Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Teacher As Bully

One of the biggest problems in schools today is Bullies - not student
Bullies but Teacher Bullies. Students' biggest role models after their parents are teachers, in part due to the amount of time they spend in a classroom. We will continue to see an increase in student bullies until we address the problem of teacher bullies. We see teacher on teacher bullying with unions and we also see teacher on administrator bullying with insane teacher contracts that tie administrator's hands. We see teacher on student bullying because teachers often do not know how to properly handle difficult students. We see teachers and paraprofessionals bullying with their attacks on parents and students with the "labeling" of children. Lastly we see teacher on parent bullying through the PTA, the push of tax increases on parents in town meetings, through the children via book bags and classroom conversations, and holding towns hostages with the possibility of strikes during contract talks.


Bill Page, Education Consultant has an excellent article titled The Teacher As Bully online at

The Teacher As Bully
By Bill Page Educational Consultant Published 12/2/2007

The Teacher As Bully
The current focus on the problem of "bullying" has produced a flurry of programs, mandates, legal action, books, articles, and web sites; but I have yet to see research on the insidious behavior of the biggest school bully of them all—the teacher.

By Bill Page
Education Consultant

Students who don't conform, don't hand in assignments, don't abide by rules and procedures, and who are disengaged, apathetic, and oblivious to bad marks, test results, and low grades, are the scourge of every teacher, though such students exist to varying degrees and numbers in every classroom. Two or three such "troublemakers" categorized as "at-risk" can create havoc, and cause inordinate frustration, off-task time, management problems, and discipline concerns for hard-working, well-intentioned teachers. In too many schools such students are in the majority.Attempts to get the interest, to correct the behavior, and to change the attitude of these recalcitrant, uncooperative, intractable students frequently cause teachers to resort to classroom control strategies that are not only counter productive, but that actually transform teachers into the biggest bullies in school.

Three particular problems form the basis of the teacher as bully: First, many teachers, who were good students when they were in school, fail to understand such misbehavior as defense mechanisms of students who are embarrassed, bored, or fearful of showing their incompetence.Second, in their own school experiences and teacher training, they had little opportunity to learn alternative responses to uncooperative students.Third, teachers frequently employ teaching strategies based on faulty assumptions and erroneous beliefs about negative motivation, reluctant learners, and the underlying causes of students' hostile, anti-learning, anti-teacher attitude.

Believing that punitive responses, withholding approval, using embarrassment, teasing, shame, sarcasm, and failure will cause students to improve their behavior, teachers frequently employ the very same control methods used by student bullies to intimidate their victims. Probably only a few teachers resort to deliberate bullying, humiliation, or intimidation, but too many others use these techniques thoughtlessly, automatically, subconsciously, or because they have learned that bullying, without naming it as such, is an acceptable form of student control and classroom management.

Teachers Have Power
Although teacher's intentions, reasons for control, and feelings are quite different from those of student bullies, the effect on the victim and the methods used are precisely the same.But, since teachers are role models who possess overwhelming power, authority, and influence in school, their bullying is far worse than that of notorious schoolyard bullying.In addition, teachers' lack of awareness, unwillingness, or inability to acknowledge their role, makes their bullying all the more insidious and deplorable

School culture itself can contribute to bullying. Teacher bullying behaviors are driven by the demand that individuals conform to academic and behavioral expectations whether or not those demands are appropriate or even possible.I was reminded of student perception of teacher behavior, as I observed one of my daughters, a fourth grader, playing school with three of her friends in front of the apartments where we lived.As the game began, everyone wanted to be the teacher.It is no fun being a student.Shannon, a sixth grader, who was a grade level or two above the other three, easily won the starring role.

Her performance was absolutely stellar.Whatever anyone's stereotype of the portrayal of teacher might be, Shannon played it flawlessly.From the yardstick she used as a pointer to slam against the knee-high wall, which served as her imaginary desk, to her voice inflection, intonation, gestures, and exaggerated articulation; she was a teacher. She gave orders reminiscent of my old Army drill sergeant and meted out punishment fast and furious along with nonverbal gestures and hostility that caused me to cringe.As I expected, because the students, unlike in real school, were volunteers there to play and have fun, the game didn't last long.

With the intimidation by schools and teachers, with the labeling, name-calling, judging, belittling and intimidating aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act, it seems all too logical that the punitive, coercive pressures should be extended to students in individual classrooms wherein teachers can take on the role of "Big Bad Bullies".Teachers, serving as role models, condone bullying behavior in those students eager to identify with the teacher, gain approval, and who avoid identifying with the failing and fearful students.

To view the rest of the article visit

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