"I Am Not Scared" Project
A case of violence on behalf of a teacher
One of the teachers in 6th grade of a subject, which is among the compulsory subjects for external evaluation during 7th grade, started using various methods for disciplining his students in class. During the periods of this subject it is always very noisy and even if some of the students are interested and trying to follow the lesson of the teacher, this turns out to be virtually impossible. In his attempts to bring order to the class the teacher keeps raising his voice more and more with each consecutive lesson. He refuses to answer questions or to give clarifications and even allows himself to pull the ears or hair of the some of the students and to insult them. There is one child in this class that has impaired vision and shares that in the created turmoil and shouting in these lessons he experiences panic fear just from hearing the teacher’s voice. During the conducted conversations with the teacher he refuses to accept that his rude tone, the pulling of ears and shouting insults at students lie at the bottom of the growing problem. According to him discipline and silence at class can be achieved with all kinds of measures.
The disciplinary measures are mainly focused on students who provoke the teacher with their negative behavior. Seeing his inability to maintain order in class, some of the students begin to use even greater provocations and to act boldly and expressing even greater disrespect to the teacher.
During examinations, the teacher encourages with an increase of the mark with one or two points if the examined student has been perfectly quiet during his classes and have sat and listened to his lesson.
The measures related to this specific case can be divided into two:
o Informal measures: the informal measures include discussions with the teacher undertaken by his colleagues, who were trying to influence his behavior, so that this bad practice is stopped and no further damages are inflicted upon the children, as well as for the case not to become known outside school. Otherwise the teacher could be publicly reprimanded.
o Formal measures: formal measures start with an official complaint from the parents of the harassed children to the school headmaster. The parents submit written complaints to the school management with a request this particular teacher to be punished, to be eliminated from this particular subject and eventually from the school itself. After receiving these complaints the headmaster conducts a discussion with the teacher, who refuses to change his attitude. The headmaster organizes a meeting between the teacher, the parents and the school pedagogic advisor. After this meeting proves to lead to no positive result, the parents turn towards the regional educational inspectorate with a request for an investigation of this particular case to be implemented and the teacher in question to be sanctioned. After the regional educational inspectorate becomes involved the teacher is eliminated from his school job for the duration of the investigation. After the investigation and the finding of the facts, namely that the teacher uses very rude language and allows himself to hit students, to pull their ears and to insult them, the regional educational inspectorate issues a statement that this teacher should be dismissed on disciplinary grounds.
The children deserve to grow in a calm and supportive environment, where they feel protected. The school is one of the places where they spend a large part of their time and the inability to feel well and protected there leaves serious and long-lasting marks on their psychological development. In this particular case, the consequences do not concern only the specific victims, but also the children who witness the events. The children lose their faith in the teachers. They cease to consider them worthy of respect and begin to feel fear for the consequences from each step or action they take.
According to the parents of the victimized children become more introverted and are ashamed to share what is happening to them. This could be related to discomfort and shame, as well to unwillingness to admit that they are unable to cope on their own. They probably also fear the revenge of the torturer and the bully is usually very creative when it comes to revenge. The bully instills terror from the consequences from telling someone, especially when the bully is a person with authority and power. Children also have trouble with the unwritten code that men who “tell” are “traitors” and nobody wants to communicate with them, thus if a victim “tells” it gets into an even greater isolation. One of the gravest influences in this particular case is the personal experience of the children, which shows them that sharing with the grown ups rarely leads to an improvement of the situation. Even the conversations with the school pedagogic advisor does not help the teacher to understand that his attitude towards the children should change and that such harassment can lead to substantial damages not only to those who are attacked directly, but also to the children who witness and learn that sitting passively leads to receiving advantages.
Gladly, this case affected the teachers in a positive way, because they understood that children and parents would not stand passively in cases such as this one and the consequences for inappropriate behavior on their side could be quite serious.
This case could be regarded in two different directions: on the one hand, the teacher can be presented as a victim of bullying on behalf of the students, who disrespect his authority and adopt a behavior, which aims to discredit him before the other students and to show themselves as stronger and brighter. With their negative attitude and insults towards the teacher, these children provoke him towards improper behavior and use of physical harassment towards them (including for the purpose of presenting him as a torturer). The main reason for this behavior on behalf of the students is that the teacher fails in his attempts to implement a quality educational process, with clear rules, which should be observed and abided by the students. The students clearly demonstrate their “success” among fellow students from other classes, which provokes their peers to try to apply the same treatment towards the teacher. He on the other hand does not share his problem with the students and does not seek help from his colleagues or form the school headmaster. He does not consider that he needs help and focuses on the children, who sit quietly during his lessons, trying to teach them despite the created unendurable environment.
