Teachers Bullied by Students: Forms of Bullying and Perpetrator Characteristics
Kauppi, Teemu, Pörhölä, Maili, Violence and Victims
The focus of this study is on the forms in which the bullying of school teachers by students manifests itself, the characteristics of the students who engage in the bullying, and the manner in which the students who engage in bullying behave in their own peer relationships. The data was gathered from primary and lower secondary school teachers by means of an Internet survey. The answers of 70 teachers who had experienced bullying by their students are examined.
The teachers had been exposed to different forms of bullying by students. They had typically been bullied by male students. In most cases, the bullying had been perpetrated by an individual student or a small group of students. According to the teachers' assessment, the majority of the students who bullied them also bullied their fellow students.
Keywords: bullying; harassment; students; teachers; violence against teachers
A school is an institution where teachers and students work in cooperation to reach the educational objectives set for the students. The most important professional duties of a teacher include not only seeing to it that these educational objectives are met but also assessing the students' performance, maintaining order, and taking care of the well-being of the students. In addition to the well-being of students, the well-being of teachers has a central role in any school community. It can be assumed that teachers who feel comfortable in their position and are content with their working conditions have a better chance to succeed in supporting the work of their students. Correspondingly, teachers who are not comfortable in their work or lack a feeling of well-being may not be able to perform to their own satisfaction in the demanding position. The experience of being subjected to bullying at work forms a major threat to a teachers' well-being.
It has been discovered that for teachers, the four main sources of bullying are students (e.g., De Wet, 2010a; James et al., 2008; Terry, 1998), colleagues (e.g., Cemaloglu, 2007; Van Dick & Wagner, 2001), superiors (e.g., Blase & Blase, 2003; De Wet, 2010b; Van Dick & Wagner, 2001), and the parents of students (e.g., Benefield, 2004; Fisher & Kettl, 2003). One of the special features of teacher's work is that teachers can be subjected to bullying by people whose status within the institution is lower than theirs-that is, by students. This type of bullying relationship is quite special in nature.
Researchers have used various terms to describe mental and physical violence directed at teachers by their students. For example, terms such as bullying (De Wet, 2010a; James et al., 2008; Terry, 1998), harassment (Kauppi & Pörhölä, 2009), victimization (e.g., Dworkin, Haney, & Telschow, 1988), and violence against teachers (Chen & Astor, 2009; Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; Khoury-Kassabri, Astor, & Benbenishty, 2009) have been applied to cover this type of violence. In this article, we use the term bullying as an umbrella term to describe both mental and physical violence directed at teachers by their students.
The experience of being subjected to bullying at work is known to have a considerably detrimental effect on victims' health and well-being (Björkqvist, Österman, & Hjelt-Bäck, 1994; Hoel, Faragher, & Cooper, 2004; Leymann & Gustafsson, 1996; Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2004). It has been further discovered that bullying and violence have negative effects on the quality of teachers' work performance (De Wet, 2010a; Fisher & Kettl, 2003).
Earlier studies (e.g., Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; James et al., 2008; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2009; Terry, 1998) have already provided some information on the prevalence of victimization of school teachers by students and on the most typical forms in which such victimization manifests itself. Both students' (e.g., Chen & Astor, 2009; James et al., 2008; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2009) and teachers' (e.g., De Wet, 2010a; Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; Terry, 1998) reports have been examined. However, little is known about the special characteristics of this type of bullying (see De Wet, 2010a; Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; Kauppi & Pörhölä, 2009). In this article, we describe and analyze the forms of direct and indirect bullying employed on teachers by students and look at what types of students engage in bullying teachers.
DEFINITION OF BULLYING
Most studies of school and workplace bullying define bullying with the help of the following three criteria: (a) bullying is when someone directs aggressive behavior towards another party or intentionally hurts and harms another party, (b) bullying manifests repeatedly over a lengthy period of time, and (c) there exists such an imbalance of power between the party perpetrating the bullying and the party being subjected to bullying that the latter cannot defend himself or herself (see Pörhölä, Karhunen, & Rainivaara, 2006, for a concept analysis).
The bullying of teachers by students differs significantly in nature from school and workplace bullying taking place at peer level. When a student bullies his or her teacher, there exists a situation where a party holding an inferior status position within the institution bullies a party holding a superior status position. This can be considered to constitute so-called "cross-peer abuse" (Terry, 1998). The teacher experiencing bullying has, at least to begin with, power over the student on the grounds of his or her position as a teacher (e.g., Chan, 2009). In Finland, for example, a teacher is entitled to levy punishment on students for behavior that breaks school rules or norms by giving them detention or removing them from the classroom for the remainder of the class period (Basic Education Act 2003/477, 7:36§, 36a§, 36b§). At the same time, a teacher has the responsibility for the assessment of the students' learning results and processes. Consequently, the criterion concerning the imbalance of the power relationship cannot be applied in the definition of the bullying of teachers by students in the same manner as it is applied in the definition of bullying taking place at peer level.
