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 - 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 am 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 it by mentioning that the students were being racist. She was French and she pointed out that if she was African or Indian, this would be racist. Even badly behaved students quiver at the thought of being seen as racist, because racist bullying is taken far more seriously than other bullying.
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. Treat it as any other behaviour issue, or try to minimise it if you can. When you have the respect of the class they won't mimic you. 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, they won't tire of it. Rather, they will be tempted to greater acts of intimidation. Confront these students, but try to do so in a one-to-one situation so they lack an audience. Tell them you are concerned that they are mocking your accent.
They will probably deny it. Tell 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. If they continue, sanction them as you would for any other misbehaviour. After all, you've warned them.
Make sure that you report this so that line management has the opportunity to support you. For the sake of your authority in the room, step up.
Tom Bennett's latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.