I love teaching.
I mean, of course, I have hard headed students and their parents aren’t much better. You need look no further than my two previous Takes 5 Hilarious Yet Inappropriate Things Parents Have Said To Me, A Teacher and 5 More Hilariously Inappropriate Things Parents Have Said To Me, A Teacher to know what I’m talking about.
I also love my co-workers. We may work in a public school building located in the hood, but I can tell the staff genuinely cares about the students and advocate for their rights to a quality education despite asinine policies that instituted by our superintendent and other administrators.
We have the students best interest at heart. They may not think that when we don’t always give them what they want, but I know the teachers in that building, based on conversation and attitudes, that our students come first in our eyes as professional educators.
However, there is one aspect of teaching that completely sucks. No matter what you say or think, this issue is in every building across the world. It doesn’t matter if the school is public, private, all male, all female, boarding, or charter. It’s everywhere. It’s a problem. It’s a disease. And it needs to be addressed so all students can have a quality education.
It’s not class size nor is it testing, although both of those issues need to be fixed. So what exactly is it?
Are you surprised? I know some of you may be. There’s a misconception about bullying in schools and the power a teacher has to stop them.
I don’t usually do lists in Takes with a serious tone, but I feel it is important to make sure everyone reads and understands the teacher perspective when we see any of this happen not only in our classrooms, but anywhere in the building. Hallways, classrooms, closets, bathrooms…Students manage to get anywhere and everywhere in the building to hide and fight. And there seems to be nothing done about it.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying actually is another word for harassment under many state laws, including the state I work in. And according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, harassment is defined as, "to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct." It's basically when one or more people constantly taunt, mock, and attacked another person or group of people.
How Do Teachers Recognize Bullying In School?
I get asked this a lot. It’s actually really easy to spot. Usually, one or more students targets one or more other students and makes fun of them. From their hair to their skin color to their shoes, car, clothes, and place of dwelling, kids always find something to say or do to one another just because they can.
Bullying usually isn’t fighting, but it can result in it. Very rarely has it happened in my room or anywhere in our building. The fights that happen are usually between students who disagree on something or feel slighted in one way by someone else. Most bullying, though, doesn’t involve physical touching. It tends to be more mental.
If You Know What It Is And How To Recognize It, Then Why Don’t You Stop It?
Because I can’t.
I wish I could give you a better answer for you, but I don't. Harassment is very hard to prove, especially since cameras in most schools are only in the hallways, not the classrooms, and the sound is typically not recorded. That means that the things students say to one another, which is the primary evidence of bullying, is hard to prove because there’s no evidence. And I, as a teacher, cannot legally film any students without prior permission from their parents or legal guardian since they are minors. That means if I have a student in a video that I filmed personally, I could not only get fired, but I could also lose my teaching license.
The second, and most aggravating reason, is the fact that I don’t make the rules in the state, district, or school building. Our policy and, after asking friends that teach in different buildings, subjects, grade levels, and states, it’s no different, is to write up the bully and give a classroom consequence.
What’s the consequence? A detention. No, I’m not kidding.
Bullying is dealt with an administrative level, not a staff or clerical one. I have to explain this a lot, and I don’t know why because no teacher has the power to do more than a write-up and a detention. It’s up to the administrators to take any further action. After a write-up and detention, I have no more power.
But Aren’t Write-ups Recommendations?
No. Write-ups are just reports of what actually happened and what I did as a teacher.
Why Don’t The Administrators Do More?
Honestly? I can’t speak for anyone else’s school district since I don’t work there. But I do know that most of the reason nothing happens to bullies is because our state watches suspension and expulsion rates. The rates impact any administrators state evaluation, just like classroom management and control impacts a teacher’s evaluation. It’s more important to our state the students are in the building learning, and if they are constantly being suspended, they could repeat their respective grade.
The process goes like this: write-up, classroom detention, administrative action including, but not limited to another write-up, behavioral contract, Saturday school, suspension, school transfer, and expulsion.
In my four years of teaching, I’ve seen the same students being bullied by the same person, and I had only one case where a student was suspended. The suspension was two days. The other instances never progressed past the behavioral contract, even when they were violated. And every student that bullied while I was there continues to do it. It’s not always the same person they bully, but their behaviors do not change and they make some students feel unsafe coming to school.
Why Don’t The Parents Do Anything?
Are you kidding me with this? Read my previous Takes about the dumb things they say to me just because their student is rude towards me, and I’m the adult. You really think they care about what happens to another student?
Some might, but other than claiming to ‘talk’ to their child about their bullying, they do nothing more. Actually, I had a parent tell me that the bullied kid shouldn’t be a p**** about it. And yes, that’s in a previous Take.
The only time a parent cares is when their child is the victim in most cases. Otherwise, they tend to stay silent.
Remember when I told you about the student who was suspended for two days? I actually called her mother to say she couldn’t get make-up work until she returns to school. Her mom didn’t care about her schoolwork. She actually cussed me out for reporting her for bullying and saying that had she known her daughter was being that way towards other students, she would have handled it. She then called me an idiot and hung up the phone.
Yeah. That escalated quickly.
Maybe The Bully Has Their Own Problems
Pardon my language, but absolutely I hate when people say that dumb shit to me. This is literally the one time where I don’t care what happened to the bully. There is no excuse for making someone else miserable just because you are. That’s how student suicides and school shootings happen by sympathizing with the bully instead of the victim. If something is wrong, then the student should talk to a teacher or principal, not make someone else's life a misery.
Look, I know teaching for four years doesn’t make me an expert, but it does annoy me that In that time, I haven’t seen much done about bullying. Part of it is state law that gets in the way of actually being able to do anything, but it’s also the fear administrators have when they suspend or expel too many students. Under law, it’s very hard to prove bullying. And I, being a teacher, do not have the power to change how my bosses and supervisors operate.