5 things you can do if you are being bullied by a teacher

School can be tough, and sometimes it’s hard to know how to cope or deal with certain situations that arise behind the school gates. If you are being bullied for example, it can often be hard to identify what steps you can take to combat the prejudice you are experiencing. This is especially true when the perpetrator is someone you are supposed to be able to rely on or trust, especially in a position of authority – like a teacher.

If you are being bullied by a teacher you may be unsure of who to turn to for support or what to do next; with this in mind we have compiled 5 tips to help you. Remember that Ditch the Label is always here for you and that you can access further support here.

If you would prefer the easier to read version please click here.

1. Tell someone you trust.

This is a great starting place.

When you’re going through a stressful or difficult situation, it can be hard to find perspective or see things with clarity. Bullying is something that affects the majority of people but worryingly, our research revealed that 45% of those who experience it, fail to report it through embarrassment, fear or a lack of faith in support systems. If you are experiencing bullying it is important you go through the appropriate reporting channels, even if you are being bullied by a teacher. Your first port of call should be confiding in someone you trust. This could be a friend, another teacher you trust, a parent/guardian/learning mentor or another trusted relative or family friend. You can always join Ditch the Label’s community for tailored advice too.

If somebody is exhibiting threatening behaviour, giving out personal information or giving you the impression that your safety might be at risk, contact the police or a responsible adult immediately.

2. Don’t suffer in silence.

Learning to ask for help is honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself and the younger you learn it the better! Even if you don’t want to report it, it is important you share with someone what you are going through – you shouldn’t go through something like this alone as it is extremely stressful, and can be emotionally draining to endure bullying. This stress can have an impact on all areas of your life, including your mental wellbeing, ability to communicate with others, performance in school, self-esteem and confidence. It is therefore incredibly important that you tell somebody you trust about what you are going through; it doesn’t even have to be an adult – it could be a friend or somebody at Ditch the Label. It is vital, during a traumatic time, that you have a support system and people who you can rely on when you are feeling low, or unable to cope.

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3. Keep a record of what is happening.

It’s important to keep a record of what is going on – the more detail the better! Write down dates, times, what happened/what was said. Did anyone else witness it? This evidence will be crucial if you decide to report it.

You usually start the reporting process by speaking to another teacher (some schools have a dedicated anti-bullying member of staff). If this doesn’t solve it then gradually escalate by reporting as follows: Senior teacher (this may be your Head of Year or Department) > Assistant/Deputy Head Teacher > Head Teacher. It is a good idea to read your school’s Anti-Bullying Policy (this is sometimes included in the Behaviour Policy) to ensure they are following the steps set out in this document. Most schools make this available on their website or you can ask the school office for a copy.

If the situation isn’t resolved, or you are unhappy with the outcome then the next steps are to raise the issue with the school governors (The Board of Governors) > Report the bullying to the Local Education Authority (LEA) > Make a formal complaint to OFSTED (Call 0300 123 1231 or email [email protected]) > Report to The Department for Education.

You can also contact Equality Advisory & Support Service (EASS) on Freephone: 0808 800 0082 or Text Phone: 0808 800 0084. They can advise on equality and human rights across England, Scotland and Wales. This includes discrimination based on unique characteristics such as (but not limited to): race, colour, nationality, religion, belief, disability, sexual identity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

4. Talk to us.

We are a leading global youth charity and we are always here for those who have been impacted by bullying. If you or anyone you know needs help or a push in the right direction, please do not hesitate to get help here.

5. Be brave.

It turns out courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s feeling the fear and still taking the action anyway! That’s why it’s so important we don’t wait until we feel brave enough to share something that is causing us pain. Be brave, seek the help you need. We promise you won’t regret it.

Remember we have a dedicated support community here with mentors that can help you – we’re here when you need us the most.

‘Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs’ – Pearl Strachan Hurd

Our actions define us, and in society, we tend to label people or categorise individuals based upon the behaviours they exhibit. For example, we describe people that play instruments as musicians, those that paint we call artists – and although these particular examples are seemingly harmless descriptors of interests, hobbies and careers – they allow insight into the potency and permanence of a label – after all, a musician is still considered a musician even when they are not actively playing their instrument.

In these instances we know that labels such as ‘musician’ and ‘artist’ are not a comprehensive representation of an individual’s entire personality – it is absurd to think that one word could adequately summarise the complexity of human nature. Yet, we very flippantly ascribe limiting and even damaging nouns and adjectives to people, including ourselves on a regular, if not daily basis. If you take a few moments to consider how often a label has actually positively impacted your self-esteem or confidence, you will find more often than not, they serve to be reductive and restrictive, promoting both conscious and unconscious prejudice.