However, research literature presents only a few definitions for the bullying of teachers by students. For example, according to a definition by Terry (1998, p. 261),
[b]ullying occurs in situations where the victim cannot easily escape. It occurs when an uneven balance of power is exploited and abused by an individual or individuals who in that particular circumstance have advantage. Bullying is characterized by persistent, repetitive acts of physical or psychological aggression.
This definition takes into account the imbalance of the power relationship between the parties in a certain situation. Hence, despite teacher's position as an institutional authority at school, in a particular circumstance, students could achieve enough power over the teacher to enable bullying. In their definition of workplace bullying, Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, and Cooper (2003) emphasize that, in bullying processes, power can be reversed over the course of bullying or as a consequence of it, so that the victim ends up in an inferior position and has difficulties in defending himself or herself. In the definition by Terry (1998), this development is seen possible also in the relationships between teachers and students.
Further, as characterized by Twemlow, Fonagy, Sacco, and Brethour (2006, p. 191), a bullying student is "a student who tends to control the classroom with disruptive behavior that implies contempt for the teacher and who uses coercive tactics to deskill the teacher." Correspondingly, Dzuka and Dalbert (2007, p. 253) defined violence against teachers by students as "aggressive behavior intended to harm the teacher, which students perpetrate repeatedly and intentionally over a certain amount of time." With the exception of the imbalance of the power relationship, this definition incorporates the general criteria of bullying presented earlier (see Pörhölä et al., 2006). Like most definitions of school bullying, the one given by Dzuka and Dalbert is clearly perpetrator-oriented. Bullying is defined through the actions of the bully. In the literature on workplace bullying, definitions are not perpetraror-oriented to the same extent; common criteria for bullying include the victim's experience of being bullied and perceived damage caused to the victim by the bullying (see Pörhölä et al., 2006; Rayner & Keashly, 2005).
As far as definitions of bullying are concerned, the criterion that differentiates bullying from, for example, aggression or conflict-both of which can occur as single incidents-is the recurrence of communication that causes harm to the other party (Keashly & Nowell, 2003). However, it would be shortsighted to categorically define the bullying of teachers by students as a recurring series of events from the side of the particular bully or bullies. It is possible, for example, that recurrent acts of threatening, physical violence, insulting verbal comments, or publication of defamatory writings on the Internet, even if perpetrated on a single-time basis by various individual students, can be perceived by a teacher as bullying. Further, as Smith (2012) noted, when bullying occurs in technologically mediated forms, the use of repetition as a criterion for bullying is rather problematic. The act of cyberbullying may repeat itself without the contribution of the bully. For example, if insulting content is uploaded onto a web page, every hit on that page could count as repetition (Smith, 2012). In such a situation, a teacher's experience is that he or she is the target of recurrent bullying.
Another aspect that has often been included in definitions of bullying is the intentionality of the communication that causes harm to the other party. When the focus is on the examination of the experience of the bullied person, however, the intentionality of the bully's actions is not considered to be a defining factor in the bullying experience. Rayner, Hoel, and Cooper (2002), for example, recommend that no definition of bullying should rest on the aspect of intentionality. According to them, the experience of the victim of the bullying should not be invalidated on the grounds that the party perceived as the bully has not acted or states that he or she has not acted with the intent to harm the other party. The party at whom the communication is directed may feel bullied irrespective of the intentions of the offending party. In such a case, an approach focusing on the experiencer should be adopted, and the phenomenon should be examined as a bullying experience.
Because, in this study, we look at bullying through the experiences of teachers, our definition of bullying does not consider whether or not the perpetrator(s) intentionally engage(s) in bullying. For the purposes of this study, we define the bullying of teachers by students as a communication process in which "a teacher is repeatedly subjected, by one or more students, to interaction that he or she perceives as insulting, upsetting, or intimidating. Bullying can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical in nature."
THE FORMS OF BULLYING EXPERIENCED BY TEACHERS
The bullying of teachers by students usually manifests as insulting, hostile, and unethical verbal and nonverbal communication,for example, by means of name-calling, use of inappropriate language, use of insulting gestures, refusal to cooperate, intimidating or upsetting behavior, sexual harassment, physical violence, and destroying teachers' property (Chen & Astor, 2009; De Wet, 2010a; Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; James et al., 2008; Kivivuori & Tuominen, 1999; Lahelma, Palmu, & Gordon, 2000; Terry, 1998). Hostile and unethical communication is, in fact, considered to form one central element of mental violence occurring both in the context of school and working life (Leymann, 1996; Pörhölä et al., 2006).
