According to www.stopbullying.gov, bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior … that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

When I was in high school, I joined Future Teachers of America (FTA) and was allowed to spend one day a month in a teacher’s classroom at a local school. I was helping out in a third grade classroom when I observed a situation that I considered bullying from the teacher.  The teacher had a spelling contest in progress that included a class reward if everyone in the class made no less than 90% on their spelling test.  After the tests were graded, the teacher called a young boy to her desk and began to ream him out in front of the class for not passing the test.  She told him that she wished he had never moved to their town.  She continued to say that he always messed up their contests and made everything worse for the class. Tears filled the boys eyes as he slumped his shoulders and returned to his seat.  I assumed her goal was to shame him into doing better in his spelling tests.  In my opinion, she bullied him.

Several times I have observed teachers who felt the need to motivate students by shaming them.  A negative attack usually reaps a negative response.   Students are not motivated by threats, put downs, or intimidation.  They may cower to the teacher’s authority outside, but inside they are building a wall of resentment each time the teacher is unkind or attacking.

Ephesians 4 calls all of us to be careful with our words.  We are instructed to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving toward our students.  Our words are to be words of life that edify and build students up.  These words are to encourage students to try harder and to believe that they can do better.

When you find yourself at your wits end with a student, it is better to excuse yourself for a minute or two to get yourself together, or to postpone consequences for the offense until your can deal with the situation in such a way that benefits the student.  All discipline and correction should be for the student’s benefit.  It should never be for retribution.

Check your past behavior to see if you have any bullying behavior in the way you deal with your students.  Let God change your heart and give you tenderness toward each of your students.  Refuse to play the part of the “teacher bully”. 

Dear God, Search me and know if there is any wicked way in me.  Help me to be kind and tenderhearted to each one of my students.  Forgive me for the times I handled things wrong, and help me to build the ability to respond like you in every situation that arises in my classroom.