Classroom Bullies

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Imagine a bully. Do you see a slightly larger than average child with a black T-shirt, an arm tattoo, and a buzz cut who will ask for your lunch money and then shove you down a trash can? Or the classic ‘mean girl’ with a short skirt, a platinum blonde blowout, and some pink high heels, reminding you that you will never be as pretty as her?

Surprisingly enough, the classroom bullies that terrify me, and many other students, are not stereotype bullies. They are the ones that you turn in your assignments to, the ones that decide if you pass or fail. I am not here to say that all teachers are bullies because that simply is not true. Most teachers care about every student and hope to mold and advance the minds of the future. Who am I kidding; that is their job, therefore, it has to be their intention as well. I hate to come to terms with the fact that no matter the intention, some teachers fall short to reach this. Now, this isn’t about the grading scale and students not being able to accept that they are not getting the grades they think they deserve. It’s about teachers who make slanderous comments, racist or sexist remarks, and body shaming jokes; it is about teachers who no longer make the ‘safe learning environment’ feel safe.
I am not here to put every teacher that I did not like under the microscope. In fact, two of my favorite teachers happen to be ones that others would call bullies. I’m also not here to say that every student needs to be handled with care and that every student is so respectful to teachers. I am here, however, to ask this: where do we draw the line between a teacher demanding respect and a teacher who bullies their students? Are students just taking criticism in the wrong way?
I asked some students from Air Academy about their experiences with teachers and administration involving classroom bullies.
1.) Have you experienced teachers that “abuse” their power and bully students?

“Yes, unfortunately, it happens quite frequently.”

“Yes. I have seen teachers intimidate students with their power into being very uncomfortable, not taking risks, and being afraid to work.”

2.) If so, what happened, and how did administration handle this?
“Many cases don’t get reported to admin and therefore nothing gets done about it. However, when they do get reported admin tries to sweep it under the rug and not do much about it. The students have very little power and because some of these teachers have been teaching at AAHS for 15 or more years they feel that they are invincible and in most cases they really are.”

“I have seen students attempt answers or activities in class and not get the correct answer and be made fun of and bullied or yelled at for being incorrect. I personally have had a teacher call me dumb and say, “I’m so sorry you have her” to groups who have me in their group.”

3.)Do you think it is common for this to happen?
“It is extremely common. I’ve personally seen 2 separate cases where nothing has been done when a teacher has been repeatedly harassing students.”

“I think it is very common for certain teachers to bully students a lot.”
4.) Do you think that students worry about going to administration because of the possible repercussions from the teachers?
“Yes. To go to admin, usually, does nothing except a recommendation that you leave whichever class that the student is in. This really angers the already aggressive teacher. Thus, worsening it for the student. In many cases, the student becomes an example to other students in the class that is bullied by the teacher.”

“Yes. I know many students who won’t report teachers in fear of being singled out.”

5.) How can teachers, students, and admin work together to better the education system and eliminate teachers who are bullies?

There’s only one real way to eliminate this problem. To enforce a no harassment or bullying policy is essential to the teacher-student relationship and therefore administration must punish teachers that are doing this kind of things in order to maintain a positive learning experience. Overall, for a teacher to bully a student just because they’re a “needle in their side” or they have different views is totally wrong and if a student does feel bullied they should go to administration.

If we have administration take reports seriously and make it more available for students to come for help, it would make a great change for AAHS.

I’ve witnessed this bullying first hand. One of my past favorite subjects is no longer my favorite, all because of a teacher, and how they act towards students. I had a male teacher tell a group of four girls that they would have issues with a project, ‘because they lack a male leading figure,’ and the same one made a fat joke. Blatant sexist comments and statements that jeopardize a student’s confidence in a classroom setting would be punished if it came from a student; why is it looked over when coming from an authority figure?

Is it worth overseeing how a student feels in class to keep a teacher’s job?
I hope that one day the balance between a teacher helping students and criticizing them with the idea of improvement will come to light in a way that is the best for both parties. For students, it is hard to have a teacher who you feel does nothing but drag you down with degrading and negative comments. As a teacher, having bad days is allowed, because after all, we are all human.