Teachers feel that they are also subjected to indirect forms of bullying by their students. This is true even though the indirect forms of bullying used by students in bullying their peers, such as the social isolation of the victim from his or her peer community, are largely inapplicable in the case of their teachers (see Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007). Further, according to Marian (2008), students reported having bullied their teachers by circulating insulting jokes and disrepectful public discussion of the private matters of teachers. In the study by James and colleagues (2008), some students reported having bullied their teachers by spreading rumors about them. In addition, the "sabotage" of teaching situations is a form of bullying quite often encountered by school teachers (De Wet, 2010a; James et al., 2008). Harassment by means of communication technology has also been mentioned as a form of bullying experienced by teachers (see Kauppi & Pörhölä, 2009).
The studies concerning the bullying of teachers by students do not, however, present a similar spectrum of various forms of direct and indirect bullying as the studies focusing at bullying occurring between students (e.g., Pörhölä & Kinney, 2010; Rivers & Smith, 1994; Whitney & Smith, 1993). It is nevertheless probable that students bully their teachers in more versatile ways than what has been observed in earlier studies. In this study, we utilize a detailed measure focusing on the communicative features of bullying to survey the forms in which the bullying of teachers manifests itself.
PREVALENCE OF BULLYING AND CHARACTERISTICS OF STUDENTS WHO ENGAGE IN BULLYING BEHAVIOR
Studies conducted in different countries (e.g., Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; James et al., 2008; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2009; Terry, 1998) have shown that bullying directed at teachers by students is a significant concern for a large number of teachers at school. According to an extensive survey on the harassment and violence experienced by Finnish lower secondary school teachers by Salmi and Kivivuori (2009), 66% of the teachers surveyed had been subjected to insulting behavior by their students during their teaching career. Thirty percent had been subjected to harassment (for example, had had their property vandalized or their domestic privacy violated), 24% to the threat of violence, 11% to physical violence, and 8% to sexual harassment.
Previous knowledge concerning the gender of the students who typically engage in bullying teachers is rather limited. Some studies have suggested that male students engage in more bullying and violent acts against teachers than female students (Chen & Astor, 2009; James et al., 2008; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2009). In Finland, Kivivuori and Tuominen (1999) discovered that approximately three fourths of the students in primary and lower secondary schools who had subjected teachers to insulting communication were boys. Similarly, Rantala and Keskinen (2005) noted that 75% of lower secondary school teachers (not all of whom had personally experienced bullying) thought that it is particularly boys who act violently towards teachers. In addition, 79% of the respondents assessed that the students who had subjected teachers to harassment or violence had acted alone. Furthermore, Olweus (1993, 2003) noted that the students who act aggressively towards their fellow students often express aggression towards their teachers and parents as well. Olweus also assumed that these students would have a more positive than average attitude towards violent modes of behavior.
Previously, most of the studies on students who bully teachers have been based on single incidents of violence or harassment. These studies have provided little information on the characteristics of the students who repeatedly utilize means of direct and indirect communication to bully their teachers. The existing studies do not shed any more light on the type of communication relationship that the teachers who experience bullying have with their bullies (see Kauppi & Pörhölä, 2009). For example, it is not known whether teachers are subjected to repeated bullying by the students with whom they work most often or by the students they know least well. Very little is also known about how the students who bully teachers behave in their own peer relationships. It is not known whether the same students who bully teachers also bully their fellow students or whether they are themselves bullied by their fellow students.
The objective of this study is to examine the direct and indirect forms in which the bullying of teachers by students manifests itself, the characteristics (gender and number) of students who bully teachers, the relationship existing between teachers and the students who bully them, and how the students who bully teachers behave in their peer relationships.
In this article, we utilize the following three research questions to examine the experiences of 70 teachers who had been subjected to bullying by their students:
1. What types of bullying are teachers exposed to by students?
2. In the experience of teachers, what type (what gender, which number) of students subject them to bullying, and what type of a relationship do teachers have with the students who bully them?
3. According to teachers' perception, how do the students who bully teachers behave in their own peer relationships?
The study was conducted as an Internet survey using SPSS mrInterview software. The data were gathered from school teachers in various parts of Finland during the school year 2008-2009. The survey was sent to 86 schools, among which were primary schools (students aged 7-13 years), lower secondary schools (students aged 13-16 years), and integrated comprehensive schools (students aged 7-16 years). The size of the schools ranged from three-teacher village schools to large comprehensive schools in cities of over 100,000 inhabitants. These schools employed a total of around 2,000 teachers, all of whom were informed of the survey by the principals of the schools.
