When Teachers Bully

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bul·ly1

bo͝olē

noun

noun: bully; plural noun: bullies

      1.a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

Source: Google

We don’t like to think of teachers as potential bullies, but it happens. In fact, it’s happened to my own kids, and it took me a while to realize what was going on. At first I thought my kid just didn’t like a particular teacher, so I scheduled a meeting at the school with the counselor, the teacher, and support staff. My child joined us, and the meeting was going very well in the beginning — except that my child was completely silent. Then, after about 15 minutes of going over the incident, my child spoke up, and the teacher pointed her finger at my kid and called her a liar. I was stunned.  I immediately stood up and said directly to this teacher, “No one speaks to my child like that – this meeting is over.”  I then took my child and left. My child was so happy because she had seen her parent standing up to her own personal bully. It taught her to stand up for herself.  It was one of the best lessons I could have taught her, and I didn’t even mean to do it – it was instinct.

This article on bullying statistics delves deeper into the problem of teachers who bully, and it may be useful in helping to identify when you or your future children are being bullied.  Unchecked, bullying can contribute to low self-esteem, depression, and poor grades.  It can lead to social isolation and eating disorders or worse.  Children can pick up on cues from the adult bully and think that it gives them a pass to act similarly, further ostracizing the victim of bullying.

And About.com’s recent report from May 14, 2014, states that:

In a typical 12-month period, nearly 14 percent of American high school students seriously consider suicide according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 11 percent make plans about how they would end their lives and 6.3 percent actually attempt suicide.

This is not to say that every kid who is bullied will consider suicide, but for kids already experiencing depression or who are particularly troubled or sensitive, bullying can have severe consequences. For those kids who are not experiencing distress, bullying can still contribute to negative self-image and a feeling of helplessness. It is particularly troubling when the bullying comes from adults who are entrusted with their care and education.

So what does teacher-bullying look like?  Here are a few examples I’ve observed from my kids’ experiences:

– A teacher may ask the student an embarrassing question in front of the class even after the student or the parent has told the teacher that this is a sensitive issue for the child.

– A teacher may divide the class into A students on the right and less than stellar students on the left.

– A teacher may grade two very similar papers vastly differently, giving their favorites an A and those they don’t care for a much lower grade.

– A teacher may actually call you or your child a liar if they are called out on their behaviors.

– A teacher may be unwilling to work within a child’s different needs because they “didn’t get paid to do this,” thereby making the child feel inept and different.

– A teacher may actually tell the class that a student has a disease (such as diabetes) in an effort to ostracize the child and violate their privacy.

– A teacher may privately threaten the child if they say anything to anyone.
– A teacher may report the child for inappropriate behavior when, in reality, the child is merely standing up for him or herself. (This is known as gas lighting.)

There are many more forms of bullying (name calling, ridiculing, chiding, teasing, etc.), but there are too many to list here.

Check out this article from Everyday Health to find out what you can do if you’re being bullied, whether  by a teacher or a student. The article covers speaking up for yourself, telling your parents, keeping a record of incidents, going to school staff, and making new friends.

My advice is this: In the case of teachers bullying, ask to be removed from their class.  That is ultimately what I had to do with my kid, and immediately her grades improved, and she was no longer stressed about going to school.

The bottom line is that bullying is not acceptable in any form from anyone.  Know that you are valued, value yourself, and don’t let anyone get away with hurting you physically or emotionally. Standing up for yourself and getting the support you need is the best thing that you can do for yourself.  Also, if you know that someone else is being bullied, speak up and report it.

Jerri Sparks is a single mom (of three teens and one pre-teen) living in Western New York.  A former Congressional press secretary and a UCLA alum, Ms. Sparks now works in the BioPharma Research industry by day and is a freelance writer by night, advocating for the things she’s passionate about.  This may or may not involve Wonder Woman. Contact her at jerri@germmagazine.com.

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