Diocese of Columbus Holds Firm

April 18, 2013

The Catholic diocese of Columbus decided recently to fire a physical education teacher because she listed her gay partner’s name as her spouse in an obituary for her mother.

I get that the Catholic Church has the right to enforce its own rules and those involve its views on sexual morality. But, come on! This is a gym teacher for crying out loud. How many of us had gay female gym teachers? I think lots of us could give a show of hands.

While fully recognizing the right of the Diocese of Columbus to do this, I nonetheless think it’s a boneheaded move. Already more than seven thousand people have signed a petition to get this woman her job back. The diocese has already run into issues with school closings and such.

I don’t think it needs any more bad press. Perhaps since she’s just teaching gym it’s time to have a more live and let live type of attitude.


Bullying: I Learned It From Watching You

March 18, 2010

Of all the corny PSAs from the 80’s, the silliest has to be when the teenager caught using drugs tells his father who confronts him: “I learned it from watching you!”

I’ve attended countless anti-bullying seminars throughout my five years in education and other than not learning anything that I already didn’t know intuitively, these lectures all failed to address one important factor: teacher-student bullying. A small survey recently found that 45% of teachers had admitted to bullying a student. And this is the number that volunteered the information. My best guess is that the numbers are even higher since the worst offenders would never admit what they do is bullying and would probably see it as essential to discipline or classroom order.

It’s tough being a teacher. Each day is a huge challenge and requires incredible patience and virtue. There are many temptations; the biggest, I think, is to go on a power trip. The relationship itself is one of the powerful interacting with the weak, especially at the elementary levels. In the upper grades teachers have control over a student’s life in ways that most of us never think about. For example, a low grade can keep a kid out of his or her first choice of university and a black mark on a permanent record can do the same (or create even worse headaches). And believe me, teachers know they have this power and many misuse it, some on a regular basis.

Is it just a few bad eggs or could the whole disciplinary system of modern education actually promote bullying? As someone who entered into education without an actual education degree I’ve been shocked at what techniques are actually promoted as ‘effective’ discipline. My first ever day of substitute teaching, I remember receiving a phone call from the regular teacher reminding me to use the methods I learned in college to keep them under control, like having them copy pages from a dictionary. As someone who loved words and hoped to see more young people embrace the English language, I was shocked and appalled. It was my first taste of educational insanity.

At the school where I teach, I’ve seen teachers employ threats, shame, intimidation, relentless sarcasm, and even physical violence, because when kids sit down and shut up, it makes teachers look good and their jobs easier, even if the kids aren’t learning. And, of course, those kids who can’t sit down and shut up easily (usually boys and extroverted girls) are labeled as troublemakers. But, since the expected relationship is one of total submission to the teacher, the students have few options when a teacher bullies them, even with parental involvement.

And why is there no one willing to stand up for students who are victims of teacher bullies? Because administrators more often than not come from teacher ranks and interact with others – kids and adults – using the exact same methods. Where I teach, every single negative action in the previous paragraph, with the exception of physical violence, is also employed by the administration to achieve their ends.

I want to say that there are many dedicated teachers and administrators who are excellent leaders and truly committed to the best interests of children. However, the minority who are not can make life pure hell for others. If your child has been a victim of teacher bullying, please post your story in the comment box. This is an issue that receives almost no attention in the world of education, but the problem needs to be addressed and fixed.

I think some of our school bullies could point to teachers and say, “I learned it from watching you.”