Most teachers are good people who love kids and want only the best for them. However, there are always those few bad apples who abuse the power they have in their classroom and show often the most vile and cruel hatred toward the kids they don’t like. Unfortunately, even the best schools and school districts have a few of these rotten apples under their employ.
Child-on-child bullying is a hot topic these days. Adult-on-adult bullying is also a topic that is fast up and coming and soon will be a hot button issue. But an issue that is rarely discussed is teacher-on-student bullying. And sadly, it’s a more common occurrence than we think (or want to admit).
When teachers single out and bully a certain kid in their class that they don’t like, it sets a very dangerous and damaging precedent. Because of the power dynamic between teacher and pupil, it automatically sets the expectation of how the other members of the class should treat the targeted student. The teacher willingly or unwillingly sets the target student up to be mobbed and bullied by the other classmates.
Because kids often look to their teachers as examples or role models, a bullying teacher can encourage and perpetuate a spirit of hate, cruelty and hostile behaviors among the rest of the class toward the targeted child or teen. He/she sends the unspoken message to the rest of the class that it is okay to bully the target and may even yield rewards of favor with the teacher if they join in the torment. Understand that these types of adults create a very dangerous environment for the TS (Targeted Student). As a result, the TS loses interest in learning and dreads going to school!
Also, the other students in the class may become afraid to have anything to do with the TS because any association with the TS may put them at risk of becoming a TS themselves. This is called “Guilt by Association” and its purpose is to isolate a target by intimidating or punishing anyone seen socializing with the him/her.
Worst of all, the power imbalance is such that the bullying teacher holds the TS’s future in the palm of his/her hand. They have the power to mar the TS’s permanent record with bad marks that can damage any prospects for college or even jobs. The cruel actions of a bullying teacher have the possibility of following the TS well into adulthood, long after they’ve left school.
Understand that anytime you are targeted by a bullying teacher, the wide imbalance of power between student and teacher puts you in such a vulnerable position! It’s not the same as being bullied by another kid in school. When a child is being bullied by another child, this is a battle they can fight. Because you can either fight the other kid back, ignore them or walk away from the bullying child.
But when you’re a kid being bullied by an adult in charge, how are you supposed to respond?
The sad reality is that it’s a battle you can’t fight! There’s no way to defend yourself and no way to protect yourself! You can’t ignore the teacher and you certainly can’t fight back or walk away from the teacher without making the situation worse. Unfortunately, you’re stuck. You’re at the mercy of that teacher. And he/she knows it and takes full advantage of it.
Bully teachers often bully their TS by embarrassing and humiliating them in class, by cruel insults to their intelligence, dirty looks, announcing failed grades in front of the entire class and causing the TS to be ridiculed by the rest of the class, by disclosing the TS’s private information to the rest of the class, by micromanaging the TS, standing over them to intimidate them, invading the TS’s privacy by going through her purse or flipping through their books, by holding the TS to double standards and yelling at the TS for tiny infractions and mistakes that other members of the class get away with. In short, the bully teacher doesn’t give the TS the leeway that he/she gives the other students in the class.
I’ve had personal experience with a bullying teacher. I remember being bullied in *Political Science class by *Mrs. Wallace during the eleventh grade and I’ll never forget how utterly lowdown and powerless she made me feel. I also remember being bullied by her to the point of picking up my purse and books and walking out after yelling, “That’s it! I’ve had it!”, only to have her follow me yelling, “Nuh-uh! You come back here! You’ve got some nerve walking out of my class! Who do you think you are! You march your sassy butt to the principal’s office, now!”
I was lucky in that the principal was merciful and only gave me a few days detention, but it could’ve been much worse.
Even worse, the TS is intimidated into silence. The poor kid knows that if they report the abuse, they’re least likely to be believed because when a kid talks about “a mean teacher”, the adults assume that mean only describes a teacher who makes you study, makes you do homework and who rightfully sends you to the principal’s office when you misbehave. They don’t think about the possibility of the teacher being verbally and emotionally abusive.
Bully teachers are talented at masking their abuse as “discipline” or “motivation”. They will tell the TS’s parents that they are “worried about” the child, that their child “needs help” or “needs medication”. Is it any wonder that bullying by any adult member of school staff is so difficult to pinpoint, contend with or to correct? It’s not easy for most people to distinguish between discipline and abuse, especially if it’s subtle or they aren’t there to see it firsthand. It can also be hard for some to recognize when the line is crossed from discipline to degradation, intimidation, humiliation and even physical abuse!
Remember that bullying teachers mostly commit their cruelty toward the TS in the privacy of their own classrooms, where only the other kids in the class witness the abuse. They aren’t likely to do it beyond the confines of the school and in most cases, if the TS or parent reports the bullying, the school sides with the teacher and allows the abuse to continue.
Because of the contagion effect that spreads throughout the classroom, the power imbalance, the lack of support and protection, and the powerlessness to rectify the issue, the TS often feels a huge sense of fear, helplessness and shame.
With a teacher who is a bully, the best thing you can do to protect and defend yourself is to keep a journal! Document everything- every incident in detail! Write down who, what, when, where and if possible, why! Understand that with a bully teacher, Documenting the abuse is the only recourse you have!
Also learn what you can from others who are or have been victims of this teacher’s abuse! Because you more than likely aren’t the only student she bullies. There surely were others before you, others bullied along with you, and there will likely be others after you. Because teachers who bully secretly get off on the power they wield over their target students. They will select another TS once you’re moved on.
And more importantly, know that none of the abuse you suffer is your fault! You are a great person no matter what!