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When the teachers become the bullies

Sam Dutton
Opinion Editor

Too often, we hear about bullying within our schools. Kids will find almost any reason to pick on other kids, whether it’s the style of their shoes, a haircut, or simply because they can. Intense bullying can lead to unfortunate situations like suicide and school shootings. In grade school we were taught that bullying is bad, and that targets can be of any gender or ethnicity.
But what about when the teacher is the bully? Teachers are thought to be squeaky clean individuals whose minds are teeming with knowledge. I once thought bullying existed only in grade school but I soon learned it also exists, quite possibly in its worst forms, in college. Most would probably consider me a bit of a nerd, and I am okay with that title: after all, intelligence is not something to be ashamed of. In all my classes I choose a seat in the front row. Being seated right in front of the professor helps me stay on task. I’m less likely to look at my phone and by the end of the semester the teacher always knows exactly who I am; I like to think a relationship is established.
In this one particular college class, I struggled but always gave my best effort. I wanted to achieve success and I was being challenged, so I realized it was in my best interest to get a tutor and study intensely outside of class. I actively participated in this class and was feeling pretty confident that I was set to achieve success. On one particular day the professor sent me to the board to draw the concepts as he taught them. I was never much good with numbers or graphs and struggled to understand the concepts graphically on the board. I did, however, give my best effort and I found myself getting screamed at by the professor time and time again for being wrong.
Now I am a student with pretty thick skin–it takes a lot for something to upset me. But I found myself choking back tears as I stood at the chalkboard and was being humiliated by my professor. I knew that if I did cry, I would always be known to my peers as the “girl the teacher made cry,” and I am stronger then that. At one point I was so upset and nervous I kept dropping the piece of chalk I held in my hand. The professor then proceeded to scurry around and pick up the pieces of chalk. As I wrote on the board which was all WRONG WRONG WRONG, I inched closer to the door thinking that if the tears I was holding back burst through the floodgates I could make a quick escape out of the classroom.
Twenty five minutes later, after being screamed at, humiliated, with a broken spirit, I was finally allowed to take my seat. The remainder of the class was spent trying to collect myself and blink my tears away. I learned nothing in that class that day; amidst the panic and humiliation I’d felt, I couldn’t even tell you what I wrote on the chalkboard during that class or why. Some might argue that this was just a case of “tough love” on the professor’s part, but I don’t buy it. I have never been more discouraged in the education environment and to be honest I am debating on whether or not to drop the class or hide in the back for the remainder of the semester and ask no questions so that I don’t draw attention to myself. It is important for professors to understand that humiliation and fear tactics are not beneficial in educating a student. What are students being taught? That it’s not okay to make mistakes and that if you do your confidence will be crushed time and time again by a bigger, better man.
During my careful research on bullying, I have read countless incidents in which it was not a peer but the teacher who was the bully. According to educationnews.com, teacher bullying is far worse then schoolyard bullying because the teachers are persons of high authority and considered to be role models who possess overwhelming power. I am reminded of an old favorite movie of mine. In “Matilda,” as I am sure you remember if you’ve seen the movie, the antagonist is Ms. Trunchbull, the mean bullish principal who picks on her pupils. The students were afraid to come to school, not to mention afraid to enjoy learning. We want to achieve the goal of eliminating bullying in our schools, and so we educate the students, but teachers, too, need to become aware of the harmful affects they can have on their students. Public humiliation should be a thing of the past: while it was used back in the early ages to punish criminals and to unveil the identities of witches, it does not belong in the classroom.