Parent-teacher conferences just ended, and it’s noteworthy how many conversations I had with parents who are concerned about bullying. One kid is having trouble specifically in math and science, because he’s incredibly smart in those subjects and is getting teased for it. The other kids are having trouble all day, but parents who don’t speak English come to me about it because I’m the one teacher who speaks Spanish. I’m so glad they’re telling me about it, and good for them for recognizing a problem and reporting it even when their kids beg them not to, but it also makes me feel like a really bad teacher. Most of the conversations came as complete surprises to me… I’ve never seen the kid get bullied, I’ve never realized the other kids were bullies, and I’ve never noticed these interactions in my classroom or the hallways. I don’t even know how to be better about it, because I feel like I know my kids and all my attention is on them while they’re with me. The problem is that middle schoolers are sneaky and there are lots of them at a time, and the bullies aren’t dumb enough to say things right in front of me. I genuinely apologized to two of the kids for not noticing, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to catch it on my own.
I made plans for how to deal with it for each kid, told my administration, and asked the parents to please call me if it doesn’t improve and we need to try something else. It sounds good but I’m worried the plans won’t work and I’ll have no idea what to do next. When serious cases of bullying hit the news, it seems like the response is always, “Well, why didn’t the teachers just STOP it?” I’d give anything for the magic bullet those people must have, because I have this sinking feeling it isn’t actually that easy.