The Bullying we don’t talk about

Raiyan’s parents are worried. And why wouldn’t they be? Unlike many other students, Raiyan has always been very enthusiastic when it comes to maintaining his perfect attendance record in school. He’s a smart and playful kid who has never been the kind to make up excuses to bunk school, until very recently. Since the start of this year, Raiyan’s parents have observed some radical changes in him regarding going to school. He has been frequently making up excuses to avoid school. Last week, his parents were even called up to school because the authority found out that Raiyan’s been bunking out of his Physics classes as well. When asked about it, Raiyan’s response was that he was doing so because the Physics teacher is ‘mean’. Apparently, his Physics teacher’s treatment reminds him of Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter. That is where all the trouble began.

Does that reference help you relate to Raiyan’s case by any chance? More or less all of us have been in Raiyan’s shoes at least once in our academic lives. We have all had a Professor Umbridge that we had to deal with. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to fuss about. But more often than not, its intricate consequences are deeply rooted in the heart of a teenager’s traumatic experience. As kids, we loathed and hated the guts of Professor Umbridge. Her abusive, coercive and villainous treatment of students was nothing short of bullying. Yes, that’s the point I am trying to make here. Because as kids we may not have known the term for it, but we sure did know that teachers aren’t supposed to be like Professor Umbridge. Yet, we have all known one.
Bullying has become a social issue that’s raising concerns about traumatic experience in teenagers with every passing day. But we often fail to broaden our sense of comprehension when it comes to understanding what teenagers like Raiyan imply by ‘mean’ teachers. Usually, others take this response with a grain of salt. Because generally, this term implies that the teacher is demanding and too much disciplined regarding studies and homework. However, teachers can be verbally abusive as well.

It’s not unheard of how students are frequently subject to scrutiny from teachers. Past incidents have even suggested with glaring examples of how the blurring lines between disciplinary action and outright bullying has led to students committing suicide. Yes, teachers are leaders in a classroom and they have the authority to impose disciplinary actions on a student for their punishable offense. But does the power to dictate give them the rights to humiliate a student in front of the entire class? Does the leadership role include body-shaming a student for not being skinny enough, making fun of their skin color or mocking their accent just for the sake of fun? Is it within the limits of disciplinary action if a teacher knowingly picks on a particular student and treats them with discrimination? Or is it not unprofessional if a student suffers from being a target of their teacher’s misplaced aggression? Classrooms exist so that the students can feel valued by the teacher, not vilified.

I can’t put enough emphasis on how big of an impact a teacher can have on the development of a student. They are pretty much the architects of futures. And it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that we all seek a role model in our teachers. We seek the ones who teach and inspire. While the concept of a teacher isn’t strictly exclusive to the academic spectrum, it is where we look first. And if, by chance, the very source that we expect to inspire us, gives us our first bitter taste of being a victim of bullying, it will cut a wound so deep that could hurt for a very long time.

So please, let’s address this concern and rectify this issue with a collective effort. Be compassionate, be understanding. Words hurt, more than physical abuse. Often teachers struggle to take the role of a leader in a class, and thus as an act of retaliation, burst out in aggression. But they also need to realize that it’s important to treat students with respect and empathy. But for the students to reciprocate, teachers need to take the first step. Because one act of bullying can not only stain the nobility of the teaching profession but also for the victim, permanently tarnish the aspiration of being a teacher. Disciplinary actions should focus on correction than punishment. Every student is unique in their own ways. Their uniqueness is the blend of their attributes as well as the flaws. And when the teacher starts to realize that, it becomes so much easier to start off on the right foot.

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