I recently attended some training focused on a number of hot topics. By far the hottest topic at the time was bullying. Bullying has been fiercely debated in board rooms, on legislative floors, and by parent groups. National media have documented the results of bullies gone wild in classrooms, school lunchrooms and hallways. As a school board member, it is not uncommon for a parent to call me or to write to me in unabridged detail chronicling what appears to be bad behavior at the least and quite possibly bullying.
Federal definitions have changed. The Georgia Department of Education has a bullying toolkit on their website. Teachers have been asked to shed their instructional posts and play hallway monitors, lunchroom SWAT and bus lane victim advocates as it seems to be a never-ending phenomenon.
If school leaders need this much support from classroom teachers, then teachers should be paid for these duties through a reclassification of salaries at all levels through a return to zero-based budgeting.
When parents tell me they are leaving public schools for private schools, home schools, accredited home school umbrella programs and virtual schools it is not lost on me that educators have simply got to step up to the plate and give the instructional focus back to teachers, and beef up the duty list of the occasional administrator sleeping in the cafeteria, pirating compact discs or working from home. Public school enrollment is decreasing.
I've had training in bullying and training in gangs. The bully is often worse than the gang member who dwells somewhat surreptitiously beneath the fray. For example, the bully will drive by a home and call his buddies as he sizes up the scene, yet at the same time will loudly spit blame at others who call him to the mat.
He is louder, arguably vile, networks by phone and in sometimes nonsecular settings and holds his victim to a higher standard of scrutiny than himself. "Two Legged Snakes" by Dr. Ed Slack describes him or her. The classic bully will call his victim out publicly and loudly while being guilty of greater perversion. Adult bullies derail good deeds and hold meetings hostage with personal agendas. All, however, operate from a premise of fear.
Public education appears genuine about increasing student achievement. So why are our teachers on breakfast line duty, hallway duty, class change duty, lunch duty,and bus duty when they need to be in their classrooms? Teaching time becomes strategic planning requisite to figure out where in this mess they can jockey for a restroom, as first-year high-quality teachers plan departure and the average new teacher leaves after the fourth year.
Bullying is a problem, but schools must simply stop asking more of and putting more on classroom teachers. Who is the bully in this equation?
Jeff Meadors is vice chairman of the Newton County Board of Education.