As I discussed in my post earlier this week, bullying in school can take on many different forms. Teachers, though most often cast as witnesses to bullying, are just as likely to play a role in the bullying scenario either as bully or as bully victim.
While the idea of a teacher-bully, once explained, is pretty easy to conceive. The teacher-victim is quite the opposite. Much like any victim of bullying in school the teacher who falls prey to student intimidation often hears that this is “part of life” or at least an occupational hazard. However, in the digital age, students bullying teachers has taken on more severe and lasting forms.
Students Who Bully Teachers
In 2005, the Ontario (Canada) Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) released a comprehensive study regarding bullying in schools. However, the focus was on the teachers, not the students. The “Bullying in the Workplace Survey” found that 36% of Ontario secondary teachers reported being bullied by students. That’s over one in three teachers who feel that their students have engaged in, “persistent or repeated verbal abuse, threats, insults or humiliation” (p. 1).
While at first this may seem extreme – isn’t there respect for one’s elders in school anymore – once we look at the ways in which students bully teachers, there is a clear correlation to their actions and this definition.
Ways that Students Bully Teachers
There are several ways that students, especially adolescent students, are able to bully their teachers and a lot of this can be attributed to the “advances” of the digital revolution.
- “Pushing Buttons” – This is by far the most common method of students bullying teachers, and the one that has been around the longest. Students know how to “get to” their teachers through goofing off, disrupting the class flow, etc. The act of deliberately and frequently doing so is clearly bullying behavior. Not surprisingly, this behavior is most commonly directed at part-time and substitute teachers who students feel have less power over them since they do not submit formal grades.
- Happy Slapping – This is a relatively new term that I only learned of while researching this article. Apparently, with the advent of cell phone cameras, it has become increasingly popular to set up embarrassing scenarios, film them, and post those videos onto sites like YouTube. Though most teachers are good at remaining cool under fire, when Happy Slapping is used alongside habitual disruption in the classroom, catching a teacher losing it on an off day becomes far more likely.
- Rate My Teacher Websites – I have fallen victim to this one myself. The Rate My Teacher websites were originally designed by college students as a way to formally record many of the “well known” facts about teachers for different courses (since in college you choose your schedule with a lot more freedom than in high school). However, honest evaluation has become license to air all grievances about teachers, their grading habits, classroom personae and “hotness.” The anonymous nature of these websites can create a culture of distrust within the classroom. Teachers who are unsure of who is “rating” them may become censored in the classroom and educational quality will likely suffer.
- Social Networks – This is perhaps the most popular and the most damaging method of students bullying teachers. Without a clear understanding of the rules of libel and slander and how they apply to the internet, there has been more than one group of students disciplined for what they say on websites like Facebook and MySpace. Frankly speaking, this is cyberbullying and in many cases it goes unpunished.
The Damaging Effects of Students Bullying Teachers
The educational environment is supposed to be one of free exchange of information and growth. In order for this to occur, however, there needs to be a foundation of trust set between the educator and his or her pupils. Unfortunately, many students do not see school in this way. As budding young adults, some students resent the “compulsory” nature of schooling. Others are out to prove something to their peers or themselves. Most frightening, some bullies may also be victims who deflect their rage at the weakest or easiest target, someone who is paid to deal with this and governed by more than one body when it comes to fighting back. The end result is the same however, this trust is never formed or it is shattered though the intimidation and the hostile environment created by students bullying teachers.