter Fonay, Ph.D., states: “If your early experiences lead you to expect that people will not reason, but respond to force, then you are at risk of recreating this situation in your classroom.”
Physical abuse is readily reported by parents.
Emotional or verbal bullying is not readily reported and may be regarded as a gray area.
• Your child reports that his teacher celebrated her birthday at school. The teacher bought Kentucky Fried Chicken for the whole class but excluded three little eight year old boys. Is this bullying by exclusion?
• Your child reports that they were participating in a soccer tournament. A teacher comes to two students who are in her class and on the sidelines and says: “Bet you boys didn’t know I know your coach.” Pointing to one of the boys, the teacher says, “That one there. Bad behaviour. Rolling on the floor. The boy said, “I never rolled on the floor. She was just saying that to get me in trouble so that the coach would not let me play.” Is this bullying by unwarranted and invalid criticism?
• Your child reports that he was not allowed to go to Interschool Sports because of alleged bad behaviour. The little boy was telling another student that he should have been allowed to go because he was better than some of the children who were allowed to go. The teacher said: “It was not only the bad behaviour. I have heard other stories about you.”
Is this bullying because of rumours being spread?
• Your child reports that the class is invited to go to church with the teacher. The student was asked if he was going to attend church with the class. He said no. The teacher said: “I didn’t think you were a church boy.”
Is this bullying through verbal abuse?
How can parents handle the issue of teacher abuse?
• Talk openly about school with your child. Teachers are the authority figures. Children are reluctant to tell their parents about teachers.
• Volunteer in the classroom. You can keep an eye on the situation and develop a relationship with the teacher.
• Avoid blaming and keep an open mind. Sometimes, the teacher’s behaviour may be misinterpreted by the child.
• Take your complaint higher. Ask the principal to intervene. Have the child transferred to another classroom. Some principals let bullying teachers go unchallenged.
File a formal complaint with the Ministry of Education.
• Keep good records of all communications and incidents.
• Reassure your child. Support your child. Resolving the bullying issue may be difficult. Let your child know that you want something to happen but it takes time.
Don’t let the situation drag on. Nip it in the bud.