“It is absurd to think that one word could adequately summarise the complexity of human nature”

 

Unlike a noun describing your profession – which is obviously subject to change depending on your employment – labels weighted with negative connotations such as ‘bully’ can be hard to shift. They dehumanise the person behind the word and can permanently tarnish a person’s reputation regardless of whether or not they are actively participating in aggressive behaviours. It implies that humans are incapable of change – an oxymoronic statement, because to be human means to be in a constant state of evolution. ‘Our actions define us’ but we should be aware that the definition is not indelibly inked.

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This is why at Ditch the Label we refuse to call people ‘bullies’ and ‘victims’; although such labels may seem an accurate reflection of their experience at this precise moment in time, by calling someone a ‘bully’ you are implying that is who they are at their very core, that they are inherently ‘bad’, rather than acknowledging the fact, that sometimes, good people do bad things. We are using Anti-Bullying Week this year to spread the message that it isn’t okay to label people as ‘bullies’ or ‘victims’ anymore, because it’s counterproductive.

Just as none of us are born with the ability to draw or sing a song; nor are we born with the ability to discriminate against someone because of the colour of their skin, their sexuality or any other unique factor. We believe bullying is a learnt behaviour, not an identity and although we can’t always identify the exact reason why somebody decides to act in this manner, we do know that those who bully others have issues that are not being addressed elsewhere.

“At Ditch the Label we refuse to call people ‘bullies’ and ‘victims'”

 

One of the first steps we take in helping those that want to stop bullying is to remind them that they are not a ‘bully’ and to stop thinking of themselves as such as it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of subscribing to villainous stereotypes and persecuting those that bully, we look to address why they are behaving in such a way. Often, we find they are responding aggressively to a stressful situation – for example, a bereavement of a family member or their parents’ divorce. It is also a good indicator as to how the person doing the bullying sees themselves; for instance, if somebody is constantly poking fun at how others look, it is more than likely they are doing so to deflect away from their own appearance-based insecurities. Likewise with sexuality; homophobia is usually a product of insecurity and a lack of education – unfortunately, instead of taking the time to understand or embrace difference, they act negatively towards the unknown.

We must start to encourage those that bully to seek the support they need. In order for them to feel comfortable enough to do that, we need to stop branding people or giving them the impression that they are undeserving of help.

Bullying is one of the biggest issues currently affecting teens and we believe that we can overcome it if we start to think differently about how we approach things. Ceasing to use disempowering labels such as ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ is a great place to start during Anti-Bullying Week 2016.

 

If you are being bullied, or are bullying others and want to stop, you can get help in our community

Una Foye, Research Officer for the Mental Health Foundation on the link between bullying and eating disorders

I’ll never forget the day in secondary school when someone told me my legs were ‘too skinny’ and looked like ‘something that would hang out of a birds nest’. It’s not uncommon to hear things like this as a teenager (and sometimes as an adult too). How we look, our weight, or clothes and image can be a target for comments – in fact, recent Ditch the Label research found that appearance was cited as the number one aggressor of bullying. Whether it’s just ‘banter’, teasing or a more aggressive form of bullying, who we are physically is frequently something that is used against us.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising to learn that bullying is highly linked to eating disorders. In 2012 B-eat (the leading eating disorder charity in the UK) found that 86% of people felt bullying had contributed to their eating disorder and 75% felt that the bullying they experienced still affects them. It’s important to point out that not everyone who has been bullied gets an eating disorder, and visa-versa, but this strong link between the two suggests that there’s something there.

We’ve all heard the phrase “stick and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” but that that simply isn’t true. The comments about how we look and who we are hurt us – not because they say you look too fat/ skinny/ tall/ short/ whatever it is; they hurt us because they imply we are are less important, are a bad person or are worthless. And that affects our self-esteem. Self-esteem isn’t about loving yourself, or thinking you are amazing, it’s about how you see your own worth. For eating disorders, low self-esteem is believed to be one of the major underlying factors.

While anyone would (naturally) get upset or feel hurt by such negative comments, someone with low self-esteem might take them more seriously. Because self-esteem is about how you see and value yourself, being told you are ‘wrong’ in any way by another person can reflect and confirm your own self-doubts. This is how it’s been described by many people to me; whether they have anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. It is often when someone else starts to point out your flaws that these self-loathing thoughts begin to grow, and this can impact your mental wellbeing and lead to things such as an eating disorder.

