Saturday, February 25, 2012
Do Teachers Sometimes Promote Bullying Inadvertently?
When I was in seventh grade, my teacher was new and inexperienced. And she was given a terrible class. It was actually a split grade class, having both grade 7s and 8s in the class. The 7s were well-behaved for the most part and the 8s were the trouble kids. Man, do I mean they were trouble. These kids were the rejects from years of low grades and low self-esteem - in a system where those kind of excuses weren't even considered. And they were a group, a cohesive group of rejects who had finally come into their own in eighth grade. I know those labels are problematic, but looking back that is what I remember. I am sure the labels contributed to the behaviours in the classroom.
To be blunt, the teacher couldn't control the class and so they (the bad kids) devolved into more and more outrageous antics. And the teacher would retaliate by timing the misbehaviour and adding it up over the course of the day. The entire class had to stay after school for the tallied time. Some days it was 8 minutes and other days it was 3 minutes. The stickler was that for that period of time after school we had to sit in absolute silence. All of us. Even the kids who did nothing to contribute to the punishment.
I knew, even in seventh grade, that the teacher wanted us (the rest of the class) to put a stop to the misbehaviour of the few. But we didn't. We didn't because we couldn't. The motley crew of kids in that grade 8 class were scarey. They managed to bully a teacher- how could an assembly of good kids fight them?
Eventually, the year ended and those eighth graders went on to high school and wherever else. (I'm imagining Juvie and then later, real jail...but maybe I am wrong).
My point is that the teacher by imposing punishment on the entire class everyday was really setting up a situation where the rest of the class was supposed to act as a unit for her. We were suppose to stand up to those awful kids and bully them into behaving. In a sense, she was bullying us. And she was certainly hoping that we would bully those bad kids - whom she was afraid of, in some sense of the word.
I've always wondered how many other children find themselves in similar situations?