Bullying is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, "abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc." With mental health and the LGTBQ+ communities becoming more accepted, there will be a backlash because society doesn't like change. Children in our parent's era (or even older) were not always open with how they were feeling since their feelings would often be rejected. Being gay was a really scary thing because there was fear of your parents throwing you out or being sent to a conversion class. The sad reality is that today this reaction hasn't really changed.
As a freshman in college, I find it so hard to believe that only a few months after graduating that so much has changed. For example, hard copy textbooks are a thing of the past and everything is online. What has changed the most is how approachable teachers are.
From the age of five, I've always made it known how I was feeling to anyone that would listen. In school, if I came to my teacher and told her about my problems, not only was she getting paid to help me deal with whatever I had going on, but she had the passion to make sure that I was in a safe and healthy environment. I would go stop into the principal's office, counselor's office, or even just to see the nurse to tell them exactly how I was doing at that moment in time. This dragged out to every school that I attended, mostly because I felt it was important to have a bond with my teachers and staff around campus. It also made going to school a bit more bearable. Today, teachers and staff aren't as approachable as I once saw it.
I tutor a high school student who's around fifteen-years-old. In the short amount of time that I've known him, I realized that teachers don't really do much to guide the student in the right direction. Whether it be needing help with concepts or going over the homework, students don't get much feedback anymore. Students also don't get the opportunity to open up with their teachers anymore. This can be either because the student doesn't trust the teacher or the teacher shows no desire to do anything but show up and do their job.
Parents will put the blame mostly on their children's peers for the bullying situations that occur in schools today, but more stories have been shared on what really goes on inside the classroom. Teachers have been making headlines for unprofessional conduct as well as hostile situations with students. It's not surprising that bullying is going on inside of the classrooms though. I had a high school teacher who showed me what it's like to truly be grown, rather than just aging into "adulthood." This teacher recently left his job at my old high school because he felt that his heart wasn't into teaching anymore. It was incredibly inspiring that he took it upon himself to leave rather than stay in the position for the paycheck. With the way the economy is going, a lot of people can't afford or are even too scared to make this move. As a result, we have individuals working in fields that they don't have a passion to be in. Within every field, there are going to be people who are there for the wrong reasons, and the scary part about that is the fact that the kids today are being educated by people who don't have the drive to be there and really just don't care.
What should you do if you suspect that your child is a victim of bullying?
I think it's important to address the situation head on right when you start noticing that your child isn't okay. It's okay to schedule a meeting with the teacher and have your child present to go over the concerns that you have. During my senior year of high school, I swore up and down that my English teacher had it out for me. None of my work was ever okay for her and it was nearly impossible to approach her for any kind of help. My mom came with me to talk to my teacher and settle any concerns, and it actually went better than expected. The teacher saw that I was trying and by reaching out to her, it made it evident that I was actually trying to learn the material and not just sweep my way through the course. My grades started improving after the meeting, and it was because she was giving me better feedback and there was more of an open communication system between us that wasn't there before. That English teacher gave me my love for writing, it just took a heart-to-heart moment to clear the air for class.
If the teacher conference doesn't work, there are also times where you can reach out to the principal and ask for advice on how to interact with this teacher or if there are any options for your child. For the most part, this should be the last resource. If you approach the principal of the school before the teacher themselves you open up another door that could lead to things getting worse. If things do get worse after meeting with the principal, sometimes looking into other schools may have to be an option.
Bullying is 100% preventable, and once it starts the situation can get better or worse with any move made. It's important to not attack your child if they express concerns that they aren't being treated fair by their teachers. But it also isn't fair to assume that the teacher is the only one at fault.