Think of it like a garden (bear with me on this one). Hurtful comments, bullying, negativity from others and all of those things that people say to you are the seeds to an eating disorder. Some people are like concrete and are resilient to the comments – you throw the seeds there but they don’t grow. Some people are like freshly watered soil and absorb – you throw the seeds and they are quickly sown. The same seeds create different outcomes. The bullying might not “cause” an eating disorder, but it provides the seeds for it, if there is fertile ground for those seeds to sow those negative thoughts.

When I was told how skinny my legs were, I didn’t get angry at the girl for saying it, I didn’t think about why she was saying it, I simply agreed that my legs were horrible and ensured for the next ten years of my life I covered them up. And that’s something I’ve heard over and over again from people with all types of eating disorders; ‘the people that bullied me aren’t wrong, they’ve just reminded me what a worthless person I am’. An eating disorder isn’t about extreme dieting as a result of someone saying you are fat, it’s about hearing those words and letting negative thoughts spiral towards self-hatred.

“What makes eating disorders difficult to overcome without professional help is the insidious way they progressively damage an already impaired self. They ultimately become a person’s identity rather than merely an illness the person experiences.” (Andersen, Cohn & Holbrook, 2000, p.185).

If there is one thing that I’ve learnt from my experiences, it is that we are often our own worst bullies. And you don’t have to have an eating disorder for that to be true. Just think about how you talk to yourself when getting ready in the morning. Have you ever looked at yourself and said “look at the state of you” or changed ten times because no matter what you wear it is never good enough? We talk to ourselves in negative voices every day. Would you ever talk to a friend or stranger in the voice you talk to yourself in? When is the last time you gave yourself a compliment, or allowed someone else to compliment you (rather than arguing they are wrong)?

How we talk to ourselves and how we values ourselves is one the major predictors of our mental wellbeing. I’m not saying we all have to love ourselves, just try and value yourself as a worthwhile human. And remember, that it’s okay to feel a bit rubbish about yourself sometimes – behind every superhero is an alter ego who doesn’t feel good enough. It’s about not letting that take over and become the norm.

Written by Una Foye (@unafoyeResearch Officer at the Mental Health Foundation

Louie Helyar on his trans journey so far…

My name is Louie, I am a 20-year-old trans man from Surrey.

This means I was born into a typical ‘female’ body, but on the inside I have always been male – I just had to transition to make my exterior a true reflection of my interior. I guess I first realised I might be trans when I saw ‘My Transsexual Summer’, a documentary about transgender people that aired on channel 4. I found myself incredibly jealous of Fox Fisher and realised that I wanted to be doing everything that he was doing.

I officially started transitioning on the day I came out; 31st March 2015 – which coincidentally is also Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide.

To be honest with you, I was absolutely terrified of coming out. To start with, I only told my best friend, and although he was extremely accepting of me, it took me about a year before I actually plucked up the courage to come out to everyone. I decided the best way to do it, was to come out on Facebook first – that way, I could tell everybody at once.

The response was no way near as bad as I expected – in fact, in the main, people were very positive and understanding. Of course, I have had my fair share of unaccepting and ignorant people but you have to take the rough with the smooth.

After I first came out, there was a period of time that followed where I felt really low and down about everything. Mainly due to the frustration of not being able to transition instantly. The waiting list on the NHS for transgender people is quite long, so I looked into other alternatives to speed the process up. I managed to save up some money to get the treatment privately. I started testosterone shots (hormone replacement therapy) on the 21st of December 2015 – a day that completely changed my life for the better. I then went on to have my first NHS GIC (Gender Identity Clinic) appointment on the 31st of March 2016.

Louie now!

I am now currently on a waiting list to be referred for surgery, which hopefully should be happening in about 8 month’s time.

Throughout my school life I was bullied a lot for being ‘different’, although I wasn’t even out as transgender at this point. I couldn’t pinpoint why I was different exactly, but I knew I was, and I guess others did too. It was a really tough time for me, but, things do get better and I could never have envisioned myself as happy as I am right now.

I am now making it my mission to help other transgender people; I hope that by sharing my story, there might be someone else out there who is going through something similar, that will find comfort and reassurance in reading this.

If I could go back in time and tell my younger self one thing, it would be to never put your happiness on hold because of someone else. It’s okay to be who you are, even if you don’t conform to what society (in the main) considers ‘normal’ – and if that means losing people along the way, then so be it, because they obviously weren’t meant to be there.

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

 

Written by Louie Helyar

 

If you would like to share your story with Ditch the Label, get in touch!

Meet the GRL PWR Gang, a collective of girls set for world domination.

We interviewed Artist/Designer Elizabeth Ilsley, Photographer/Director Millicent Hailes and Marketing Consultant Jessica Riches; just three members of GRL PWR Gang, a collective of influential women who have joined forces to promote female empowerment and support other women working in creative industries. 