On the other hand, as victims could be considered also the students toward whom the teacher is applying his disciplinary measures – pulling of ears, insults, slapping. Seeing that he is unable to bring order to this class by speaking with the children and explaining to them how they should behave, he decides to undertake physical actions and psychological harassment towards the guilty ones. Thus he starts to affect their personal dignity by calling them names, mocking them for being fat, stupid, and dumb. The children share their problem with their parents and seek their help for coping with the situation, since it is impossible for them to achieve this on their own.
If we consider the students as bullies, their motivation can be sought in the fact that they see an opportunity to present them as grown up and smart, as people who can influence the psychological stability of an elder. They consider him stupid and incompetent and build their behavior around the position that they are more capable and able to manage with their education on their own, without the necessity of a teacher or mentor on this subject. The students do not feel any remorse and are even bragging around with their achievements before fellow students from other classes, encouraging them to “trying it” themselves.
If we consider the teacher as the bully, his motivation could be sought in the fact that the measures he applies towards the students are quite alright and would do no harm considering the necessity for order to be established. He is definitely convinced that the parents have failed in bringing up their children and considers that his role as their teacher allows him to apply all educational measures he finds appropriate. Instead of searching for a way to influence or eliminate the misbehaving students, or to seek support for prevention of such behavior, he conducts “punishing” examinations towards the entire class, with the purpose of proving that such behavior cannot help the students to learn anything from his subject. For the arisen conflict between teacher and students cannot be found a comprehensive solution for prevention of further reactions from both sides. There is a clear refusal for studying this subject even on behalf of diligent students.
The students who are not directly affected by the disciplinary measures of the teacher understand the conflict situation very well, but are not trying to influence the teacher in any way. They adopt the behavior pattern of silent witnesses, because they understand that this behavior can save them the rude tone and ears pulling on the one hand and can guarantee higher marks for them on the other hand, even if they have not studied hard. The remaining students hope not to be involved in the conflict because this could create inconveniences for them both with this teacher, but also with others, who could be influenced by him. They also expect problems with the headmaster and the pedagogic advisor of the school. Furthermore, to a certain extent they feel advantaged by the fact that they can receive marks on grounds different from studying their lessons and this makes it really easy for them and they exert much smaller efforts when it comes to subject and still get their high marks. The choice of the other students not to become involved in the conflict is also provoked by the possibility that they should be requested to evaluate the behavior of their friends in class, which may cost them their friendship and they might be labeled as traitors if they share something, which would be unfavorable to their classmates.
The teachers understand that their colleague is using disciplinary measures that go beyond the normal behavior and have a negative influence on the children, and in the case of the student with impaired vision – to panic fear from the teacher and the time he has to spend in his lesson. The teachers find out about the case from colleagues, with whom some of the children have shared, as well as from the headmaster, who is receiving many complaints from parents against this teacher. His colleagues are trying to solve the problem through informal conversations and to help him understand that his behavior is not acceptable. Unfortunately, this teacher refuses to accept the fact that he also bears some kind of guilt for the ruined discipline and that the usage of rude voice, insults and physical harassment actually deepen the conflict rather than lead to its resolution. A conversation with the school psychologist is them undertaken. The other teachers consider that this action should lead to a resolution of the situation in a favorable way both for the teacher and the students. This however does not happen and they leave the problem to the headmaster and the regional educational inspectorate. According to them, the latter should conduct the necessary investigation and decide the fate of their colleague.
The school headmaster finds out about the problem from the several complaints from parents against this particular teacher. As a first measure the headmaster undertakes a discussion with the teacher in order to try to comprehend his point of view for the arisen situation. The teacher shares that the children are provoking him on purpose, that they lack any discipline and that they deserve harsher measures to be applied towards them. As such measures he considers the harsh tone and the physical disciplining – pulling ears and slapping. The headmasters decides to meet the sides in this conflict and to make them discuss the problem and try to find a solution, because he does not want to lose the teacher as a professional, but is also not willing to take sides in this conflict. During the conducted conversations it becomes clear that the teacher refuses to accept the fact that the parents consider his behavior as unacceptable and accuses the children in missing any discipline and the parents for failing as such. The headmaster asks colleagues of this teacher to talk to him and to try to influence him. A discussion is then undertaken with the school psychologist, the parents and the children. Unfortunately this conversation fails to achieve a resolution of the conflict and the parents decide to turn to higher institution and to complain to the regional educational inspectorate. The headmaster decides that it is better for him if he transfers the responsibility for conflict resolution to the regional educational inspectorate and awaits the decision of an assigned expert committee.
The parents are informed that the teacher allows himself to insult their children, to pull their ears and so on, form the children themselves. The parents systematically submit complaints to the headmaster of the school as well as to the regional educational inspectorate, in which they require the assigning of an external examination committee for their children under this subject. Their arguments are that this particular teacher is unable to teach the subject in a way, which can be learned effectively and comprehensively by most of the children in the class.
Together with the teacher and the school psychologist, the parents try to find a solution to the conflict, but the teacher refuses to accept that his rude voice is against the normal teaching practice and refuses to change his attitude.
