I'm a secondary teacher and have noticed a few students mocking my accent (I teach in England and am from elsewhere) and imitating my mannerisms, both behind my back and under my nose. It infuriates me as I find it embarrassing, disrespectful and offensive. I am unsure how to deal with it. I don't want to provoke more mocking. I am only trying to do my best but these incidents are making me paranoid and hindering my relationships with students, which has a negative impact on my teaching.
What you said
I knew a teacher who suffered from this and she solved the problem by mentioning that the students were being racist. She was from France, and she pointed out that if she had been African or Indian this would be racist, and therefore it is also racist when directed at another white person who is from another country. For some reason, even badly-behaved students quiver at the thought of being seen as racist, probably because racist bullying is taken far more seriously than bullying for other reasons.
What are the mannerisms and gestures they are mimicking? Sometimes we do things in the classroom that we're unaware of, but which children pick up on. You need to embrace it as it is part of you, treat it as any other behaviour issue as they are showing a lack of respect, or try to minimise it if you can. If and when you have the respect of the class they won't mimic you. There's nothing wrong with being mildly eccentric and saying and doing things students don't hear and see from their parents. Hang on to your individuality but make sure you're the boss of your classroom.
The expert view
Whatever you do, don't ignore this. Once they realise that they are tacitly permitted to mock you in this way, they won't tire of it. Rather, they will be tempted to greater acts of intimidation. As with many misbehaviours, it's best nipped in the bud.
Confront these students, but try to do so in a one-to-one situation so they lack an audience. Tell them you are concerned they are mocking your accent. They will probably deny it. Fine. Say to them that's good, because you wouldn't want to think that a student was being rude (and possibly racist) to a teacher, because then you'd have to take action. Tell them not to "do the accent" in front of you so that you don't worry they are mocking you. If they continue, sanction them as you would for any other misbehaviour. After all, you've warned them.
Absolutely make sure that you report this so that line management have the opportunity to support you. If you don't confront this, the students will think that they can pick on you. For the sake of your authority in the room, step up.
Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his TES blog, or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. His latest book, Teacher, is out now
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