Founded by Kirsti Hadley and Kylie Griffiths, the GRL PWR Gang works together to provide opportunities for like-minded women to come together for girl-chat, media networking, creative support, team projects and sharing of ideas.

Their objective is to encourage and inspire other young women to access the creative industries as a potential career path, and plan to pass on their collective knowledge to the next generation of young girls via digital engagement and live events. They will soon host talks and mentor young girls on body image, beauty, feminism, social media and how to access that dream job!

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DTL: Our research revealed that 35% of teenage girls believe that their gender will have a negative effect on their career. What are your thoughts on this, based on your experiences?

  • Jessica: It’s true. But if you’re prepared for that, you can be aware of it. Call it out when you see it, know your rights, educate yourself and join any organisations or unions available to you for extra support.
  • Millicent: It’s really sad. There have been shoots in the past where I have been mistaken for the assistant, and my male assistant is assumed to be the photographer, just because he’s an older guy. This has happened before we’ve even set up or spoken to anyone, so it really is based purely on gender, and who is perceived to be the most ‘capable’ or ‘powerful’. It frustrates me, but ignorance isn’t going to keep me from furthering my career.

DTL: Did you ever experience bullying? If so can you tell us what happened and how you dealt with it?

  • Elizabeth: Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I experienced bullying throughout primary and secondary school. I had ginger hair and have a prominent mole next to my mouth, so kids used to tease me constantly about my appearance. I was in such turmoil during that time; I tried to cut my mole off with a razor when I was in Year 8, after a group of boys wouldn’t stop calling me ‘moley’! But my god, I am so glad I never had it removed – having a noticeable mole on my face makes me unique, and it has become one of my favourite features now!
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Elizabeth Ilsley
  • Millicent: One of the many times I was suspended at school, was for not intervening in a situation when I was aware that a girl was being bullied. Maybe the teachers thought that, because I was outspoken and confident, I should have stepped in and helped the girl. My mum always tells that story to my little brother and sister who are just starting secondary school – the tale of when their older sister was a coward. I still feel really awful about it now.
  • Jessica: All you have to do is go online to see the disgusting abuse directed at people – particularly women, LGBT+ people and ethnic minorities. I work with a number of bloggers, journalists and celebrities on their personal profiles online, and it makes them want to give up their platform. All you can do is tell them to focus on the people who are positively impacted by their words; they far outweigh the cowardly, unhappy few.

DTL: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing bullying right now?

  • Millicent: Tell somebody right away – a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t isolate yourself, situations seem worse when you feel alone, there are people out there who are going through the same thing as you. More than you think.
  • Jessica: You are not alone. If you can’t get a support network in real life it will definitely exist online – Ditch the Label is a great example of this. You can visit their website and access support at the click of a button if you need to.

DTL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

  • Elizabeth: You are not ugly. You are as funny and important as everyone else at school. There is no one else like you and life will get really, really fun as soon as you turn 18. Also, stop worrying about the colour of your hair and the socks that you wear.
  • Millicent: Embrace who you are. Wear weird clothes, watch weird movies. You’re great and don’t give a s*&% if someone says otherwise.
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Millicent Hailes

DTL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?

  • Jessica: Being taken seriously as a young woman in business is hard. So many people have said to me ‘you’ve done so much for a girl so young’. They’d never say anything like that if I was a man.

DTL: What is it like to be a woman in 2016 and what needs to change?

  • Jessica: I have a very specific experience of being a woman in 2016, as a straight, white, cis-gendered woman with a degree and a middle-class background. I deal with sexist comments disguised as compliments, and have probably lost out on some income as a result of this – but I’m one of the lucky ones. There are lots of mainstream movements to make life better for women in 2016, but the majority of movements still need to broaden, listen to, and represent the needs of all women, not just those like me.
  • Millicent: Even in 2016 it’s important to remember how far we’ve come together, and how far we still have to go for gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Elizabeth: I want to keep this positive so, to be a woman in 2016 is…fun! Not in every aspect, of course, but in the main, it is incredibly fun! We are free to express ourselves, and there are opportunities out there for us – you just gotta find them.
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Jessica Riches

DTL: Is there anything you would like to add?

  • Millicent: I’m always available to speak to anybody that needs my help or advice. I might not be as good as Ditch The Label, but I’m still here!
  • Elizabeth: Enjoy being a woman – it’s a blessing, but don’t hate on men. Men are a blessing too!

Learn more about GRL PWR Gang here: Girls Girls Girls

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Read our full Gender Report here: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/gender-report-2016/

Whether you are being bullied, or you are aware of someone who is, Ditch the Label is here to help: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/get-help/