Students are not the only ones who can be bullied in a school environment. People rarely think of a teacher being bullied, but it does happen. When people hear the word bully, they normally think of a larger adolescent who takes great pleasure in picking on kids who are smaller and weaker than they are. That stereotype is misleading. Anyone can be bullied if a person finds their weakness. Teachers often become the targets of bullies that take the form of athletes, intellectual students, other teachers, parents and even school officials in administrative positions. Learn How to Deal with Bullying as a Teacher!
Learning how to deal with bullying as a teacher takes a firm resolve. A new teacher must prove themselves to not only their students, but other faculty members and parents as well. One sign of weakness can lead to a continual barrage of insults, comments and taunts that can break their resolve and make them question their choice to become a teacher.
As a teacher, proving your mettle is extremely important right from the beginning. Even teachers who have been teaching for several years, continually have to face down the challenge of a new student, parent or other faculty member. Showing themselves as a formidable appointment is imperative if they plan on being successful. A teacher who is being bullied must always be on the offensive to settle a situation before it gets out of hand, otherwise they will constantly be working on damage control.
Teachers can become targets for bullies if any of the following markers are present:
- New to the school with little connection to the area
- Very quiet
- Shows signs of being timid
- Lives a different or unique lifestyle
- Shows passive tendencies
- Avoids confrontation
Teachers who stand out as being excessively quiet are often perceived to be weak or shy. While this is not always the case, students and other faculty members may attempt to take advantage of the teacher’s quiet nature and impose their own will upon the them.
Drawing the Line in the Sand
When learning how to deal with bullying as a teacher, one of the first things that must be established is where the boundaries lie. Drawing the line in the sand is not a challenge, so to speak. Instead, it is simply addressing what types of behavior a teacher will and will not tolerate. Teachers who are quiet and reserved often appear that in an attempt to protect themselves emotionally from possible rejection by students and other teachers. As they begin to settle into their new position and make new friends, their demeanor may become more relaxed and less withdrawn.
During that initial period, both students and faculty may try to dominate or take control of situations and interactions. Teachers need to stand their ground. If something is occurring that they are uncomfortable with, they should open up lines of communication to get it resolved. If a situation escalates out of control, they should bring in another faculty member or someone from administration.
Knowing how to deal with bullying as a teacher when the attacks are coming from a co-worker or other educator is important, especially if they want to keep their job and not alienate other people on the staff. When a teacher is being bullied by a peer, they should immediately address the situation, much in the same way they would address it if they were witnessing an altercation between two students.
- Other teachers may join in and also try to undermine their authority
- Students will perceive the teacher is ineffective
- Their control within the classroom will be weakened
- They will lose the respect of other teachers and students
- Parents may also question their effectiveness
Establishing a set parameter that creates a “safe zone” allows teachers to retain their confidence and begin working on the goals they have as a teacher and educator. When the parameters are broken or weakened by a bully (of any kind, parent, teacher or student), the teacher must be prepared to take control of the situation and re-establish the parameters as a matter of conviction.
A new teacher that is unknown to their co-workers will have to prove themselves as a valuable asset to the school. Students often enjoy bullying the new teacher to see just what they can get away with. A firm tone and confident body posture will often dissuade students from attempting anything to out of the ordinary. In cases when a bullying incident does occur, teachers who are able to handle the situation with tact and dignity will quickly gain the respect of their students.
A teacher who plans on being a success for several years into the future, must remember a few important concepts:
- Discipline students in private, publicly admonishing a student in front of their peers is a quick and efficient way of making a lifelong enemy
- Never assume or accuse until the facts are known without question
- Keep lines of communication open when it comes to students and other faculty members
- Admit when mistakes are made and be accountable for any wrongdoing
While this may seem sacrilegious to some teachers, admitting when a person is wrong does not necessarily weaken their influence. It shows a sense of humility that even though they are in a position of power, they are not perfect and are willing to be responsible for their mistakes.
Open lines of communication build trust between individuals A teacher who is willing to listen to a student even though they may not like what is being said is one who will be respected and appreciated. Teachers who try to make themselves available to their students as an advisor, may often find themselves being bullied by other teachers who do not want to be involved in student issues. They feel that teachers who make themselves available to their students set a bad example and cross the line between being an educator and a friend.
This is not the case, however, if certain boundaries are established and kept as to what type of associations are appropriate. Often times, when a teacher gains the reputation of being a good listener, students who are being bullied by other kids may feel more comfortable telling them than going to the principal or other members of the administration.
Understanding how to deal with bullying as a teacher means deciding to what level a bully will be tolerated without doing something about the situation. Teachers are often talked about by students, sometimes in very derogatory ways. Most teachers don’t mind being bashed by students if they know they are accomplishing their goals and the students are learning the required material. Teachers do become alarmed when the comments being discussed are those that can threaten their job or their reputation as an educator.
Often times, students will complain to their parents about situations involving the teacher. Parents who do not get all of the information needed to make a valid assessment may begin to talk amongst themselves and eventually involve the principal or members of the administration, School administration officials are then asked to address the issue and must get to the bottom of the problem. Popular complaints include:
- Star athletes who are getting below average grades
- Star athletes who get in trouble for acting out in class
- Honor roll students who get a below average grade
- Students who believe they were treated unfairly in a specific situation
- Students who feel they are being targeted by the teacher for a specific reason
- Other teachers who may feel threatened by the new faculty member
Once rumors have started, they are hard to dispel. Most teachers learn about what is going on through other members of the faculty or they hear students talking about it in the hall. Taking proactive measures to get the situation under control quickly and efficiently is the best avenue of action. Ask to speak to the student. Call the parents in for a conference. Talk to the school’s administrator or superintendent.
Don’t let things get too far out of control before finding a way to solve the problem. Once a teacher has been attacked in any way, be it verbally, emotionally or physically, prompt action is required before any substantial damage can be done. Protecting a teacher’s reputation and good standing in the community is important if they want to effectively deal with those who attempt to bully them. Staying true to their objectives and focusing on the bigger picture are important objectives that must be met if a teacher plans on working within a school system for any length of time.
Sources: http://www.teachers.net/gazette/DEC02/voors.html, http://www.tolerance.org/supplement/bullying-guidelines-teachers, ,http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teachers-bullied-by-colleagues-1-todd-finley , http://neatoday.org/2012/05/16/bullying-of-teachers-pervasive-in-many-schools/, http://www.tolerance.org/blog/teachers-can-be-bullied-too