Bullying campaigns must address teachers and coaches, not just fellow students

While campaigns against bullying among adolescents are thoroughly executed in schools, these campaigns never address a barely recognized but prevalent form of bullying: bullying from teachers and coaches.

Although traditionally coaches and teachers are strict and push their athletes and students, some take it too far, and when they do, end up inflicting lasting emotional trauma on adolescents.

I personally experienced this phenomenon during eighth grade, when one of my teachers incessantly complained about my uncontrollable absences and lashed out at me for offering opinions.

There’s a fine line between spurring students to perform their best and bullying them. When criticisms extend beyond work habits, and teachers and coaches use fear tactics to motivate their pupils, that is bullying.

Teachers are the driving force behind every generation of kids—they are the people who shape the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. Some kids spend more time with their teachers than they do with their own parents.

So, to lead by example and shape future innovators to their full potential, teachers should be respectful, creative, and caring when it comes to interactions with students, right? Ideally, but unfortunately our educational system is plagued with some teachers who don’t live up to that expectation.

High school students are in the most hormonal, susceptible stages of their lives. They tend to latch on to every critical comment that’s given to them. In school, bullying is when someone abuses their power and negatively affects a victim. When teachers, who have the most authority and power in a classroom, are condescending and critical to an extreme towards students, it affects students the same way peers’ negative comments do.

In 2006, Stuart Twemlow, MD gave an anonymous survey to 116 teachers at seven elementary schools, and found that 45% of teachers admitted to having bullied a student in the past. In the study, teacher bullying was defined as “using power to punish, manipulate, or disparage a student beyond what would be a reasonable disciplinary procedure.”

The root of this problem is a lack of information. By nature, teachers and coaches want what’s best for the student. If they’re not aware of the detrimental effects of their actions and how much damage they really can inflict, they’re going to continue practice teaching methods that harm their students.

Change is hard, but it’s necessary.  We cannot continue to silently endure rude comments, and teachers cannot continue to think that these comments are okay.