Teacher-on-student bullying exists

Who knew teachers actually bullied students?


Raven Woodlief

A teacher looms over a fearful student. This represents that sometimes there are teachers who bully or consistently disrespect kids.

Ashley Soriano, Staff Writer

A smile or a friendly tone can go a long way. Simple words such as “May I” and “Please” have all the difference in the world in building a two-way street made out of respect.

Adolescents have a high standard to meet when it comes to respecting their elders. As a child, we’re told it’s of the utmost importance to use our manners when speaking to adults. Throughout my 13 years in school, I’ve come to the realization that adults have less of a standard than the youth does. Specifically, I’d like to analyze the give-and take relationship of respect in the school setting.

A student disrespects a teacher: write-up, citation, immediate reprimand, anything of the like.

A teacher blatantly disrespects and treats a student poorly: no big deal.

It all began this year, close to the end of the first semester. A staff member at Ola High School, who will not be named, showed me what teacher bullying really is and that it does exist.

We often discourage bullying, as we did in “No Place for Hate” programs in elementary school, once-a-month advisory sessions in middle school, and clubs speaking out against it in high school. We spend so much time advocating against student-on-student bullying, but what we often let slip through the cracks are those teachers or adults who work in a school who consistently disrespect and bully students—14- to 18-year-old kids.

One time turned into two times which turned into every after school meeting. To clarify, this wasn’t every afternoon but at least two out of the five. I’ll refer to the staff member as Jane. It first started with Jane telling me she doesn’t see what I do for a group of kids; she compared me to another student and with a harsh, condescending tone and facial expression attacked my character. Although this hurt my feelings, it was only one incident so I was not going to address this to an authoritative figure. After that encounter, every meeting was dreaded. Jane clearly treated me differently than the other students.

When a teacher treats a student differently, it shouldn’t be looked past. For Ronnie Lloyd, sophomore, she recalls an experience in fifth grade as she felt bullied by her teacher. She said, “I just felt like she thought that I thought that I was better than everybody, so she treated me differently.” Small words and actions compiled into a clear act of bullying, as this is what she immediately remembers as a teacher-on-student bullying incident. Although she doesn’t remember the specifics, she remembers feeling treated “differently.”

Similarly, Jordan Ellis, senior, feels victimized by one of his teachers who treats him differently as well. Although he had a passing grade of a 73 in his class, the teacher told him he is going to fail and he will not graduate. He said, “It made me feel like crap… she obviously doesn’t believe in me ya know.” His resolution was to prove her wrong. His teacher said this in front of the class, which “embarrassed the heck out of me.”

It’s important to note that some comments can be perceived worse than they are intended to the person on the receiving end of the conversation. However, when a student consistently feels victimized by snarky, condescending comments, it shouldn’t be glossed over.

One meeting in particular, Jane talked about me to other adults in a whispering, covering the hand type of manner—an action that reminds one of a gossipy teenager. I confronted her by saying, “Are you talking about me?” I can’t remember the words she said verbatim but I distinctly remember a sarcastic smirk, rolling of the head completed with a rude comment. Sometimes it isn’t the words someone says, it’s the mannerisms and expressions that stick in one’s mind.

I like to look tough and invulnerable to my peers, but the truth is: this hurt my feelings. This was the first time I had ever been bullied; for the first time, it was at the hands of a school worker. I went home and cried. Very few times in my life have I felt vulnerable, but this time, I did. Eventually this lead to not wanting to participate in an organization I love with all my heart.

Similar to me, Cassie Mills, junior, is considering whether or not she wants to participate in a program because of the lack of respect she receives from a teacher who heads the program.  On a daily basis, she feels taken advantage of by the teacher who rarely says please to her and rarely gives her credit where credit is due. This frustrates Mills, and she feels disrespected.

To take matters further in my situation, one meeting I began to cry simply out of stress and anxiety. A peer of mine relayed a message to me afterwards: Jane had leaned over to another adult and whispered, with her hand covering her mouth just as before, and said something to the effect of, “Don’t feel bad for her.”

Snarky comments turned into talking behind my back to my peers. Jane called in multiple members of the team and told them my friend and I are “infections to the team.” She instructed one member in particular to distance himself from my friend and me so he wouldn’t be “dragged down” by our characters.

To stand up for myself, I can proudly say I’m an honors student with a 4.0 GPA, I was the Editor-in-Chief of the 2015-2016 newspaper, I’ve established my reputation at the school as a respectful and hardworking individual. The complete opposite of a parasite. I have a newspaper staff who respects me and I respect them immensely—a give-and-take relationship founded upon respect.

Before things got as bad as they did, my dad spoke with David Shedd, principal, even after I urged him not to. I felt as if it would only make it worse. Jane, to my surprise, began treating me nicer, with a smile, although I know it was not sincere. However, after some time, things went back to the way they were, worse than before. After being called a parasite and infection to the team, I knew I needed to address this. My friend and I approached one of the assistant principals in hopes to address the conflict with Jane face-to-face in a respectful, mature manner. We wanted a third-party there as a witness so there was no he said she said. To our dismay, Shedd called us into his office. We told our story despite not wanting to get the principal involved. We truly wanted to handle this as mature adults rather than running to the already-busy principal.

Needless to say, nothing was done, at least on the surface. To Mr. Shedd’s credit, he very well could have handled this behind closed doors and addressed this with Jane one-on-one. However, to my friend and me, it seemed as if no one was on our side. I mean, come on, teachers can’t possibly bully students can they? Yes, they can.

Jane is the same woman who talks down to students for simply whispering in a quiet setting, who is not held in a high regard by her colleagues, who truly disrespects at least one person she encounters whenever I overhear her speaking, and that is sad.

I wanted to get a teacher’s perspective, and Emily Gardner, world history teacher, pointed out the difficulty of being a teacher. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but she also recognized that “They [some teachers] don’t know unfortunately where to draw the line sometimes… I think as an adult you have to know when you’re crossing that line …”

Nicolette Wendell and Hanna Huie, sophomores, recalled a teacher who often calls his students stupid. Huie said, “They should be uplifting us…” and Wendell added, “It’s disrespectful. You should respect your students and expect the same thing [in return].”

I hope Jane and the teachers Ellis, Mills, Huie and Wendell spoke about see this, not to make them feel bad, but rather to make them realize a change needs to be made. I recognize that sometimes kids can be relentless hooligans, but when you take into account the character of the student and his or her track record, maybe it’s time to assess the teacher’s track record; is he or she respectful? Is he respected? If the answer is no to one or both of those questions, changes need to be made.

Teacher bullying is a real thing. It makes students who are already going through a lot—school, home, puberty—feel like they are all alone. It makes them feel less than what they are. It makes a completely worthy individual feel not so worthy. So here’s a solution: treat others how you want to be treated. Recognize that teacher bullying is a real thing and do something active about it. It could save someone from feeling worthless and alone.

Together, let’s not just stop student bullying; let’s stop ALL bullying.