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Counselor’s Corner: A Different Kind of Bullying — Intellectual Bullies

When we are asked to think of a typical bullying scenario, many of us will pull from our distant memories of those moments in the school hallway when mean-looking, over-grown, loud-mouthed elementary school boys shove weaker, smaller lads into the lockers and demand their milk money — or else! While episodes such as these exist and must be addressed, there also exists another form of belittling, intimidating, and humiliating behavior from one peer to another — a form that is less talked about yet still prevalent. That is intellectual bullying.

This insidious form of harassment is less recognizable than the better-known physical forms of bullying yet is still damaging. Students often place themselves into “intellectual hierarchies” determined by grades, rankings, and participation in Advanced Placement classes, special academic clubs, and organizations. Problems arise when those at the top of these hierarchies belittle those at the bottom. This type of intellectual harassment wreaks havoc on a student’s sense of self-worth, and these feelings of inadequacy can be carried around for a lifetime.

Intellectual bullies are indeed smarter and have higher IQs or excellent knowledge in particular fields of study. The problem lies with the sense of entitlement this type of bully assumes he possesses because of his intellect and, therefore, believes he has a genuine right to emotionally abuse peers who lack his cerebral prowess. The intellectual bully revels in making others feel inferior.

Teachers and parents can be lulled into false senses of security by thinking the adolescents who have good grades “have it all together” and need no further inspection into how they are managing their personal lives. Sometimes intellectually gifted individuals over-compensate for lingering childhood feelings of athletic and social inferiority. They use their intellectual talents as avenues to expose others shortcomings. What can happen, in turn, is that these individuals further socially isolate themselves from their peers. Over time, the intellectual bully may experience destruction in all of his or her personal and professional relationships. It is important to recognize if a student uses verbal attacks — it is a poor attempt to protect other sensitive parts of his or her psyche. Demeaning others, however, is not the way to self-actualization.

So what is the remedy? Helping that young person recognize that humility and empathy are powerful traits to possess is a good first step. Encouraging teenagers to look outward and do something for someone less fortunate without expecting anything in return is a great way to instill kindness in your student. As parents, we can praise our children for good deeds they bestowed on peers as easily as praising them for A’s on tests. Self-worth comes not only from dedication to their studies but also in how they behave as human beings.

This may be a tough life lesson for that student who appears to have it all together, but the introspection now will surely benefit that teen far into adulthood when creating life-long connections with others.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions at (714) 999-5055, ext. 1456.

Jill Thomas, LMFT
Fairmont Private Schools Counselor
Supporter of the Fairmont Code

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Shelby Wagner - 1st Grade Teacher Fairmont Historic AnaheimTop Teacher & Skating Champion
Shelby “My favorite part of being a teacher is the children I get to teach.”
  • Is one of the head teachers for the Fountain Valley Artistic Skating Club, teaching regional and national champions. She also teaches beginner classes every Saturday morning.
  • Every year, her students are amazed to find that their teacher has a life outside of the classroom.
“I love feeling like I’m part of a family [at Fairmont].”
Keira Kamath - 5th Grade Fairmont Anaheim HillsScience & Tennis Superstar
keira “I like how there are so many different specialty classes at Fairmont Anaheim Hills, like art, music, PE, science lab, computer lab, and Spanish.”
  • She would like to be a professional tennis player when she grows up, or maybe a doctor.
  • Loves dance and plays the piano
  • Her favorite class is science “because you get to figure out stuff, and I like to do experiments.”
Nicholas Aghaian - 7th Grade Fairmont Historic AnaheimKicking His Way to Med School
nicolas“The teachers and the amount of support they provide to not only me, but to the whole entire community here at Fairmont is probably what I like most about attending Fairmont Historic Anaheim.”
  • He would like to be a professional soccer player, or a doctor specializing in the field of sports medicine.
  • Enjoys basketball, piano, and soccer pitch.
  • His favorite subject is math “because I like to be challenged, and math is full of challenges.”
Gianluca De Gregoris – 2nd Grade Fairmont North TustinDancing Toward Greatness
dancing"What I like most about Fairmont is that I get to learn and meet new friends.”
  • He wants to be a professional dancer when he grows up.
  • Is trained in ballet and ballroom dancing.
  • Loves writing and creating new stories.
Nicole Heyman - Kindergarten Teacher Fairmont Anaheim HillsLaying a Foundation for Lifelong Learning
Nicole "The best part about teaching at Fairmont is being able to work with a diverse group of students who are all incredibly talented. It is amazing to be able to challenge students at such a young age and watch these children grow throughout the year.”
  • Loves camping, reading, and traveling
  • Her students love learning random things about her – like the fact that when she was in kindergarten she wanted to be Spiderman when she grew up.
  • Her proudest moments are the times when a student on campus is excited to see her, oftentimes telling her that she’s “the best teacher in the world.” “I live for those moments.”
“I choose to teach at Fairmont because of the sense of community, as well as the drive for our students to succeed.”
DJ Clovis - Music Teacher Fairmont North TustinRunning to the Rhythm
DJ Clovis “I get to work with amazing staff, faculty, parents, and most importantly, students!”
  • Teaches music to all grades — from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade
  • Coaches (or has coached) football, basketball, and Run Club
  • Plays bass trombone
  • NJHS Conflict Resolution Coach
  • He has run 15 marathons and 4 ultra marathons.
“The best part of teaching at Fairmont is the autonomy — being able to create a program that fits all of my students. At Fairmont North Tustin, I get to help with a lot of different activities.”