Before the questionnaire was sent out, school principals were asked to inform all the teachers in their school about the survey. In some cases, contact was first made with the director of education and cultural services of the city or municipality who then asked the principals to send the survey either to those schools that had agreed to participate in advance or to all schools in that city or municipality. The teachers were sent, by e-mail, a cover letter that included a link to the questionnaire. The letter also included information about the study and matters of confidentiality relating to the handling of the material. The teachers were asked to respond to the questionnaire within 3 weeks. Other instructions for the filling in of the questionnaire were provided in the web form.
As the respondents were adults voluntarily participating in the study and the data was collected anonymously, according to the Finnish standards, approval of the study protocol by an ethics committee was not required. Instead, after the principal of each school had given his or her approval for the data collection in that particular school, voluntarily participating teachers gave their informed consent by responding to the questionnaire.
A total of 215 comprehensive school teachers responded to the survey. Of those respondents who identified their gender, 147 (76.2%) were female and 46 (23.8%) were male. Twenty-two of the respondents did not identify their gender. The gender distribution of the respondents corresponded well with the gender distribution of the teachers working in Finnish primary and lower secondary schools (with students aged 7-16 years). In Finland, approximately 74% of teachers at these school levels are female (Ojala, 2009).
Fifty-five (25.6%) of the respondents reported occasionally having been subjected to bullying (as defined in the questionnaire form) by students, whereas seven teachers (3.3%) reported a bullying frequency of almost every week, and eight teachers (3.7%) reported having been bullied by students almost daily. One hundred and forty-five respondents (67.4%) reported hardly ever having been subjected to bullying by students.
In this article, we look at teachers' subjective experiences of being subjected to bullying. Therefore, the analysis of the material focuses on the respondents who had experienced bullying occasionally or more often (n 5 70). We will, hereafter, refer to them as either "respondents" or "teachers," even though their number includes a few principals as well. The following description of the group of respondents is limited to these teachers only.
Of those teachers who identified their gender, 52 (83.9%) were female and 10 (16.1%) were male. Eight of the respondents did not identify their gender. Eleven (15.7%) of the teachers were 20-30 years old, 19 (27.1%) were 31-40 years old, 29 (41.4%) were 41-50 years old, and 11 (15.7%) were 51-60 years old. Fourteen (20.0%) of the respondents had worked as a teacher for 0-3 years, 20 (28.6%) for 4-10 years, 19 (27.1%) for 11-20 years, and 17 (24.3%) for more than 20 years. Among the teachers were 38 subject teachers (54.3%), 14 class teachers (20.0%), 11 special needs teachers (15.7%), 3 special class teachers (4.3%), 2 principals (2.9%), 1 part-time teacher (1.4%) and 1 teacher who reported a professional title of "class teacher and subject teacher" (1.4%). In Finnish primary and lower secondary schools, class teachers mainly work with students aged between 7 and 13 years, whereas subject teachers mainly work with students aged between 13 and 16 years.
Questionnaire and Analysis of Data
For the purpose of the study, a questionnaire was developed that was used to assess teachers' experiences of being subjected to bullying by students. We chose to use the term kiusaaminen (i.e., the Finnish equivalent to "bullying") in the questionnaire because of its established use in Finnish studies concerning school and workplace bullying.
The questionnaire consisted of several components. The bullying of teachers was defined as a communication process in which a teacher is repeatedly subjected, by one or more students, to interaction that he or she perceives as insulting, upsetting, or intimidating. Bullying can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical in nature. The teachers who reported having experienced bullying (as defined previously) either occasionally, almost every week, or almost daily were asked to answer to all questions in the questionnaire. The teachers who had not experienced bullying were asked to answer to five specific questions found in the questionnaire. Those questions are not discussed in this article. The following discussion of the questionnaire will only involve the components reported in this article.
Teacher as a Victim of Bullying Scale. The survey of the manifestations of bullying experienced by teachers used a measure called "Teacher as a Victim of Bullying," which was designed for this study. In this scale, the respondents who reported having experienced bullying were asked to think about a period of time during which they had been most intensely bullied by students and to describe the types of bullying they had been subjected to. To facilitate this, they were provided with a list covering 22 different forms of bullying (see Table 1). The measure was developed based on the existing knowledge of the forms in which the bullying of teachers manifests itself (see Kauppi & Pörhölä, 2009, for a review of literature). Where applicable, items of Pörhölä's (2008) victimization scale designed to facilitate the surveying of bullying between students was also used in the development of the measure. Because previous studies on the bullying of teachers by students are scarce, additional components designed on the basis of studies on school and workplace bullying, as well as the rational reasoning of the researchers, were used in the development of the measure.
