There have been some stories in the news this week that — as a parent — have simply made me shudder.
I won't even get into the Jerry Sandusky case except to say that stories like that one make me realize that I am not nearly the pacifist I claim to be.
No, for now I am talking about other adults who have abused their position of authority over our kids. From the special needs student who was called lazy and fat by her teachers to the basketball player whose coach called him a "future welfare recipient," to the boy whose teacher teased him in front of the whole class, it has become obvious that teacher bullying is not as uncommon as one might think. Or hope.
Bullying has become a hot-button topic over the past few years as major news outlets have covered tragic stories of children tormented by bullying peers. But what if the bully who is harassing your child is his teacher?
If a teacher lays a hand on a kid, most parents won't hesitate to act. But what if the abuse is verbal? What if the teacher calls the child names, berates his school work, or teases him in front of the class? Kids are more likely to feel powerless when the bullying comes from an adult than from another kid. And parents are less likely to want to cause a stir when it's unclear exactly what was said.
But as recent headlines have shown, teachers and coaches can be bullies, too. And their words and actions can cause just as much distress to your child as those from kid bullies. So don't ignore the problem. Talk to your kids about school. If you think your child may be facing a teacher who's a bully, set up a private meeting (without your child) in which you can say something non-confrontational to the teacher like, "My daughter seems really stressed out about being in your class. Do you have any idea what might be going on?" Listen to what the teacher has to say, but if you're not satisfied with the response, don't be afraid to go up the ladder and ask the principal to intervene. Most importantly, reassure your child that you hear what he or she is saying and you are working on a solution.