Being a teacher comes with many challenges.
So does being a student.
It is for this reason that one of a teacher’s main duties is to make sure that their classroom is a safe space, where students are protected and can learn in an encouraging environment.
For if a teacher makes a student feel unsafe, the chances of their learning will be severely limited.
Redditor FluffyDirection1582 felt that a recent substitute teacher made their classroom an unsafe environment for her best friend, and wasn’t afraid to say so to the teacher’s face.
But. when her parents scolded her for doing so, the original poster (OP) took to the subReddit “Am I The A**hole” (AITA), where they asked fellow Redditors:
“AITA for mocking a new teacher in front of the whole class?”
The OP first explained how her best friend saw herself become an easy target for bullying over the last year.
“I (16 F[emale]) have a childhood friend named Karen, and as you can imagine after the internet meme her life turned into a living hell.”
“It got worse recently because she normally do highlights in her hair, but because of a mistake when bleaching, she had to cut it short, so it’s almost an ‘internet Karen’ haircut.”
“She is VERY insecure about it and normally only introduce herself as ‘Ka’, unless the situation asks for her full name.”
“We are in the same class at school.”
But poor Karen would soon find herself the source of bullying at school once again, though from a rather surprising culprit.
“Today one of our teachers went on maternity leave and of course we had a substitute teacher.”
“She was kind of desperate to fit in with the class, but seemed okay enough.”
“She started to ask for the students names to familiarize herself with us and would occasionally do small comments like ‘you have the same name as my niece’ and stuff like that.”
“When she got to my friend, she looked at her name and haircut and said ‘are you going to ask for my manager, Karen?’.”
“The class giggled.”
But the OP found nothing funny about the joke, and felt the only solution was to give her substitute teacher a taste of her own medicine.
“Now, this is where high school politics come into play so please bear with us dumb teenagers.”
“If my friend just let it be, she would become unable to defend herself from our colleagues because ‘even the teacher makes jokes!’.”
“If she had confronted the teacher she would be a stuck up boring jerk.”
“If I had confronted the teacher in a serious manner I would become a wanna be goody two shoes.”
“And she is too shy to answer with another joke, but I am not, and I was fuming, so I decided to fight fire with fire and went on a long streak of jokes basically mocking the teacher for being old and trying to fit in with teens by using outdated internet memes.”
“The whole class was laughing very loud when I finished.”
“Well, the teacher got obviously mad and took me to the pedagogue, who sent an email to my parents detailing the situation.”
“My parents are not very chill, so I was punished, had a long argument and I’m now grounded for ‘not respecting the elders’.”
“My friend is feeling really guilty because she thinks it’s her fault I got in trouble.”
“I disagree, she didn’t force me to do anything.”
“I tried to help her and because of my approach she is feeling guilty, but I also feel like our school life would have been ruined if I didn’t do anything.”
The OP also clarified that the ongoing jokes Karen faced always hit her fairly hard, and also clarified that the substitute teacher’s behavior did not go unnoticed by the pedagogue.
“The bullying was heavy enough to put my friend in therapy.”
“That’s why I’m asking if I’m the AH for my approach, not if the teacher is innocent.”
“You won’t be able to convince me that mocking a student is right and she was not trying to be popular with the students by putting my friend under the bus, knowing it might be delicate.”
“I did describe the entire situation, the pedagogue even said that since the teacher had ‘started it’, they would only notify my parents and then they had a talk with me about controlling my emotions, not being impulsive and having the appropriate reaction.”
“My school is normally pretty cool with this kind of stuff, and they were very patient, waited for me to calm down before asking questions, I really appreciated their work here.”
“I don’t think it was wrong to simply tell the situation to my parents.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
The Reddit community was in agreement that the OP was not at all the a**hole for sticking up for her friend.
Everyone agreed that the substitute teacher’s behavior was beyond inappropriate, and that the OP was only following the example that she set for the class, though some felt she could have stood up for Karen in a more mature way.
“You called the teacher out on her bullsh*t.”
“She’s a teacher, she should not be mocking students.”
“Also, your description of school politics was very adept.”
“You seem very smart.”
“However, use that intelligence to find better ways of dealing with confrontations in the future.”
“There are ways to shut down people’s poor behavior in ways that don’t put you on the sh*t list.”-WannaBeADriver94
“If anyone mocks someone then that person should be prepare to be laughing stock too.”
“I’m glad you defended your friend, and tell your parents to find their common sense if they’re ok with adults making fun youngsters by making them feel bad, anyway it worth the punishment XD.”-Maleficent-Bday801
“Wow I can’t believe the teacher said that to your friend.”
“In my view for an adult to make a joke at a child’s expense especially in a setting like in front of their entire high school class is totally inappropriate.”
“I’m glad you stuck up for your friend but not surprised you got in trouble, but sometimes getting in trouble is worth it if it’s doing the right thing.”- True_Being_1775
“The teacher could have reasonably assumed your friend hears that joke all the time.”
“It’s not hard to imagine that anyone named Karen would hear that regularly.”
“It was a joke at the child’s expense, however innocuous she may have thought it was, which is a stupid thing to do to a child your first interaction with them.”
“You mention she didn’t know of your friend’s insecurities – exactly why she, as a teacher, shouldn’t make jokes at her expense.”
“Perhaps you overreacted.”
“But that doesn’t make you the AH as far as I’m concerned.”
“She’s the adult in the situation, she should have done better.”- Radley500
“NTA the teacher could’ve used common sense.”
“People named Karen might be bullied & hurting by all the assholes out there.”
“Honestly, I don’t know what you could’ve done to help your friend without going on the offense.”
“I say well done.”
“Sometimes we have to hurt others to protect those close to us.”
“Not ideal, but that’s life.”-1000sEastward
“The teacher was an adult, and she was openly mocking an underage student.”
“If she didn’t want to be mocked in return, she shouldn’t have started it.”
“So yeah, NTA.”- Chemical_Relation008
“Teachers who can’t offer respect to their students are not owed respect from their students.”
“Age and positions of authority are not an excuse to bully and harass people, they bring a responsibility to NOT do those things.”-WitchAllyAlly
“But your friend needs to learn to stick up for herself.”
“I completely understand your response, though, and I actually believe it was fitting.”
“As others have said, anyone who makes a joke at another’s expense needs to be willing to take the same, and that goes double for adults mocking children.”
“The substitute was way out of line.”
“That being said, your friend ought to have done more in this situation.”
“It is respectable to want to defend her, but even if she couldn’t have responded to the sub at the time, she should have filed a complaint against her with your pedagogue or administration, citing that she was being insulted by an authority figure and was not okay with being treated so rudely.”
“She could have even explained more of the story to said pedagogue when you were sent.”
“Neither your friend nor you should stress too much about the approval of your peers.”
“It is a difficult age and a confusing social hierarchy, but like I said above, your friend needs to learn her own ways of handling those circumstances.”
“Shyness will not get a person very far.”
“You are a good person, OP, and very much like I was at your age.”
“But you are not responsible for others’ happiness or security.”
“Don’t let your temper carry you too far.”-pyrrhic-adventure
Students who behave out of line in a classroom by all accounts should be disciplined.
But a teacher should always lead by example, and when a teacher makes fun of a student, it becomes easy for fellow students to justify doing the same.
Here’s hoping that this substitute teacher learned this lesson, and will think a little more carefully next time she’s put in charge of a classroom.