When Teachers Become Bullies…

My mother mentioned to me that my little brother had been down in the dumps the last few weeks. Hoping to work my ‘older sister magic’, I went to talk to him. What I expected to be a normal chat shifted when I got an unexpected piece of information. It seems that my brother’s classmates have been spreading rumors that his last few gold medals at the annual school science fair are undeserving because he receives assistance from my mother and me.

I was caught off guard by this for a number of reasons: the kids in that class are quite close-knit and friendly (generally not the spreading rumors type), every medal-placing student openly gets assistance from their family, and my family only helps my brother with choosing an experiment and editing/gluing his information on his science fair board.

I was very upset to hear these comments – science fairs are a bit like the Olympics for my brother. He excels in science – he thrives in science – it is one of the few areas of learning that I really see him become passionate and involved. It is, to me at least, the most amazing thing, to see someone be really engaged in learning. I suspect it is the best part about being a teacher.

You can imagine my further surprise when my brother said that the teacher endorsed the students’ negative comments, and in addition, has been making comments to my brother (paraphrasing here) that it is unlikely he would achieve a gold medal without assistance. My brother is convinced he will no longer get the medal this year – not because he is undeserving or that he doesn’t work hard, but that the teacher will try to prevent it. My brother now wants to convince his teacher by saying things like “this year, I will do everything on my own” etc.

My surprise turned into rage. Not only has the teacher managed to convince my brother that he will not win gold this year, but that he has been undeserving of the gold from previous years – that he did not work hard enough to deserve that recognition. My brother spends two weeks straight of his march break working on his science fair – he spends days working on his experiments, recording results, typing up his findings and practicing his presentation. Now, he thinks he needs to do it like everyone else: attend a school-run “March Break Camp” in which students finish the whole project in a five days – in order to convince the teacher he does the work himself. Now, my brother thinks, if he lowers the quality of his work, his teacher will believe it is his own.

What kind of message is that to send to your students?!! Rather than encourage other students to step up to the plate and aim for the raised bar, the teacher convinces the hard-working student that it is impossible the great work he presents is his own – as though this child is incapable of greatness. Who is a teacher to tell a student that one’s own work will be lower quality?!

I thought a teacher was supposed to support students – I thought they were supposed to mentor students! And further, a student should never be looked down upon for making the effort to get help from their parents, their family and their friends. It tells students that working hard and convincing those more knowledgeable than you that your are deserving of their knowledge  is cheating.

I am ashamed of this teacher. He does not have children yet, and does not understand how much work children put into things that they are passionate about. With a few words, the teacher became no better than the bullying classmates my brother endures. I am ashamed of a teacher who convinces a student to lower the bar rather than raise it, who makes a student believe that lower quality work is the only true representation of a student’s ability, that working hard to convince others to assist you is cheating rather than qualities of someone who is putting in true effort. I am ashamed of a teacher who stands before a student and not only crushes their hope for future goals, but undermines and diminishes all of their previous achievements.

When teachers become bullies … then you learn more from who they are and how they act, rather than what they teach.

Maybe teachers should take an oath and pledge to make students the best that they can be. Once in a while. you get a really bad teachers – like my Grade 11 math teacher who told my parents I would never learn math (despite me being a year ahead!). But once in a while, you get an amazing teacher – someone who inspires you, and amazes you, like my Criminal Law teacher I had last semester.

Teachers may not realize how much they influence students – how they can either inspire passion or extinguish it.

Anyone else have a horrible or special teacher?

Surviving Studenthood


4 responses

  1. This is nuts! I’d be enraged also, who is this “teacher” to make your child feel so poorly about himself and his desire to learn, is the teacher challenging him to try to make him work harder, is he saying he doesn’t work hard enough? I’m on your side with this and would be very very upset if this were my child!

    1. Hey Sasha!

      Thanks for your comment – I was upset to hear my brother repeat the things that the teacher said – my looked so discouraged, and so disappointed – like the science fair wasn’t really worth trying for anymore, because if he did well, the teacher wouldn’t believe it was his work, and if he did poorly, he wouldn’t win a gold medal anyways.

      I don’t know what to do – I wish I could explain to the teacher that motivating students comes from encouragement not degradation…

      I am glad to see another person shares my perspective … it makes me seem less crazy! 🙂

      Any advice?


      Surviving Studenthood

  2. I’d def go talk to the teacher to start with….:) Keep me posted

    1. Well, my mother talked to the teacher – it seems the teacher had a bi of a “oops” moment when my mom expressed disappointed at this teacher’s lack of support.

      I understand the fine line for parents not to push the teachers too hard, otherwise they take their anger out on your kids. How does one find a balance?!

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