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When Your Teacher Is a Bully

It’s back to school time and while a majority of the kids entering school this fall are excited about the upcoming year and excited to see their friends and favorite teachers again, there is also a large group of children whose stomachs are forming ulcers as you read this in anticipation of what they have to endure for the next nine months. Children who know that the next nine months are going to be filled with teasing and bullying at the hands of their peers and unfortunately, their teachers. Children who come from terrible home lives and used to look at school as their safe place; but who have learned that they can’t even count on their teachers to keep them safe.

School was one of the safest places I could go as a child; it was the only place I could be away from Mom for at least six hours, it was one of the only places I could go where I knew I wasn’t going to be hit, and it was the only place I could get some sort of positive interaction during the day. I had some absolutely wonderful teachers who inspired me, motivated me, and whose classes I would look forward to all week. But I also had some pretty awful teachers; teachers who spent more time trying to fit in with the popular kids than trying to make all of their students feel important. Teachers who didn’t punish the bullies when they called me names in class, but rather snickered and giggled from behind their desk. Teachers who were supposed to be the example of a responsible adult, but at times would act even more immature than my own classmates.

I’ve witnessed a teacher high five one of my bullies after they made fun of me for my shaved head, had a teacher giggle at a post-it note stuck to my back with a horrible name on it, and one teacher tell me in front of the class that I made up my abuse so I could get out of a test and escape to the counselor’s office.  I’ve had a handful of teachers who made it clear that they didn’t believe I could become anything in life; because I didn’t fit the jock or cheerleader prototype that they treasured.  The kids who bullied me had free reign to treat me and everyone else who wasn’t like them like garbage in these teachers’ classrooms because it was allowed, and at times, encouraged.

Without even realizing it, these teachers ended up turning my safe place into a nightmare for the entire forty minutes I was forced to be seated behind a desk in their classroom.  Subjects I once loved, such as history and civics, I began to hate because of the way I was treated.  Instead of feeling empowered and educated when I left their classroom, I left hanging my head, my self-esteem crushed, and my dreams of becoming a success seeming more and more out of reach.

A teacher means so much more to me and so many others like me than just a person providing us information to pass a test. Teachers were some of the only people I had who could demonstrate what good, responsible, and caring adults acted like. They were the only people I could look to for some sort of positive interaction during my day and some of the only people in my life who I could count on to make me feel as if I was worth something. Even when my peers were mocking me and putting me down, I wanted to know that I would be safe in the classroom and that my teacher would defend me and shut the bullies down.  Many, many of my teachers did just that; but there were the few that acted as bad as the bullies.

Teachers have a responsibility to make the classroom a loving, caring, environment for ALL of their students; not just the “popular” ones.  Just because some students are shy, dress differently, act differently, or get called out to the counselor’s office randomly doesn’t meant that they deserve to be made fun of or mocked by their peers and their teacher.  The teacher is sometimes the only friend that students may have and the only person that they can even hope to rely on; don’t let them down. Don’t bully the very students who need your guidance so desperately.

When Your Teacher Is a Bully

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2017). When Your Teacher Is a Bully. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Aug 2017
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