The measure required the respondents to indicate the intensity of their experience of every form of bullying listed. The answer alternatives were hardly ever, occasionally, almost every week, and almost daily. The measure also featured an additional question that enabled the respondents to describe any forms of bullying not included in the list. When reporting the results, we examine the answers one component at a time, presenting frequencies and percentual frequencies.
The reliability of the Teacher as a Victim of Bullying Scale was rather high (Cronbach's alpha 5 .873; 22 items). Item-total correlations between the individual items and the scale varied from .12 to .66. Removal of only one item (i.e., harassment through e-mail, telephone calls, or text messages) had improved the reliability estimate a little. The theoretical components of the scale consisted of five categories of variables representing different types of bullying. These categories and the featured variables are described in the following section.
A. Direct verbal bullying; 6 items (a 5 .738)
1. Denouncing or name-calling
2. Obscene or inappropriate comments
3. Making fun of, or laughing at the teacher (openly or behind his or her back)
4. Upsetting, sexually tinged remarks, or propositions
5. Unjust disparagement of the teacher's professional skills
B. Direct nonverbal bullying; 3 items (a 5 .380)
7. Insulting gestures
8. Mimicking the teacher's characteristic features (e.g., speech or walking style)
9. Violation of personal space or improper touching
C. Physical bullying; 3 items (a 5 .721)
10. Physical violence
11. Violation of physical integrity committed with the intent of bullying (e.g., throwing of objects, pinching, or soiling of the teacher's clothes)
12. Damaging or stealing of property
D. Indirect private bullying; 6 items (a 5 .682)
13. Repeated lying to the teacher
14. Refusal to cooperate (e.g., repeated refusal to comply with the teacher's instructions)
15. Repeated disregard of the teacher's presence (e.g., not responding to questions or requests)
16. Hiding from the teacher or repeatedly coming late to class
17. Harassment through e-mail, telephone calls, or text messages
18. Improper insinuation about the teacher's private matters (e.g., matters relating to the teacher's health or family)
E. Indirect public bullying; 4 items (a 5 .702)
19. Making unfounded reports or complaints against the teacher
20. Spreading unfounded gossip
21. Bullying over the Internet (e.g., posting of abusive writings or images)
22. Subjecting the teacher to inappropriate attention in public places (e.g., through sassing, name-calling, wall writings)
The specification of different forms of bullying is based on the division between direct and indirect bullying generally made in research literature concerning school and workplace bullying. Direct bullying refers to the hurting of the victim through physical or verbal means, whereas in the case of indirect bullying, the victim is hurt in a less direct manner- for example, by presenting criticism behind his or her back or by spreading hurtful gossip and unfounded stories about him or her (e.g., Keashly & Jagatic, 2003; Rayner et al., 2002; Rivers & Smith, 1994; Whitney & Smith, 1993).
We further divided the direct forms of bullying (variable categories A and B) into verbal and nonverbal varieties. We also looked at both direct and indirect physical bullying (variable category C). Furthermore, we divided the indirect forms of bullying into public and private varieties on the basis of their external characteristics. By public indirect bullying (variable category E), we refer to communication that is intended to defame the teacher in the eyes of the school community or the wider public. Private indirect bullying (variable category D) differs from the public variety in that it does not involve actual verbal insults, insulting gesticulation, or attempts to defame the teacher; however, the students still communicate or act in ways that are perceived as insulting by the teacher. For the most part, the experience of being insulted originates from the teacher's interpretation of a student's behavior in a communication situation in which the student somehow breaks the communication norms or school rules. As far as we know, this model has not been employed in previous studies to categorize the different forms of bullying.
Teachers' experiences on being bullied by students were additionally assessed through one open-ended question. The respondents were asked to describe a typical situation where they had experienced being bullied by a student or students. Expressions describing the various forms of bullying were extracted from the answers and then assigned into categories utilizing a data-based classification method. The resulting categories were as follows: verbal insulting (e.g., sassing, name-calling, laughing at the teacher), breaking of communication norms (e.g., failure to greet the teacher, disregarding the teacher's presence, mimicking), lying, violation of the teacher's physical integrity, disparagement of the teacher's professional skills, resisting the teacher's orders (e.g., refusing to leave the class or to comply with regulations concerning the maintenance of order), repeatedly coming late to class, threatening, public abuse (e.g., posting writings on the Internet, writing things on walls), and not letting the teacher work in peace. When reporting the results, we examine these responses, especially insofar as they complement the responses provided for the Teacher as a Victim of Bullying Scale.
