Over the last several years, a movement against bullying has gained popularity. School-aged children especially struggle with the ill effects of bullying, and as such, teachers are often spearheading efforts to eliminate the abusive behavior in their own schools. Sometimes teachers will provide lessons throughout the school year, tactile interactive displays of how words can hurt and kindness is free. Leadership staff have even brought in motivational speakers to address entire schools on the topic. This is a noble effort, and certainly necessary. When a child is intimidated or harassed, the emotional distress can become a distraction from learning. Alternately, when a child is lashing out at others, it's a sign that they need to learn more productive methods for expressing their emotions. Bullying between students is being addressed from both sides.
However, not all bullying happens among peer groups; sometimes a teacher is the big, bad bully. Please allow me to say: most teachers are really great people who dedicate countless hours to improving the lives of their students. They genuinely care about the well-being of the children entrusted to their care and would literally sacrifice their lives if it came to it. Many have done just that in dire circumstances. But all the kindness in the world doesn't negate the very real existence of The Bullying Teacher.
Teachers that bully their students are not merely strict. They consider the classroom to be "theirs", and children to be an impediment to the learning process. I imagine many of these bully teachers are just experiencing burnout. That's to be expected - I only care for two of my own children and some days I just want to throw me hands up and quit, too. What's unacceptable is when that burnout negatively affects a child.
One mother shared video of a teacher in her son's class. This woman had opted to teach an advanced leadership-type course, one with a curriculum designed to encourage a close teacher/student bond. When students were caught unprepared for class, the teacher would march the entire classroom to the stairwell. Then, she would have the student (or in the video, she's seen doing this herself) turn their binder upside down and let all the loose sheets of paper float to the first floor. All the students would watch as the one student, being singled out and humiliated, walked down the stairs alone to gather up their work.
I read this and scratched my head. What is the purpose of this lesson? My husband has a great litmus test for basically any situation: "What are you hoping to accomplish as a result of this choice?" And for the life of me, I cannot conjure a single positive aim that would reasonably be achieved through this weird waste of valuable class time.
Parents who have experienced this type of bullying are horrified to learn that their children aren't exaggerating when they claim their teacher is "mean". They've pointed out a few effective techniques for trying to de-escalate the situation without jeopardizing their child's academic future.
First, document everything. When you realize your child is dealing with a teacher-bully, write down their exact words - or record them. Better yet, check legality of recording in the classroom and consider getting footage of the abuse in action. Speak with as many people in the school system as you can - other students, student parents, teachers, aides, administrative staff. Try to understand every angle of the situation. Of course, nurturing your child is hugely important. When they're being torn down in the classroom it's vital that they're being built up at home. Inspire their self-confidence, remind them of all the things that make them wonderful.
When you have the complete picture, follow the chain of command. Request a meeting with the teacher. Do not assume that this meeting will resolve the issue. Instead, be prepared to involve the principal or leadership board. If you still aren't satisfied with the response, keep pushing it all the way up the chain of command until you get a response. In the case of a non-response or avoidance on the school's part, consider making the issue public. I can't say if that will be a net benefit to your student, but it's not an uncommon approach.
Hopefully you will never need to rely on these pointers! But if you find yourself worried about your child's teacher being a little too aggressive, don't hesitate to stand up for your kid. They're depending on you to have their back.
Have you ever dealt with a bullying teacher? Share your story with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 and I'll tell you about the time my 4th grade teacher banned me from recess for talking about my book report on The Teacher From The Black Lagoon. It's a doozy!