As a teacher, it is my job to protect my students. If one of them is being bullied, I am obligated by law to report the behavior. Sadly, the same rules don’t apply for adults. Workplace bullying has become a common occurrence, and the teaching profession is no exception. Teachers do bully other teachers. I know because I was the victim of teacher bullying.
It was not my first year teaching, but I was new to the school district. I was young and full of energy. I had a lot of new ideas that I thought would help to get the students excited about learning and coming to school. I went to my new principal with my ideas, and he was pleased with my enthusiasm and just as excited as I was. My principal gave me permission to work on my ideas, and at first, I thought the other teachers were all happy that I was willing to work hard. I soon discovered that I was wrong. One of my co-workers took an instant dislike to me, and I became the target of her bullying.
Teacher X- the name I will use for the teacher who bullied me- saw me as a threat to her popularity with the students, the parents, and the principal. As a result, she went out of her way to humiliate and embarrass me. She talked negatively about me to my students and their parents. Teacher X criticized my classroom management, my classroom rules, and my grading policies. She would go into my school mailbox and remove important memos and phone messages.
If I were walking with another teacher, Teacher X would make it a point to speak to the other teacher and totally ignore me. Because she was in a supervisory position, she was able to convince some of the other staff members not to associate with me. She even convinced members of my department not to let me use any departmental supplies. She conveniently lost my purchase orders forms and kept me from receiving materials for my classroom. Because Teacher X was in a supervisory position, she was also in charge of distributing our payroll checks on payday. She “accidentally” misplaced mine twice.
The other teachers at my job were aware of what was going on. They witnessed Teacher X’s behavior, but they refused to say or do anything in my defense. Whenever I tried to discuss the matter with one of them, I was encouraged to “just leave it alone”. As I said, she was in a supervisory position and my co-workers didn’t want Teacher X to turn on them. So, they kept quiet and allowed me to suffer alone.
Although I loved teaching job and my students, I begin to dread going to work. I developed headaches, experienced chest pain, insomnia, and my hair begin to fall out. Because I was under contract, I felt trapped in a nightmare. I tried to tell my principal what was going on, but because he had not witnessed the behavior himself, it was my word against hers.
I begin to document Teacher X’s behavior. I made it a point to write down dates, witnesses, and places. I was eventually forced to present this to the district’s superintendent and school board. Although the district superintendent attempted to make things better, Teacher X continued to harass me. She simply found less obvious ways to do it. Finally, I had had enough. Although I loved my job and my students, I left the school district.
After I left, Teacher X begin to harass other teachers. My co-workers, those who had kept quiet, were now the target of her bullying. It was not just about me. It was about her having control. Those who kept silent now wish that they had spoken up for me. Eventually, leadership positions changed, and Teacher X also left the school district. However, the damage had been done.
Workplace bullying is a serious problem. And, it is a part of every profession including the teaching profession. Bullying can emotionally damage a person and even destroy a person’s career. We cannot sit silent. When we witness bullying, we must speak up.