Why teacher bullying is a big classroom problem

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Why teacher bullying is a big classroom problem

By Jessie Webster

On Friday, a 76-second video of a first grade classroom at the Success Academy charter school in Coble Hill, Brooklyn, went viral online.

But rather than capturing a major event in the life of a child, such as a school recital or play, the footage shows something more troubling.

The video begins with the class sitting cross-legged around a brightly colored rug. The teacher, Charlotte Dial, has asked one of her students to explain to the class how she solved a math problem.

The girl begins to count aimlessly and then looks up at Dial, clearly confused. In response, Dial takes the girl’s paper and rips it in half. “Go to the calm-down chair and sit,” she orders the girl, her voice rising noticeably.

“There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper,” Dial adds, as the girl leaves the rug.

Dial’s unwarranted, harsh reaction to her student’s confusion reminds me of so many incidents from my own elementary school years, in which teachers I trusted and admired used my confusion — almost exclusively in math — as an opportunity to humiliate me until I figured out the answer.

After Dial asks another child to demonstrate how to solve the problem, she circles back to the girl in the calm-down chair, accusing her of “confusing everybody,” and proclaiming herself as “very upset and very disappointed.”

When a teacher berates a student and makes them feel as if they are dumb, that cruelty stays with the student, often impacting their academic successes and failures later on in life. This treatment is the textbook definition of bullying.

Stuart Twemlow, a psychiatrist from Houston, conducted an anonymous survey published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, in which he asked 116 teachers at seven elementary schools about teacher bullying. [http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/teachers-who-bully]

More than 70 percent of respondents said they believed bullying was isolated, while 45 percent admitted to having bullied a student before.

In every sense of the word, yelling at a child for failure to understand a concept, even if the child has understood it before, is “teacher bullying.”

However, as is often the case, this video cannot tell the complete story. There is no way of knowing the academic or behavioral history of the child involved. Furthermore, an assistant teacher in the classroom secretly filmed the video, without Dial’s knowledge or consent.

Dial has been considered so effective at Success Academy that she was promoted last year to being a model teacher, who helps to train her colleagues. Clearly, if this “academic process” is what’s seen as effective, we have a much larger problem on our hands. [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html?_r=0]

Such factors aside, research continues to show that yelling at or berating a student who is confused about a lesson can have serious consequences.

A 2013 study conducted by University of Pittsburgh psychology professor Ming-Te Wang, and co-authored by Sarah Kenny, a graduate student in the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, found that rather than minimizing problematic behavior in adolescents, the use of harsh verbal discipline may, in fact, aggravate it.

Even more surprising, Wang and Kenny “found that the negative effects of verbal discipline within the two-year period of their study were comparable to the effects shown over the same period of time in other studies that focused on physical discipline. [http://www.news.pitt.edu/news/yelling-doesn-t-help-may-harm-adolescents-pitt-led-study-finds]

Kelly Daeschler, freshman in Education, says the way Dial handled the child is counteractive to what Daeschler’s teachers instruct future educators to do in her classes.

“We are told to not yell at students and instead show them the right way to do it, while letting them know it’s okay to be wrong,” Daeschler said. “The student is probably scared of speaking out now in front of the classroom, and that experience most likely hindered her learning ability.”

Teachers are human, and dealing with multiple children at once is bound to cause outbursts from even the most patient and prominent educators.

However, instructors must do their absolute best to avoid it at all costs, because losing one’s temper at a child who is struggling to learn will not only stay in that child’s memory forever, but will also potential have lasting emotional and academic consequences.

Jessie is a junior in Media.?

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