Assessment of the Characteristics of Students Who Engage in Bullying and of the Relationship Between Teachers and Those Students. The following two structured questions were used to probe the teachers' experiences of the students who bully them: "How many students typically take part in bullying you?" with the answer alternatives being "1", "2 to 5", "6 to 10" and "11 or more"; and "What gender are the students who bully you?", to which the respondents could also answer by selecting the option "Both girls and boys". The relationship between the teachers and the students who bully them was probed with the following question: "Are your bullies students whom you currently teach or have taught in the past?" The answer alternatives were as follows: (a) "students whom you currently teach," (b) "students whom you have taught in the past," and (c) "students whom you have never taught." The respondents were given an opportunity to select more than one alternative. In the following section, we analyze the responses to these questions through frequencies and percentual frequencies.
Teachers' Conception of How the Students Who Bully Them Behave in Their Own Peer Relationships. The teachers were also asked to assess how the students who bully them behave in their own peer relationships. The question asked the respondents to indicate what types of students had bullied them. The following answer alternatives were provided: (a) "students who also regularly bully other students of the school," (b) "students who also occasionally bully other students of the school," (c) "students who are regularly bullied at school," (d) "students who are occasionally bullied at school," (e) "students who are bullied at school and who also bully other students," (f) "students who do not bully other students and who are not bullied by others," and (g) "other type, which?" In the next section, we analyze the responses to these questions through frequencies and percentual frequencies.
Firstly, we listed the types of bullying that the teachers had been subjected to by the students. Table 1 presents the frequencies by response category. We also formed a combined category that displays, in order of frequency, the frequencies and percentual frequencies for respondents who had experienced each form of bullying at least occasionally.
As the last column of Table 1 reveals, the most common form of bullying encountered by the teachers was the utterance of obscene or inappropriate comments. The second and third most common forms of bullying were refusal to cooperate and repeated lying to the teacher, respectively. The table furthermore shows that the teachers reported having quite frequently been subjected to the following forms of bullying by students: making fun of or laughing at the teacher, denouncing and name-calling, insulting gesticulation, hiding from the teacher or coming late to class, unjust disparagement of the teacher's professional skills, and mimicking of the teacher's communication.
When the results are examined from the point of view of the types of bullying that teachers had experienced at least once a week, the most common forms of bullying were refusal to cooperate (once a week or more frequently, f 5 25; 36.2%) and hiding from the teacher or repeatedly coming late to class (once a week or more frequently, f 5 19; 27.5%). Hiding from the teacher and repeatedly coming late to class are examples of indirect communication that, if recurrent, may be interpreted as bullying by the teacher.
The results showed that all of the components of the scale described a form of bullying that the respondents had at least occasionally experienced at their work. The results also indicate that teachers are typically subjected to bullying during the school day. Technologically mediated bullying appeared to be relatively rare but nevertheless occurred.
The respondents were also given an opportunity to report any forms of bullying they had experienced that were not listed in the components of the scale. In these responses, the teachers most frequently described a situation where a student's parents had behaved inappropriately towards them. Forms of bullying mentioned in individual responses also included running away from the teacher (with the intent to irritate him or her) and engaging in disorderly behavior in class. A female teacher had experienced as bullying the wish, expressed by a student, that she would be replaced by a male teacher.
The respondents were also asked to describe, in their own words, a typical situation where they had experienced being bullied by students. A total of 61 teachers answered to the question. The majority of them described either a situation where a student or students had insulted them verbally or laughed at them (20 teachers) or a situation where they had not been allowed to work in peace in the classroom (20 teachers). The following response describes an example of the latter (citations are translated freely from Finnish into English by authors): "There are a few students who are intent on transforming the learning situation in the classroom into a chaotic, uncontrollable situation, where the focus would be on having fun and talking (hollering) to one's friends" (subject teacher, 20-30 years old).
The potential subtlety of bullying, and the difficulty of its interpretation is not only interesting but also quite illustrative of the forms of bullying experienced by teachers in their work. One of the respondents stated that the experience of being bullied can be almost impossible to explain: "Sometimes the bullying can be so subtle that I would be hard pressed to explain what the student actually does, but it still really gets my goat" (subject teacher, 20-30 years old). The forms of bullying described by other respondents were similar to those described in the components of the measure.
Secondly, we focused on determining the gender distribution of the students who had bullied teachers. As indicated in Table 2, the majority (63%) of the teachers reported that their bullies had been male students. Of the respondents, 31% reported having been bullied by both male and female students, and only 6% stated that they had been bullied exclusively by female students.
