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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    DO teachers bully children?

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  • 4

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    Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    Unfortunately some teachers do bully children.  If we define bullying as “repeated oppression of a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group”, then the question becomes, “Do some teachers oppress children?”  Another way of putting it is, “Are there teachers who act cruelly towards children?”  Teaching is a profession where one person needs to be in control of 20 to 30 other people, so there's a power imbalance (and there needs to be!).  It's when that power is repeatedly abused that it can be considered bullying.  

    I certainly remember teachers who acted in an unfair manner to specific children.  Sometimes they seemed to pick on a child who was already unpopular; maybe they thought they would impress the other kids. Other teachers seemed to get a little bit too much satisfaction by demonstrating their power over children.  They sometimes thought what they were doing was funny, but the victim never did.  

    Schools have, by and large, turned a corner with bullying, and take it very seriously. Generally that's bullying by other children, but most schools should have policies in place to make sure that teachers are also acting in a reasonable manner towards students.  If you are being bullied, or a child you care for is being bullied, sometimes a calm discussion between the teacher and parent will be enough - not all bullies realise the consequences of their behaviour, and there is often a fine line.  If that doesn't work, it might be time to have a chat to the school principal.  

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    Natalee is a qualified and registered mental health counsellor, life coach,child development and parenting specialist and trainer and assessor.Natalee is the CEO of Holistic Wellness … View Profile

    As a mother and counsellor I can say definately yes. Unfortunately some teachers dont see the damage or influence they make on children. There are those who stay in the education role long after their passion for educating children has gone. Children should be reminded that teachers are human too and can make mistakes and poor choices to. If they are treated unfairly or bullied  it can help to remember it is a reflection of the teacher's poor skills and lack of behaviour control not the person being bullied who is at fault.
    You can also be true to yourself and ask “did I do something inappropriate” and make changes to maybe limit that behaviour, but this still does not call for the teacher to bully.
    Teacher's that bully consistently should be reported in writing to the education department.

  • 5

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    Paul Bertoia

    Educational and Developmental Psychologist, Psychologist

    Paul is an Educational and Developmental Psychologist who has worked with infants, children, adolescents and adults for twenty years, in a range of settings.He has … View Profile

    Of course, teachers do sometimes bully children.  

    However, in twenty years of working with children, and many of those years spent working alongside children with learning, behavioural and mental health problems in schools, I have been really heartened to see how rarely this actually occurs.  Overwhelmingly, teachers try to help children, and the vast majority act professionally in this regard.

    If bullying by a teacher is suspected, I note the useful recommendations from other professionals above.  Before you see the School Principal you could also sound out other parents of children in the class (if you know and trust them) - sometimes this can help to give another perspective on what might actually be happening in the class.

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