Special to The Greenup Beacon
Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of our series on bullying. We hope it has provided information to help with the understanding of this problem.
“But what if it's the teacher who screams, threatens, or uses biting sarcasm to humiliate a child in front of the class?” asks Katherine Kam, a writer at WebMD. What if the teacher is the bully?
Stuart Twemlow, MD, psychiatrist and director of the Peaceful Schools and Communities Project conducted a study on teacher bullying. "Using power to punish, manipulate, or disparage a student beyond what would be a reasonable disciplinary procedure,” is how Twemlow defines teacher bullying. He anonymously surveyed 116 teachers and 45% admitted to bullying a student. There is a lack of research on teachers who bully.
“A bullying teacher can be described as one who uses the imbalance of power to intentionally harm students physically, emotionally, or socially,” as stated at www.educationworld.com.
“Students aren't the only ones bullying in schools. Teachers, principals, and parents bully too. Together they create a bullying culture that strikes at the heart of effective learning and teaching,” writes Les Parsons in his book, Bullied Teacher: Bullied Student.
Teachers can be involved in bullying in three ways: as observers, as perpetrators, and as victims according to www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-teachers.html.
“Bullying teachers can act by using degrading words and treatment, as well as physical punishments. Other school employees besides teachers can bully students, including coaches, custodians, security personnel, and the front office staff, even the principal.”
What happens when a teacher bullies the entire class day after day? Teachers are in positions of authority and students may accept bullying behaviors as acceptable by the school system. Adolescent students who tell and talk may not be believed by adults or may fear teacher retaliation in lowered grades or fear group humiliation.
Deborah Serani, a psychologist, gives ten tips to parents for dealing with a teacher who bullies.
While most teachers enjoy being with kids, like their jobs, and are hard-working individuals with purpose and passion; unfortunately there are some teachers who bully students. Alas, there are bullies in every profession including the mental health profession. “…bullying originated with an imbalance of power,” according to Leah Hollis, author of Bullying in the Ivory Tower.
Parents need to consistently dialogue with their children about school days and school happenings. Yes, adolescents gripe about teachers and schoolwork; however bullying is a pattern of unprovoked abuse. Parents, please stay calm when you approach school staff about your bullied child. I’ve talked with many teenagers who did not tell parents about bullying for fear of an angry parent storming into the school and embarrassing them in front of teachers and peers.
Please seek counseling if your child has been bullied by her/his teacher or school staff. Start at the school level and if the bullying continues, you may want to seek legal advice.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a child therapist, consultant, and educator in Appalachia.