Thirdly, we examined the teachers' statements concerning the number of the students who took part in the bullying. As Table 3 indicates, this number was usually quite small. Of the teachers, 46% reported that they were typically bullied by only one student. Another 46% of the respondents stated that the number of students who took part in the bullying ranged between two and five. Only 9% of the respondents reported that more than five students had taken part in the bullying.
Fourthly, we examined the relationship between the teachers and the students who bullied them. The results showed that the teachers had most frequently experienced bullying by students whom they were teaching at the time of their response. This answer alternative was selected by 66% of the teachers. Of the respondents, 36% stated that they had been bullied by students whom they had taught in the past. Notably, as many as 24% of the teachers reported having been subjected to bullying also or exclusively by students whom they had never taught. The respondents were given an opportunity to select more than one alternative.
Fifthly, the teachers were asked to assess how the students who had bullied them behave in their own peer relationships. The respondents were given an opportunity to select more than one alternative (see Table 4).
As Table 4 shows, a significant majority of the teachers assessed that the students who had bullied them also at least occasionally bullied their fellow students. Furthermore, one tenth of the respondents thought that the students who had bullied them were themselves subjected to bullying at school but also engaged in bullying their fellow students. Only a few teachers believed that they were typically bullied by students who neither bullied their fellow students nor were subjected to bullying themselves. The answers to the question "Other type, which?" indicated that the respondents believed that the students who had bullied them bullied other teachers of the school as well.
The focus of this study was to describe the special characteristics of the bullying of teachers by students. The teachers who responded to the survey had been subjected to both direct and indirect forms of verbal and nonverbal bullying by students in their work. Direct forms of bullying typically included obscene and inappropriate commentary, making fun of and laughing at the teacher, denouncing, name-calling, and insulting gesticulation. Typical indirect forms of bullying included refusal to cooperate with the teacher and not allowing the teacher to work in peace during teaching situations. These forms of bullying have also been reported in earlier studies (e.g., De Wet, 2010a; Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007; James et al., 2008; Kivivuori & Tuominen, 1999; Terry, 1998).
The respondents' bullying experiences additionally covered a wide array of various forms of insulting behavior not identified in earlier studies (cf. De Wet, 2010a; James et al., 2008; Kauppi & Pörhölä, 2009; Terry, 1998). These include repeated lying, mimicking the teacher's speech or walking style, and repeatedly coming late to class and hiding from the teacher. This type of communication represents a type of violation of communication norms one would not necessarily expect to encounter in the role of a teacher. Disturbing class, repeatedly coming late to class, and hiding from the teacher are forms of bullying that can be used to prevent teachers from performing their duties to their own satisfaction and from fulfilling the requirements of their position. Although, lateness and absenteeism by students, for example, have been recognized to be a problem for teachers in surveys concerning students' disruptive behavior (e.g., Teachers' Union of Ireland [TUI], 2006), these kind of behaviors have not been examined as teachers' bullying experiences in previous research.
All in all, it would appear that the direct forms of bullying experienced by teachers are notably similar to the direct forms of bullying to which students subject their fellow students (e.g., Olweus, 1993; Pörhölä & Kinney, 2010; Rivers & Smith, 1994). However, the indirect forms of bullying experienced by teachers somewhat differ from the forms of indirect bullying to which students subject their fellow students (e.g., exclusion of a fellow student from group; see Olweus, 1993; Rivers & Smith, 1994). The indirect forms of bullying experienced by teachers and also some of the direct forms of bullying such as unjust disparagement of teachers' professional skills rather contain typical characteristics of workplace bullying (see, e.g., Keashly & Jagatic, 2003; Pörhölä et al., 2006, for literature reviews), although the nature of teacher's work brings certain special characteristics to the bullying. It appears that teachers are also subjected to physical bullying as well as technologically mediated bullying, although these occur clearly less frequent than other forms of bullying.
The teachers who had experienced bullying stated that they had been mostly bullied by male students. This observation supports the findings from previous studies (e.g., James et al., 2008; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2009; Kivivuori & Tuominen, 1999; Rantala & Keskinen, 2005). Although research has already shown that when a student bullies fellow students, the bully is more likely to be male than female (e.g., Fekkes, Pijpers, & Verloove- Vanhorick, 2005; Luopa, Pietikäinen, & Jokela, 2008; Scheithauer, Hayer, Petermann, & Jugert, 2006); the role of boys appears to become more pronounced when the object of the bullying is a teacher. As Dzuka and Dalbert (2007) also noted, it is probable that indirect bullying, more typically employed by girls (see Pörhölä & Kinney, 2010), is more difficult to direct at a teacher. Further studies should then focus on examining whether the bullying of teachers by girls differs in nature from the bullying of teachers by boys.
