Teachers, Bullying, and the Code of Silence, by Angelina Iacovou

 

Dear Readers, 

My guest blogger today is Angelina Iacovou, a student from New York who has just graduated from middle school. After much research, she has written the following essay, which she hopes will help new teachers deal with bullying in school:

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In a bullying situation, teachers should know that the students aren’t going to break the code of silence. The code of silence is when the target, the bystanders, and even the bully’s group won’t say anything about the bullying. This is because they don’t want to become targets themselves, they don’t want to “rat out” their friend, or, if they’re the target, they don’t want the bullying to get worse.

If a teacher really wants to help a student who is being bullied, then the teacher should stop the problem as quickly as possible. The teachers should talk to each student separately, because the teacher is in a higher position then the students. Therefore, the students will either be on guard or reassured. To the bully, the teacher could ask a question such as, “I saw you do this to this person, why did you do it?” To the target, the teacher could ask a question such as, “I saw this person do this to you, do you know the reason why?”

The teacher isn’t with the students all day, so the teacher could ask other trusted teachers to look after the students. It must be another trusted teacher because the two teachers are on the same level of authority. Also, the other teacher won’t go to the principal. Instead, the teacher would go to the first teacher to tell that teacher what happened in his or her class.

When a teacher sees bullying, the teacher should always document it. This is also so if the teacher can’t solve the problem on their own, then the teacher can consider going to the head of the department or the principal. This is so the teacher can put himself/herself in a position where the higher authority will listen to what the teacher has to say.

Bear in mind there is also a code of silence here as well, such as the teachers not saying anything because their job is at stake. It’s a possibility that the principal is afraid of losing their school’s reputation. The principal’s own job is also at risk, so the principal might possibly try to block the story. The bully’s parents might become defensive because they might think the teacher is saying their child is bad and that they raised their child wrong. The target’s parents might feel like they’re not doing their job as a parent, because their child didn’t tell them what’s happening. The teacher should be prepared for any outcome.

We high school students feel grateful to all the teachers who are trying to stop bullying.

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Angelina Iacovou  just finished middle school and will be going into high school. She has a dog named Leo, whom she likes to call her “brother.”  Friends and family are the most important people in Angelina’s life, and she is grateful to have them by her side when she needs them the most. Ms. Iacovou loves to bake and cook, and is contemplating whether baking or cooking will be a part-time job for her in the future, mostly because she always has fun when she’s able to experiment with many different ingredients. 

 

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Comments

  1. Sophia Yen MD says

    Thank you for writing this. I hope more will be upstanders rather than bystanders. How do we stop the bully? I have had many patients report their bully but the school’s are not very effective at protecting the student.

  2. I was in a situation once where I suspected a student being bullied. I questioned the aggressor and they stated they were friends with the victim. I questioned the victim and they stated that the aggressor was their friend and just teasing. I STILL felt uncomfortable with what I’d seen, so I requested both students attend a meeting with the vice principal in which we laid out why the behavior could be interpreted as bullying and why me tolerating it created an unhealthy environment (even if both people insisted it was ok). Later on, the victim confessed they were uncomfortable with the aggressor’s behavior but didn’t want to anger them. So I feel I did the right thing, even if a lot of teachers would have understandably let it go.

    I do think teachers need better training on the reasons why bullying occurs in presumed friendships, and how any behavior that shows an unequal power dynamic doesn’t belong in a classroom (such as if one friend is always the one aggressively teasing).

  3. Bryan F. Warsaw says

    As a teacher finishing up my 27th year, I can typically root out and fix bullying as long as it’s easy to spot, but that’s not always the case. Overt bullying, whether it occurs in the hallways, classrooms or the cafeteria, is relatively easy to spot and fix. To help, I get the aggressor and the victim together and we hash things out until I’m confident there’s an acceptable resolution and I’m confident the bullying will stop. It’s the covert bullying, the online bullying, that’s more difficult to observe and thus harder to intervene. Unless the victim feels comfortable enough to approach me and let me know what’s going on, he/she may suffer in silence. The bullying that happens online is often more emotionally vicious because the bully tends to coerce other friends to jump on the bandwagon. I’ve seen situations turn into wolf pack attacks where it’s been many against one; in these cases the victim feels isolated and, often, helpless. If a teacher is worth his/her salt in the classroom, he/she will often have insight into student behavior and may notice an alteration of personality in a student. Changes in behavior should always be investigated. It’s not only a teacher’s ethical duty to look into it bullying; it’s a professional one, as well. We’re mandated to assist.

    • Angelina Iacovou says

      I agree with you saying that it’s a teachers duty to stop bullying. A school is supposed to be a safe environment for all the kids. Having teachers step up and stop bullying will make these kids feel safe and not isolated.

  4. Bryan F. Warsaw says

    P.S. Very well-written!

  5. Hello Angelina, Thank you for your courage in writing this blog post. I sincerely hope that your new high school will be open by this coming fall and a safe haven for all. I think that the best idea is to work with the overall school policy. You describe a school culture of fear of retaliation. That does not have to be the case. Student advocacy works. If a group of students meet with the AP or counseling staff to discuss the problem in objective terms, they can create change. Ask the library staff to help with research into a variety of models that encourage students’ mutual respect—there are many. Now that we are in a huge pause in school attendance, it’s a great time to begin the process. School administrators are reviewing safety in schools, for health and well-being. Take this time of change as an opportunity to advocate. The fact that you’ve written this blog post means you are willing to take a leadership role. Wishing you all the best!

  6. Amy Primeau says

    Bravo, Angelina! It takes a lot of courage to speak up about this, and I know that from first-hand experience. You will find it is not the easiest or most popular thing to do, but speaking out is the right thing to do. I feel like there is a lot of talk about ‘no tolerance’ for bullying, but not a lot of resources provided to recognize or stop bullying. Sometimes, it just takes one voice to get the conversation started. Thank you for being that voice.

    • Angelina Iacovou says

      I have also had a first-hand experience with bullying and know that it is extremely hard to stand up and stop the situation. I am glad that after getting support from others I can keep being a voice and be able to stop bullying.

  7. Randy Loukissas says

    I was a middle and high school teacher for forty-three years. I tried to intervene in bullying situations many times. It took me many years to develop a strategy that worked for me. I tried to be the teacher who my students respected and I used that respect, and my reputation for fairness to make the bully an offer they couldn’t refuse. I told the bully that if their behavior didn’t stop, there would be a very negative consequence. The consequence had to be specific to that particular bully. Sometimes, I said I would call a meeting with the bully’s parents, all the teachers on our team, and the principal. I rarely had to follow through because no bully wanted that. The few times we did have that meeting, the bully ended up in tears and the parents promised their own consequences. There is no magic bullet, but I think teachers must get involved. Unfortunately, sometimes the teachers never find out about the bullying.

    • Angelina Iacovou says

      It must be hard being a middle and high school teacher, so I want to thank you for finding a way to stop any bullying situations that you see.

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