Teachers have power to lift students up



Editorial Cartoon

By Speaking Eagle editorial staff

The age-old discussion about bullying—emotional, physical, and for those living in the 21st century, cyber—seems to have moved past the stereotypical targeting from friends, classmates, and sometimes family members.

Most do not think their teachers would ever become the culprits, but some students may feel as belittled by their teachers in some classroom situations as they do by anyone else.

This comes in many embarrassing forms. Sometimes this means calling students out for matters that do not affect anyone else, and sometimes it means publicly disclosing grades and other personal information that may be less than desirable. Anytime teachers publicly embarrass or reveal personal information about students before an audience, they are belittling them.

While members of the Speaking Eagle editorial board are much more vocal about the positive impact their Juan Diego teachers have had on their lives, there are multiple situations that stand out as borderline bullying from some of those who are supposed to have their students’ best interests in mind.

The teachers who respect their students are typically creating safe, effective, and comfortable learning environments.”


The editors think Juan Diego teachers generally hold themselves to higher standards, and many who come across as belittling may do so unintentionally. It is the isolated cases certain editors have felt or observed in a few classrooms that brought about this conversation.

There is a reason we have passwords on our PowerSchool accounts. Not all students want their classmates to know how they did on yesterday’s test. There are many aspects of a person’s life that they would not necessarily want treated like a public service announcement.

Regardless of the teacher’s intent, it is inappropriate to broadcast personal information and involve all students in conversations that should take place one on one. The classroom should not be an open forum for anything that could humiliate a student in front of his or her peers.

Some teachers play off students’ negative reputations and momentary slip-ups while others demand public explanations for bad grades, behavioral issues, or absences. Comments that would be considered rude in any social situation are sometimes passed from teachers to students as well.

In contrast, the teachers who respect their students are typically the ones who are actively creating safe, effective, and comfortable learning environments.

Teachers who belittle are, purposefully or not, drawing negative attention toward their students. Some may ask, “How could you possibly get that wrong?” This places one student directly under the spotlight, but other struggling students are watching from the shadows as well, applying the criticism to their own confusion and taking each word personally.

Teachers expect high school students to act like adults, but they do not always treat them as such.”

Teachers become unapproachable when students see their classmates treated this way. They fear the same humiliation will be dished out to them, so they stop asking questions and start watching the clock whenever that particular class rolls around. The learning environment is severely affected when teachers openly belittle their students.

Apologies would make all the difference. When any person admits he or she was wrong, the line of communication that was likely cut has the potential of being mended completely.

The problem is that the natural hierarchy within schools seems to cause some teachers to view themselves as being above an apology. It is rare to hear of genuine regret from a teacher, even when he or she was in the wrong.

Teachers expect high school students to act like adults, but they do not always treat them as such. An element of respect for others’ private lives and a willingness to right one’s wrongs could drastically change the way some students view their teachers.

The editorial board realizes that teachers do have authority in their classrooms. There are certainly situations when a student’s blatant disregard for the rules and the dignity of others calls for direct, public action. Teachers have a right and a duty to maintain control. We simply believe conversations that do not affect the entirety of the class should not take place in front of the entirety of the class. If it affects everyone, involve everyone. If it doesn’t, don’t. Simple.

Put a lighthearted teacher at the front of the classroom, and one hour will soon feel half as long.”

When sitting in a stiff, overly structured classroom, one hour can feel like two. We are not suggesting the games and jokes should ever come to an end. Put a lighthearted teacher at the front of the classroom, and one hour will soon feel half as long. If the laughter allows all students to leave feeling uplifted rather than broken down, there is no problem.

While the issue of teachers belittling students does not define Juan Diego, any situation in which a student is humiliated in front of his or her peers should not be tolerated. Students should respectfully stand up for themselves and their classmates. This may mean asking to speak with the teacher privately before or after class—a polite demonstration of the way they hope to be treated in the future.

Teachers who make their students feel unimportant, call attention to their personal flaws, or publicly share their personal information must realize that the awkward tension and fear of similar humiliation is not conducive to an effective, trusting learning environment.

Teachers—during a time in your students’ lives when the world itself makes them feel small, you have the opportunity to lift them up. Share grades anonymously, provide constructive criticism, and address students as individuals who deserve to be treated with respect.