The teachers had most frequently experienced bullying by just one student or a small group of students. Only a few had been bullied by a group of more than five students. This observation differs from those made on bullying occurring between students. Research has shown that when bullying occurs between students, a large number of students take part in the bullying in various roles (e.g., Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, Österman, & Kaukiainen, 1996). Although the bullying of teachers by students does not appear to contain the characteristics of a group phenomenon so evident as in the bullying of students by students, future studies should examine in more details, the number of bullies and the possible participation roles of students in bullying situations where the object of bullying is a teacher.
It was discovered that the teachers were most frequently subjected to bullying by students whom they were teaching at the time of their response. This result is easy to understand because teachers spend most of their working time with their own students. Considering this, it was interesting to observe that as many as one fourth of the respondents had experienced bullying by students whom they had never taught. Particularly in the case of large schools, it is probable that the teacher and the students who bully him or her do not always really know each other and, thus, do not always share an actual communication relationship. It can be asked, then, what purpose does it serve for the bullies to bully a teacher who is nearly unknown to them. It is clear that in such a case, bullying cannot be related to any problems existing in the communication relationship between the parties. It is possible that by bullying an unknown teacher, the bullies aim to gain more power and improve their status among other students. The teacher's role in this process is just that of a tool used to achieve this end.
A significant majority of the teachers assessed that the students who had bullied them also bullied their fellow students at school. This means that bullying was seen as a typical model of behavior for those students. Future studies should set out to examine whether some students are more inclined to bully both their fellow students and teachers and whether the motivation behind the bullying remains unchanged for such students regardless of the position of the individual they choose to bully. It should also be examined whether the means, which such students employ in bullying others, vary according to the object. This type of understanding would shed light into whether the selection of the forms of bullying actually employed is more dependent on the characteristics and communicative traits of the bully or on those of the victim. A good understanding of the special characteristics of the phenomenon of bullying of teachers by students is particularly needed in teacher training.
The selection of schools for this study was not based on systematic sampling. Instead, the request to participate and the questionnaire were sent to teachers working in a number of preselected schools that had expressed their willingness to participate in the study. It is probable that the study elicited most responses from teachers who had experienced bullying by students. This may have been one of the reasons for the low response percentage. Be that as it may, no conclusions about the prevalence of bullying of teachers by students can be drawn based on the material nor was the goal of this study. The main goal of the study was to explore the nature of bullying experienced by teachers and the characteristics of the students who bullied them. Even though we did not use systematic sampling to collect a representative sample of teachers working in Finnish schools, we believe that responses of the 70 teachers who indicated that they had been bullied by their students enabled reaching these goals.
Despite the fact that this was not a random sample, the gender distribution of the 215 respondents corresponded well with the gender distribution of the teachers working in Finnish primary and lower secondary schools (see Ojala, 2009). Similarly, the age distribution of the respondents corresponded quite well with the age distribution of Finnish teachers: 35.3% of teachers working in Finnish primary and lower secondary schools are aged younger than 40 years; in the data at hand, the proportion of teachers aged between 20 and 40 years was 39.3%. Our material was slightly biased towards respondents aged between 41 and 50 years; their proportion in our material was approximately 10 percentage points larger than the proportion of that age group among primary and lower secondary school teachers. Correspondingly, the proportion of respondents aged older than 50 years in our material was slightly over 10 percentage points smaller than the proportion of that age group among teachers working in Finnish primary and lower secondary schools. Schools of different sizes and located in cities as well as the countryside were represented in the study. However, because of the low response percentage, the results cannot be generalized to all teachers in Finland. In future studies, using representative cultural or cross-cultural samples, more attention could be paid to individual and school-level variability in teachers' experiences of bullying.
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Teemu Kauppi, MA
Maili Pörhölä, PhD
University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Acknowledgments. The article is based on the doctoral dissertation of the first author Teemu Kauppi, directed by the second author Maili Pörhölä. Preparation of this article was supported by Finnish Cultural Foundation and Finnish Work Environment Fund (Grant No. 107341) in the case of the first author, the Academy of Finland (project no. 106221) in the case of the second author, and University of Jyväskylä, Finland, for both authors. The main results have previously been published in Finnish language in a periodical (Työelämän tutkimus, 2010, 8) with limited circulation in Finland.
Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to Teemu Kauppi, MA, or Maili Pörhölä, PhD, Department of Communication, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, P.O. Box 35, FI-40014. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com…