The following blog was written by CYL Team Leader Aimee Eddy. This blog is not edited and comes directly from Aimee. To contact the author, please email Aimee Eddy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teachers are the people students look up to and depend on for protection, encouragement, guidance and so on. A good teacher can lead a student into a promising future and make a special mark on their soul. A bad one can tear a child down, can cause them to fail and can rip his or her soul apart. We sometimes think of teachers as saints for having to deal with unruly students and for stepping in sometimes when a parent can’t, but there are teachers who fail our children. There are those that who form improper judgements, who treat students harshly and single out a child for being different. It’s hard to believe, but teachers can be bullies too.
I faced bullying from teachers starting in first grade. At that time I found it hard to learn like my classmates. When I couldn’t do what I was asked to do, my teacher labeled me, in front of my class, a retard. That label stuck to me throughout school. At the end of first grade I learned I had a learning disability, but this didn’t make things any easier for me.
No one understood what a learning disability meant. They assumed it meant I wasn’t intelligent enough to do school work on my own. Some of my teachers refused to help me when I needed it, others assigned students to give me answers on tests, and I was assured throughout elementary I couldn’t fail. A learning disability just meant I learned differently than others, and with extra help I could pass my classes just like everyone else.
In second grade I worked hard on an assignment in class. When I took it up to my teacher she wrote a big F at the top of it.
My teacher looked up at me. “There is no way you could have got an A on your own. You had to of cheated. Cheaters get a F.”
I was crushed. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. I wanted to explain to her that I did it all on my own, but the words were caught in my throat. That same teacher put tape on my mouth later that year when I asked a friend for help after my teacher ignored my raised hand. She also put a sign on me that said, “DO not talk to me. I talked in class without permission.” I was humiliated. The only time the tape came off is when I ate lunch and at the end of the day.
Since my teachers had no faith in me and did nothing to protect me from my classmates’ teasing, I gave up trying. I sat through my classes, letting a so called friend give me answers on tests. I didn’t study for tests and I didn’t work hard on classwork. My fourth grade teacher even told my mom she felt sorry for her to have a daughter who would never be able to do anything on her own. It was assumed I’d grow up and collect welfare.
When I reached high school, I was suddenly on my own. There was no one to give me answers on tests. I had to learn to study, I had to learn to take notes, and I had to figure out how to work around my disability to pass. I gave up fun time at home to study for endless hours, and when I couldn’t keep up with note taking in class, I learned to make my own notes from my text book. Even though I started getting good grades I found teachers who doubted my ability to succeed.
During art class I went to a room called special Education to have my tests read to me. When I returned to class to have my test graded my teacher asked me, “Did you cheat? You passed.”
From that time on my special Ed teacher had to deliver my tests and they were graded at a later time. I studied hard for that test. I put my notes on index cards. I read them over and over until my parents told me it was bedtime. I passed on my own, but I couldn’t defend myself. I became afraid of teachers.
There were some good teachers that helped me out, but I still held them at a distance. My fear of teachers followed me into my adult years. I became scared of authority figures, like my boss at work and other managers. When I needed to ask my boss for a day off or ask a manager for help, I found myself too afraid to say anything. Instead I would leave a note on my boss’s desk or just deal with my problem on my own. When I needed to stand up to a manager I coward and did nothing.
I am getting better at talking to managers and I see some of the very teachers who put me down come into my work place. I like to brag about my successes and how much I have accomplished. I didn’t end up on welfare. I graduated from college with an associate degree, I am published in small publications, I work as assistant to the director to the National Youth Internet Safety and Cyberbullying Taskforce and I have worked the same job for 24 years.
What do you do when you are being bullied by your teacher? The mistake I made was keeping it to myself. This is not good. If you are being bullied by a teacher tell someone; a parent, a guardian, the principal, another teacher, a school counselor or any adult you trust. Teachers need to be held accountable for their actions. They should never put a student down or hurt them in any way. We not only need to speak up against bullying by students, but also bullying by teachers.
We can rise above bullying and we can tell the world it is wrong. Let’s stand together against all bullying.
NOTE FROM THE CYL WORLDWIDE MOVEMENT DIRECTOR: "Thank you for sharing this blog Aimee. I had so many teachers who inspired me to become who I am today. 99% of my teachers were amazing to me, but there were a few who felt like bullies. Some teachers do not understand mental health and that isn't good for the students' health."