Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Enriching Education: How to Handle a Bullying Teacher

“You are such a disappointment and embarrassment.”

That phrase, believe it or not, was uttered to my son by his teacher at a science competition for selected fifth and sixth grade students when he failed to place. That sentence took only a minute to speak that day, but those words will have a lasting impact on him forever. 

We were livid.

We knew this particular teacher was hard to work with. We had heard the whispers from upset parents and stories from other students. However, we assumed like most educators, she would approach teaching with a certain amount of professionalism and compassion. After all, our schools have a zero tolerance for bullying and the staff should model what they teach. 

Unfortunately, we learned the hard way even teachers can be bullies. And we are not alone. The more we talked to other parents, the more evident the problem of bullying teachers became. Friends switched schools, started homeschooling, and even moved to avoid bully teachers. However, they only bypassed the real issue, never addressing the bullying directly. 

Teacher bullying often goes unreported for many reasons. Teachers hold a lot of power in a child’s life, dictating whether they can go to recess, get a drink, use the restroom, and even what grades they receive. Often, our sons and daughters are afraid to speak up in fear there will be retaliation, punishment, or no one will believe them. If they do tell us, we are faced with a lot of scrutiny from the administration, school personnel, and even other parents. 

9 Essential Strategies for Handling A Bully Teacher

It can be difficult to handle a bully teacher, because it is easier to put our heads down and hope the school year goes by quickly. Thankfully, we aren’t helpless. We have compiled the following tips for handling a bullying teacher:

Schedule a conference. Open dialogue with our son’s or daughter’s teacher is key. Occasionally, communication lines get crossed and a child or teacher gets misunderstood. Most educators want to address concerns quickly, before a problem escalates.  

Follow the chain of command. If the bullying isn’t improving and you have already contacted the teacher, move up the ladder and talk to his or her superiors. For most schools, this will be the principal. Principals typically will work with you, but occasionally there is no follow through. If that fails, approach the superintendent and finally address the school board. Most school systems want to see that you have went through the hierarchy of officials, so save all emails, call logs, or dates and times you met. .

Document the bullying. The problem with teacher bullying is it leads to a “he said, she said” situation. The student is immediately at a disadvantage, because a teacher is already in a position of power. True bullying is defined by intentional and repeated behaviors, so have a child tell you when a situation happens, write it down or call into the school to create a record of the incident.

Be seen. The last thing most of us want to do is have more contact with that teacher, but we need to make an effort to be visible. Volunteer to read with students, drop in to eat lunch with your child, help at class parties, and attend classroom events. Our presence in the school may encourage open communication and reduce the bullying. If that fails, we can always be on the lookout for evidence of bullying.

Teach children how to be respond to teacher bullying. This is crucial, because the wrong word or defiant attitude quickly escalates situations. Children need to understand they should always be respectful and well behaved, even if they don’t agree with the teacher. A child will only be targeted more if they react to the bully’s behaviors. 

Rule out any medical causes that might be causing problems. Sometimes kids do misbehave or have problems in school, so make it a priority to ask your child what might be causing them to not pay attention, fidget, or yell out answers. It could be that your child’s vision is changing making it so they can’t see the board, they are experiencing ADHD, they have a reading disability like dyslexia, or they can’t hear the teacher very well. It’s possible that there might be a biological explanation to the behaviors that bothers the teacher.    

Build your child up. Find activities or hobbies that a child can focus on instead of worrying about bullying. Try to be positive and help kids see all of the good things to be happy about. Over time, this will build resilience and coping skills needed in life. 

Reassure your child that things will get better. Help our sons and daughters know that this will eventually pass. If needed, seek professional counseling services to help make sense of the bullying.

If all else fails, seek legal counsel. If the bullying doesn’t improve after meeting with teachers and administration it might be time to look for new school options and seek legal intervention. We can’t simply hope the situation will resolve itself over time, because bullying can have very serious and long lasting consequences if not addressed.  

Have you dealt with a bullying teacher? How did you handle the situation?

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