Some of the parents, seeing that there is no change in the attitude of the teacher towards the children, and their marks under this subject and low, express their wish to transfer their children to different groups, which are not taught by the same person or even to a different school.
Through a discussion with all sides, the school psychologist tries to settle things down and to help the teacher, the parents and the students to find a way out of this situation. He is trying to introduce rules, which should be obeyed by the students as a way of dealing with the problems and the discipline in this class. This ready-made rules do not lead to the required result however and fail to create the desired engagement on behalf of the students. On the other hand the teacher definitely refuses to change his attitude due to the lack of change in the students’ behavior. Within the created conflict between teacher and class no comprehensive solution for prevention of further reactions on behalf of both sides can be discovered.
1. Following receiving the complaint from the parents, the headmaster should collect the necessary proofs through:
1.1. Conducting a survey among the students in the classes, which are being taught by the accused teacher, for: ascertaining the teacher’s behavior; when and how he is being abusive towards the students; the behavior of the students during his lessons; when and what they are doing; their proposals for overcoming this problem; other suggestions.
1.2. Issuing an order for requesting additional written explanations from the teacher on the problems described in the complaints.
1.3. The headmaster should implement a sudden check for the manner in which the lessons are being conducted in the classes taught by the teacher, with follow-up discussions of the methodology, the demonstrated knowledge and discipline.
1.4. In case of doubt for unrealistic grades, an external check of the students’ knowledge should be initiated by the regional educational inspectorate in one or several classes.
1.5. After comparing the results from the external examination with the teacher’s examinations, the regional educational inspectorate should announce a statement.
2. From the first signal for bullying on behalf of the teacher onwards, the form tutor informs the pedagogic advisor about the problem and they discuss together the action plan, which includes: consulting the students about the problem, the reasons, which trigger this behavior and proposals from their side on how the problem could be overcome; conducting staff training by an external tutor (including for the teacher in question) for acquiring positive techniques with dealing with provocative behavior.
The students themselves are given the opportunity to propose class-work rules, which can be positively formulated, adopted with a consensus, in case of failure of execution certain consequences should be envisaged. A student from the group provoking the teacher should be appointed to monitor the observance of these rules.
It is necessary that the parents are presented with these rules and the consequences from failure for these to be observed.
3. Conducting a parents’ meeting, at which the results from the survey to be presented, particularly in the section depicting the provocative behavior of the students and hearing out of the teacher.
4. In case of refusal of the teacher to correct his attitude towards the students and registered presence of unrealistic evaluation of the skills of the students on behalf of this teacher /availability of insufficient proofs/ the headmaster issues an order for disciplinary punishment of the teacher according to article 188 and article 328 from the labor code “warning for disciplinary dismissal”.
5. Conducting monitoring of the work of the teacher for a certain period of time and in case of lack of change, dismissal on the basis of inability to cope with the job requirements and systematic violation of the ethical code for work with children.
This measure is reached because of the teacher’s unwillingness to rethink and change his attitude, which appears to be a catalyst for the provocative behavior of the students. At the same time this practice of his derogates the reputation of the both the teachers’ profession and the school, which operates in a competitive environment. The loss of students due to poor pedagogic practices appears to be an apparent loss of prestige and lowers the school rating in the town, in which it is situated, financing is also lost.
It is possible that the teacher decides to sue the school for unfair dismissal, due to which this case is necessary to be broadly documented.
As a result of this systematic harassment from the teacher towards the students, he could be fired because of misconduct, breaking the ethical code for work with children.
It is quite interesting why this teacher is persistent in his refusal to change his position even after the conducted discussions with the school management, with the pedagogic advisor and his colleagues. Obviously this teacher considers that he is quite right in using rough language towards the children, which fail to obey the discipline in class, as well as apply some physical measures. This could be related both to a long term practice, which he has been applying in his teaching methods without punishment and which has remain unknown to the current school management, аs well as to a model behavior, which this teacher is applying towards his own children and which model he considers quite applicable to any child form those he teaches. Even when he is threatened by measures, which the school management and the regional educational inspectorate are planning to undertake against him, he still refuses to change his teaching and disciplinary methods. This speaks of his firm belief in his righteousness.
The attempts for introduction of discipline rules imposed by the psychologist fail to function probably because the children consider them external and artificial and seeing that the teacher refuses to back down, they consider that it is not necessary for them to change their attitude as well.
Probably if an anonymous survey had been carried out among all students of this teacher, for the purpose of sharing their opinion for him as a person and for his teaching methods, as well as for sharing ideas and proposals for solving the problems, the situation could have been mitigated and the issues could have been addressed in a more open way. Both sides could have discussed the need to change their attitudes. An initiative from the students to assigning responsibilities for monitoring the discipline in class among themselves and on a rotation basis for example could have also had favorable effects.
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I Am Not Scared Project
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