Teacher review: how to protect a child
In recent years, the Russian media space has been shaken several times by high-profile scandals related to the topic of harassment of students by teachers. Serious accusations of graduates of prestigious schools aroused both the professional community and parents who, naturally, would like to protect their children from possible encroachment and abuse in the school.
What is abuse?
First you need to understand the terminology, which in this case is closely related to the specifics of the situation. The word “abuse” is borrowed and new to the Russian language. A well-known online dictionary explains this term as psychological, physical, sexual, economic violence against a loved one.
However, it can be translated from English as “abuse, abuse.” “Abuse” is firmly entrenched in the meaning of English abuse, ”writes linguist and psychologist Natalia Ivleva. – Vocabulary definitions stipulate that abuse is actions against someone who cannot interfere with them, or simply add “especially women and children”.
And here comes the important part of the meaning of abuse. Abuse implies unequal roles, strong and weak. For there to be abuse, there must be one more condition – an idea of the norm of relations between a person in a strong position and a person in a vulnerable position. And this norm is caring, respect, love.
What culture, for example, expects from parents regarding their children. Abuse is this: “I am in a vulnerable and weaker position, I may depend on you, but I expect that you will treat me with respect and care, and you do not do this, you abuse my trust and my dependent position” .
What circumstances can play into the hands of teachers prone to abuse of power?
Abuse of power
The choice of the term is not accidental. Harassment of the child by the teacher involves a gross violation of ethics and abuse of position. Upon a detailed examination of some specific cases, it turned out that most often there were psychological manipulations, pressure by authority, or indirect threats.
An empowered teacher is not difficult to scare a child. For example, it may be the fear of being expelled from a good school and incurring the wrath of parents, meeting with the revenge of the rejected teacher, or becoming an outsider in the community where this teacher has a dominant position.
This is the whole subtlety of the situation. Understanding the degree of risk and knowing the criminal code, most teachers who are prone to abusa do not commit direct violence. Often, vulnerable, unbalanced psyche children from dysfunctional or single-parent families are chosen as objects of manipulation — those who do not complain to their parents or believe that “this is normal” and will allow them to break their mental and physical boundaries.
Often these scandals are associated with privileged schools that resemble closed communities. The outside world beyond them can be perceived as a hostile environment, which is opposed by a “feature” and a higher position of the school, sometimes already resembling a sect.
Being a member of such a community is a value for the child and for his parents, teachers are perceived as indisputable authorities. Fathers and mothers are often blinded and deprived of critical perception by their own ambitious thoughts, and sometimes just the belief that it is here that will help reveal all the talents of a child, often not accepted in a “simple” school.
The charm of authority
This is the property of the human brain – when communicating with others, people often see not real characters, but projections of their perceptions and expectations. In this case, it can be a trap. Intellectual superiority and even the pedagogical glory of a teacher do not guarantee his moral purity and decency.
That is why, even in cases where criminals are exposed by providing evidence, many colleagues and parents are still not ready to believe in their guilt – because at the same time you will have to admit your own mistake, and the fact that the “ideal teacher” created by their imagination turned out to be in reality not at all perfect.
“… On the basis of family violence or prolonged sexual abuses by significant adults – unconditional trust in authority, even if authority causes harm. An authority that says that what is happening is normal and is a form of love. If you refuse – a significant adult will deprive his victim of love, patronage and security. And if you tell someone, then you can destroy everything and be guilty of this. A child cannot but believe an adult, ”writes a gestalt therapist Anastasia Gurneva.
Among the cases described in the media, stories are mentioned in which teachers deliberately eroded the boundaries of the child. This method of submission is used in religious sects, however, in the case of school abusers endowed with power, it also turns out to be sadly effective.
Even if a child knows that violating his physical boundaries is unacceptable, he is unlikely to push away a respected or beloved teacher who meets him with playful “hugs.” Over and over again, physical contact becomes the norm in a relationship, and its strengthening is no longer perceived by the child as a flagrant violation, it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to draw a line beyond which “it is impossible”.
Traveling without parents
A separate story – trips, especially trips to the countryside – on a hike or at sports camps – can also turn out to be “convenient” circumstances in which children are completely dominated by elders. Sometimes in such a situation they have no place to run to – and obeying someone who is called upon to take care of their safety may seem the least evil.
Adolescence is a difficult period for children and parents. The former survive “growth diseases”, including separation attempts, the latter, as a rule, are immersed in work and affairs that do not leave enough time and attention to maintain a full – and sometimes very difficult – contact.
But even at this age, the child, even if he is almost two meters tall, remains in many respects a child. And a teacher or a sports coach can take the place of a significant adult. If this person is prone to abuse, new opportunities are opened for him to manipulate those who trust him.
If a child is drawn into an abusive relationship, his psyche reacts to this one way or another. It may show signs of depression or, conversely, excessive arousal.
It is difficult for a layperson to separate this from teenage mood swings, and parental employment causes the jumps in the behavior of children to be attributed to any other reasons, or they simply do not pay attention to them.
And again, healthy contact with the child, observation, and, if necessary, careful advice from a specialist will help parents understand what is happening.
How to protect a child?
Recommendations of the gestalt therapist Anastasia Gurneva:
1. Tell your child about boundaries, respect them for yourself. Respect the “no” child, teach not to allow touching the intimate parts of the body.
2. Create a relationship of trust with the childso that he knows that he may come to you for help in a difficult or awkward situation.
3. Take your word for the child. Unless, of course, we are talking about a psychopath who is alien to the experience of shame, empathy. A story about an abyuza situation is associated with feelings of humiliation (after all, the teacher is higher in status), shame (because there was an invasion of the intimate space), fear (the weight of the child’s word and the teacher’s words are not equal, and opening your mouth can be unsafe).
Most likely, the child will not come up with stories out of the blue about how and where the teacher touched him. It might be possible to tell about the deuce put for no reason, about injustice or partiality in the assessments, but about sexual abuse – it is unlikely.
4. Give importance to the story, do not brush it off. To ask, to be on the side of the child in any case. It may be that embraces and friendships between students and teachers are accepted at this school, but if your child tells you about sexual abuses, it’s not good there, maybe you should talk with other parents, figure it out, go to a psychologist or at least think about translating to another school?
5. Be attentive to living conditions on trips and trips without parents.
6. Do not be charmed by the authority of teachers, do not lose your sanity in the presence of someone else’s charisma and eloquence.
The situations and recommendations described in the article are generalized, and each story must be considered separately. Abuse is a complex topic, each case is difficult to prove. Unfortunately, this happened and is happening from time to time, and the responsibility of parents is to take care of the child in a timely manner.
The article does not aim to denigrate the respected profession of the teacher or to cause unhealthy suspicion among parents. Child protection and attention to him, as well as literacy in recognizing dangerous situations can help protect and support him when necessary.