This post is part of “Bully No More,” an editorial series hosted by the Fort Worth Moms Blog.
Each morning, I walk into school with two sets of eyes: I am a mother and an educator. Because of these experiences, I know with certainty that parents and teachers often have two very different perspectives regarding bullying; however, both viewpoints are rooted in love.
As we work through this together, it is important that we accept and honor our unique perspectives. By listening to each other and appreciating our different viewpoints, we can build a more trusting relationship, better supporting our children.
A Parent’s Role
Advocating for your child is your sole focus. I respect that. I expect that. I appreciate your advocacy, and I want you to know that I am on your team.
If your child is being bullied, it is essential for you to report the behavior to the school. For many reasons, you may know about the problem before I do. Often, children feel more comfortable talking with their parents than their teachers about what is troubling them at school. Frequently, though, parents are hesitant to talk with teachers about what they hear from their children. In my 15 years of teaching, some of the most common things I have heard from parents are: Well, I didn’t want to say anything. My child really didn’t want me to tell you. Parents have told me they were afraid that if a teacher got involved, it would make things harder on their children. This is devastating to hear.
In every situation, we can talk about your fears, what you do and don’t feel comfortable with. Whatever is happening, we can talk through it and come up with a plan. Please, I beg you, do not hesitate. I need to know.
A Teacher’s Role
As a teacher, my job is to protect all of the students in my class. I don’t hold any expectation that this is always easy for you, especially when your child is in pain. When your child is hurting, you hurt. Your focus is not necessarily on the other children involved. But, mine must be.
There are some things that I cannot say or do for you because I must also protect the other students in my classroom. I cannot tell you anything private about other students. I cannot tell you what consequences have been given. I cannot tell you about circumstances that may be contributing to the other child’s behavior. I can only talk with you about your child. But I am doing every single thing I can do to serve and protect your son or daughter.
If your child is bullying other children, my heart breaks for you. I know that behind the behaviors, there is a child in pain. Please know that while I am doing all that I can to care for the victims of bullying, I also love your little one. I will work equally hard to support this student and to provide the interventions needed to help your child manage his or her feelings and needs differently.
Once I know what is going on, I can take action. How we respond depends on the specific situation. It may be as simple as closely monitoring a certain group of students on the playground; I may just need to rearrange the seating or groups in my classroom; or, we might need to consider more serious interventions.
Parents, I want you to know that I see you and I hear you and I truly care. What I want to hear from my son’s teacher is that she will be vigilant — that she is valuing my concerns and taking immediate action. I respect that this is your view, that this is your role. And, I ask you to accept that my view and my role are different. I need you to trust me, and I want to be worthy of that trust.
If this is not your experience or if you believe that your child’s teacher is not doing all that he or she can do to protect your child, I beg of you to assertively and persistently advocate on his or her behalf. Go to the counselors; go to the administration. Continue moving up the chain until your child is safe.
It is essential that children feel safe in school. This security is imperative to their social and emotional development and to their academic progress. Parents and teachers must establish strong, trusting relationships and maintain consistent, respectful communication in order to safeguard our children’s hearts and minds.
What do you want your child’s teacher to know about bullying?