The Biggest Bullies in School – Part 1

The Biggest Bullies in School – Part 1

About twenty years ago I attended a professional development seminar for teachers. I believe the title was simply called, School Bullies.

The presenter, herself a teacher, started the session off by asking participants to identify the characteristics of a bully. As the various adjectives and verbs were called out she recorded them on a flip-chart. The final list included the following: aggressive, controlling, humiliates, intimidates, hurtful, causes fear and anxiety, demanding, uncaring.

When our brainstorming ended she added a few other descriptors. She also gave us her definition of a bully and talked about the pain that bullies tend to inflict. This lead to some discussion and I quietly listened. After a short while, I motioned to the list of characteristics and said, “You know, that list could also describe an aggressive varsity coach who wants to win at all costs. Think about it, are we not all familiar with at least one coach who doesn’t hesitate to humiliate those players who are under performing? Have we not seen a coach who, under the guise of motivation, will embarrass certain players in front of their peers? By definition, these guys are also bullies.”

As my career in education progressed, I came to the realization that the biggest bullies in school were often teachers and/or administrators. Of course they didn’t call themselves that. They would think of themselves as masters of effective behaviour management.

I recall a particular morning back when I was in grade 2. The bell sounded to mark the end of recess and we, as we were trained to do, quickly made our way to our designated spots and formed up in rows of two. Once in line we were to stand straight, look ahead and not speak. On this particular morning I had the audacity to actually turn my head to the right and say something to my buddy standing beside me. The next thing I recall is having my jacket gripped just beneath my throat. It was the school principal and he lifted me up on my toes. In a stern voice he said, “You do not speak when you are in line.”

Now, fifty years later, I could go to that playground and place a blanket on the asphalt knowing it would intersect with the spot on which I was standing that day. It was, indeed, a significant emotional event for me. The principal made his point, and he triumphed over a seven-year-old.

So, why did he do this to a young child? Well, that’s what teachers did back then. Behaviour was often controlled by fear and intimidation. The strap was used liberally and yelling was common place. In that post-World War II atmosphere these were seen as effective tools of behaviour management.

But that didn’t make it right.

                                                                                                           To be continued …………….

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