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Archive for Monday, August 27, 2012

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Double Take: When teachers bully

August 27, 2012

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Dear Dr. Wes and Katie: What do you do when a teacher is the bully?

Last semester, one of my daughter’s teachers repeatedly yelled at her in front of the class for asking questions, requesting help using classroom equipment, asking to go to the bathroom, etc.

I downplayed the severity until I met with the teacher to discuss a grade that seemed unfair. In response she began yelling at ME, accusing my daughter of lying about her treatment in class and verbally attacking me.

My daughter was a senior honor student, and I’ve always gotten praise for her demeanor, work ethic and class participation. This teacher said she has the backing of the administration and it’s her word against ours.

Katie: As students, we depend upon teachers for feedback, both supportive and critical. We need them to make us feel comfortable and safe. It sounds like this one had the opposite effect on your daughter.

When any bully, regardless of age, damages a child’s experience of school, the parent’s first job is to build a protective shell around her self-esteem. At home, you can remind your daughter that she is a smart, capable young woman, and nothing a teacher tells her can change that.

Nevertheless, parents should presume a teacher innocent until proven guilty. Most would be horrified to learn that they had caused a student such anxiety and would immediately work to improve the situation.

Parents need to comfort teens without losing their own heads around teachers, and it sounds like you handled this perfectly, by meeting in person to assess the situation for yourself. Too often, parents assume that once kids enter junior or senior year, they can solve independently any problems they encounter at school. High school really is a great time for students to start communicating with teachers on their own, but even adults are sometimes cowed by bad bosses or intimidating authority figures.

Unfortunately, your story proves that peaceful resolution doesn’t always come easily. Thus, parents should always keep a paper trail of communication with teachers to bring to administration if need be. The teacher may have mentioned her administration backing as a defense mechanism, but with evidence of your long-term worries in hand, administrators will not turn a blind eye to a student’s suffering.

If not, a bullied student should look into transferring out of the class. High school is tough enough as it is. No teenager should worry about harassment from an adult she’s supposed to be able to trust.

Dr. Wes: Katie is right. It’s hard to be judge, jury and prosecutor on a situation like this, figuring out who is to bless and blame.

But you’ve done your homework, and if your story is accurate — and I read a much more detailed version in an earlier draft — this teacher broke an implicit contract with your daughter. While it would be inappropriate for a superior to call her out in front of you, I would have taken it on to the principal for review and let him or her handle it in private. The calmer and more businesslike you were, the more likely a favorable outcome.

Unfortunately, that might sour the teacher on your daughter once and for all, just as reprimanding bullies often leads to an uptick in their bad behavior when nobody is looking.

Thankfully these situations are comparatively rare, making this one stand out from the background like a big neon sign of dysfunction. Most teachers do not act this way, and many are unsung heroes, which is why we know a bad apple when we see one.

The current reality in education, both locally and nationally, is that classroom sizes are growing, job security is diminishing, the political climate is toxic toward public school teachers, and salaries are flat or declining. This creates an incredibly stressful work environment, and it’s possible your daughter got caught in that crossfire.

That is, however, no excuse. Moreover, this teacher showed a pattern of such behavior over time, suggesting more than a stressful day or two. As adults, one of the best things we can do for kids is know when to apologize. There is no humiliation in sorrow, but instead a strength of character that we pass on to our children by simply saying, “I’m sorry.” This teacher would be wise to practice that kind of diplomacy and make some amends before she loses the backing of her community.

Comments

Ragingbear 1 year, 7 months ago

The reason your kid was bullied by a teacher is because they have ADD. Enclosed is a prescription for Ritalin. ~Dr. Wes Fraudshaw.

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Barclay 1 year, 7 months ago

There is also a lot of "world view bullying." While those who embrace Christianity are often accused of idea bullying, I think this kind of intellectual bullying, done under the guise of "education," comes far more often from those who embrace secular world views.

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kateku 1 year, 7 months ago

Thank you Dr. Wes for your instruction. Follow the proper chain of command. Talk to the school principal (Ed West or Matt Brungardt). If that doesn't work, talk to Dr. Doll. He is a good person. I know it is not easy to reprimand bad teachers, but it is possible.

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majorfunding 1 year, 7 months ago

7TH grade, my teacher was a big bully. i beat him up. Not a good soliton. So, i have spent much of the next 4o years thinking and perhaps it is time for this; I have fear for every child being subjected to the ignorance rampant throughout our public schools. They spend a lot more money, but teach our kids the completely wrong things. They become evermore restrictive, which turns our children into compliant herds with every imaginative thought torn out. YIPEE aren't those kids compliant? What perfect workers they are becoming.

Perhaps a complete change or direction is needed. Through a simple change, the bully problem could be reduced way back to a tenth of what it has become. Through that simple change, we could cut our prison populationsin 1/2. Soon 1/2 again that through the efforts of the school as well as efforts made throughout the society that your kids are influenced by. We should build them up as much as possible. A child given the ability to accept themselves is not subjected to bullying. Any child showing talent or a sincere dedication to almost anything, is very rarely within reach of a bully. Bullies go for the easy pickings. Any decision to attack a strong person is very risky. The intended victim might win, or simply laugh them off. A bully who is publicly laughed off, is immediately in shambles. He or she, becomes easy pickings for there previous followers.

Bullies intuitively know that if they try to bring a secure kid down, he will quickly discover that he lacks the knowledge necessary to even make any likely approach. Also, with self esteem comes admiration of others. Aself assured child, will quickly draw friends, and become a mass of kids who are far beyond the reach of any bully.

Any effort to attack secure people puts a bully in a strange environment. He/she quickly realize they lack the knowledge needed to bully anyone. Schools should use and teach dealing with negative attacks, using only positive tools. Positives are so very much more powerful. Bullies fall at the very thought of attacking a positive thinking child.

I offer for consideration a better approach to dealing with the bully problem. Of course all adults should offer support as much as posable. But at the same time we should use our brains to enable us to approach the problem in ways different from our typical grunt creations.

I say it is far better if we strengthen our kids, so they are rarely seen as posable prey. Bullies are predators, and all predators know it is far better to attack prey then risk everything on an unsure contest of strength.

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