Remember when we had substitute teachers in school, and we changed seats or pretended we were someone else to get the substitute teacher all riled up? Well, here we are in 2022, and students have taken things just a tad bit further.

If you haven’t heard of teacher-baiting, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. The pandemic increased the amount of abuse and disrespect coming from society aimed at teachers, and our children were watching and listening.

The practice of teacher/cyber-baiting has now become relatively common in schools, and lives and careers have been ruined because of this cruel occurrence.

What is teacher/cyber-baiting?

According to Norton Online Family Report, teacher/cyber-baiting “is when students irritate or ‘bait’ a teacher until the teacher gets so frustrated they yell or have a breakdown. Students are ready for the teacher to crack and film the incident on cell phones so they can later post the footage online, causing further shame or trouble for the teacher or school.”

As mean as this sounds, teachers are often blamed for how they respond to the purposeful and provoking actions of the students. Middle schoolers and high schoolers, who have cell phones permanently glued to their palms, are most often the perpetrators.

Everyone wants to be TikTok famous.

With the popularity of TikTok and YouTube and the desire to go viral, students push the limits of what is acceptable in order to catch the teacher reprimanding the classroom. 

YouTube is filled with compilations that have millions of views of teachers losing their s@#$.

A student posted a video of a South Florida charter school teacher ranting about kids not turning in their work on TikTok and made the news. The news replayed it for viewers.

The teacher insinuated that students would end up stealing or become prostitutes if they did not work hard toward a career. Although the teacher could have used a better choice of words, students in the video were egging the teacher on for a better reaction.

What happens in the majority of these cases is we have no idea what kind of harassment occurred before a student pressed the record button. The teacher is often completely scandalized and often fired for situations that were completely pre-planned and orchestrated by students.

Political teacher-baiting is more common since the pandemic.

In recent years, teacher-baiting has become more about politics. These videos vilify teachers often because of some of the extreme examples sensationalized in the media.

According to the RAND survey, 1 in 4 teachers has been told to stay away from topics of political and social issues in class. Teachers often get no help in how to handle situations when students and their families bring up sensitive conversations. Thirty-seven percent of studied teachers reported experiencing harassment related to political topics and this contributed to teacher burnout.

So, when students blatantly try to ask questions of a sensitive nature to bait their teachers into answering, they are often caught off guard.

The vast majority of teachers choose their words carefully and stick to the standard curriculum because they fear their words could be twisted. This is actually very sad because important conversations and debates are now a thing of the past.

Are teachers protected?

Teacher-baiting is actually a form of bullying and harassment, but are teachers protected when they become the target?

Some states are “one-party consent states,” meaning that students can legally record without the permission of the teacher. Other states have two-party consent laws and require the permission of both the teacher and the student.

To put it succinctly, teachers are not protected from this practice. In fact, teachers are expected to tolerate behavior that completely impedes and distracts all others from learning. The resources are not there to help the students with their out-of-control behaviors, and it takes months of data to get a placement changed for severe behavior.

Can anything be done?

School leadership should limit cell phones or require that students keep them in their lockers. Entire districts are restricting the use of cell phones in the classroom for a myriad of very good reasons, and teacher baiting is one of them.

Having cameras in the classroom to catch the behavior occurring before the teacher reacts also could be a partial solution. Students might think twice about provoking a teacher if they knew they would be recorded.

But, the main goal of states should be to look at the largely ignored behavior crisis that is going on with our students and in our classrooms.

According to a survey done by Chalkboard Review, student behavior was the overwhelmingly first choice of why teachers had left the classroom, way above salary concerns. Where is the money to have more mental health resources and behavior therapists for our students?

Instead, teachers are held responsible for how their students behave and how they react to that behavior when no one is helping them.

Even the most professional teachers can be pushed to a breaking point. We are human.

Teacher baiting is the new trend, and we are not having it