Article first published as Lex Luthor’s Kryptonite Weakens Your Influence on Technorati.
You are a superhero!
You’re saving the world by powerfully influencing your kids to become awesome adults. You’re walking your talk about integrity, respect, accountability, and personal leadership. You’re making good on all your parenting promises. It’s awesome and you’re powerful, yet your power may be weakened by the other adults who also influence your child: clergy, athletic coaches, other parents, and teachers. What happens to your power when one of them wields kryptonite?
Consider that the average school day is nearly 7 hours and that kids spend another 3 doing homework. A teacher’s influence stretches beyond the classroom – they may even have more of your child’s attention than you! That’s why MetLife’s recent study concerns me.
More and more teachers are unhappy. The very people to whom we turn for help in preparing our kids for adulthood are starting to dislike their jobs. According to MetLife’s study, teacher satisfaction is at its lowest point in 25 years—not good because unhappiness can spill over into the classroom.
- Teaching diverse learners
- Maintaining a rigorous learning environment
- Inadequate school budgets
- Limited opportunities for professional development
They are also more critical of other teachers and of their principal. It appears that rising from the decrease in job satisfaction there may be an increase in finger pointing. It’s no stretch then to also find that teachers reporting low job satisfaction are also less likely to have students performing at or above grade level in language arts and mathematics.
Teachers with Kryptonite
I believe teachers are every bit the superheroes that parents are, and that a passion to serve is behind their career choice. Teaching is a calling into a job that is as tough as the stakes are high. The vast majority of teachers are wonderful human beings who offer the very best of themselves, and yet a few have lost their way. Perhaps “super villain” is harsh, however what would you call a teacher who screams, threatens, or humiliates a child?
Simple definition of bully behavior: To hurt someone else because you can.
There’s little direct research regarding teacher bullying, however the available studies suggest that bullying by teachers may be a contributor to an overall fearful school community and even a cause of student behavior problems.
According to Stuart Twemlow, MD as many as 45% of elementary school teachers report that they have bullied a student at least once and that approximately 18% bully frequently. The research suggests an even bigger problem for secondary schools.
Some teachers are more overt about abuses while others are skilled manipulators. A teacher might try convincing a student that he or she misunderstood a belittling comment or that a student is attempting to shifting attention away from poor academic performance by calling the teacher’s behavior into question.
It’s easy to dismiss a kid’s teacher complaint. Kids are prone to exaggerate and they can’t see the big picture in classroom dynamics and responsibility. Perhaps you have a personal bias about teachers’ benevolence preventing your objectivity. I was guilty of discounting my son’s pleas for help with a bully teacher until a classmate’s mother shared with me the regular stories of humiliation her child witnessed against my son. I hadn’t wanted to believe that a teacher would lie or target my child, but teachers are human and humans are not all benevolent.
What To Do
I want to be sure that I express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the overwhelming majority of teachers who are superheroes. The ripples from your work encompass my whole family. Without your passion and dedication, I could not fulfill my parenting promises. Thank you.
For parents with questions or stories to share, there are a few places you can go on the web. I caution you to use your objectivity and intuition as you take in what’s offered. You can’t understand a situation from one or two comments, but you may find it helpful in identifying a pattern to be concerned about.