A much talked about subject - the bullying of teachers

publication date 20.06.2009

bullying of teachers

Times have changed and the values once taken for granted are now gone. Time and again, the teacher has to win their authority and, moreover, to cope even with bullying from the side of the students. The situation is not always hopeless. A teacher with experience of many years is going to share with you one experiment of hers.

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Degrading human dignity, humiliation, maltreatment – they all represent bullying. This term mostly tends to induce the idea of a school child being terrorized by their classmates. Yet sometimes it is the pupils or students who bully their teachers in an unscrupulous way.

Doing the dirty on an unpopular teacher has always been an inseparable part of school education. Throwing of the blackboard rubber, using the teacher´s Christian name, shouting, disturbance. However, ever more often we encounter something that we might call bullying, with groups of students purpously belittling, provoking them and sneering at them. They often record the teacher´s speech with a mobile phone in order to post it on the Internet. Obviously, there are times during insturction when the teacher fails or makes a mistake which is what such groups of students, subsequently, take advantage of. They mostly target those teachers who are unable to support their authority and those who try to pacify students by punishing them too harshly. 

Nowadays, at a time of the liberal eduacation ideal, students no longer respect the teacher´s formal authority too much, nor do they have trouble arguing wiht them and asserting their own views. If the teacher lacks the ability to appeal to students, to treat them like his or her equals or partners, then a problem can occur whose nature depends on the teacher´s personality. If they use too restrictive methods while being unable to capture their students´ imagination, they will have a which-is-the-stronger-one struggle. Even efforts by some younger teachers to be “friends“ to students, like being one of them, do not pay off either. It tends to seem ridiculous to students. On top of it, everything comes to the detriment of the instruction process.

In all instances it is necessary to monitor  growing disagreements between the teacher and their students in order to be able to identify their causes. The aim here must be prevention of having the problem escalate into a big one or even something worse such as bullying. What are the methods the teacher uses? Can he or she get their attention? Unfortunately, some problem students often have the urge to arouse notice of others in a negative manner feeling it is a great fun.

We should never close our eyes whenever we see bullying and adopt an attitude like: it is not my business and I do not need any trouble. Resolving this problem immediately through all adequate means should always be our priority.

An experiment of my own

This story is not related to bullying, just a very problematic behaviour of a group of students. I am convinced, however, that – if unresolved – the problem would have snowballed to get into the bullying stage. 

I had worked as a teacher for 9 years with students aged between 14 to 24 years at various types of schools. During those years, I would come to think about the ways they behaved, their motivations and personalities and seek for effective pedagogic means to form their behaviour positively, which would not always be easy. 

At a high school, I got a class of real problem students aged about 18. A couple of lessons passed in peace, but then something was going on. There were different malicious utterances, remarks, there was inattention and ever-growing tendency to demean me and make me feel embarrassed. I was not intent on resolving everything through severe punishments as they would not have eliminated the existing problem, on the contrary, they would have intensified it.

Thus, I planned to realize an exchange of roles. The important thing was for the students to agree to such a game without regarding it as a form of punishment, because otherwise it would not have worked. To achieve my end, I told them that they were so smart and were coping so well with school subjects that since the following lesson they would be in charge of the instruction. They were supposed to make a preparation and start teaching since the following lesson. Frankly, it was not at all easy for them: getting and keeping the attention of the whole class, as well as getting the feel and standing the critical remarks and, quite often, even a sneer from the side of their classmates. All the class funmakers were taking it in turns and, after just one week, the situation in the class was changing for the better – suddenly, the peace and comfort were back. We also talked about what they had been through during their “class“ under the critical supervision of their mates.

And my undeserving students? Subsequently, I had to admit their respect for my person grew considerably, and they were on my side for the rest of my teaching committment with this class.

Resolving disputes between the teacher and the students may not be so successful and seemingly simple at all times, yet we should always give it a fair try.

Ing. Jana Sovová Ph.D.

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