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Bullying by Co-Workers: When Teachers Bully Teachers

Photo by Peter Kaminski (flickr.com)

When we asked teachers what topics they wanted to see covered on The Teachers’ Lounge, we had an overwhelming number of responses asking us to address the issue of bullying. What surprised us the most was that it was not bullying by students that was mentioned most often, it was teachers being bullied by other teachers and the administration that was brought up time and again. The idea that teachers are the ones being bullied by their peers is just as disheartening as the fact that students are bullied by theirs.

Interestingly enough, the United Kingdom is far ahead of the United States in terms of recognizing and promoting anti-bullying efforts. In fact, there are teacher hot lines in England and Wales where teachers can call and receive crisis counseling for school related issues. UK based websites, like BullyingUK and BullyOnline, are also well known for promoting bullying awareness and providing resources for students and teachers. While there are numerous sites available for students who are being bullied, there are, unfortunately, very few that address the subject of bullying of teachers.

The National Association for Prevention of Teacher Abuse is one of the sites whose mission it is to bring awareness to the issue of teacher abuse by co-workers and the administration. Based in the United States, NAPTA was founded by a teacher who was bullied in the workplace and was eventually terminated. The site offers information about bullying and allows teachers to share their stories if desired.

What can you do if you are a victim of a workplace bully? Start by knowing that you are not at fault. Bullying is a power trip. It is a planned attack to to threaten and intimidate and no one, not students and not teachers, deserves to be bullied.

So, what are some steps that you can take to deal with bullies? Try the ones below, but remember, if you are ever physically threatened, call the police and human resources immediately. You do have options for dealing with the bully one on one, but a physical threat should never be taken lightly.

Photo by sskennel

1. Tell the bully to stop.

Be specific, be direct and be calm. Get support from a trusted friend or mentor when you are ready to confront the bully if you need it.

2. Document everything.

Keep a running record of the specifics of every bullying behavior. This step is extremely important especially if the bullying ever escalates, or if the bully is a supervisor. Human resources will need documentation in order to begin disciplinary procedures, so keep as detailed a record as possible. Every piece of paper, email and phone call that you receive from the bully should also be saved.

3. Tell.

Tell your supervisors and school administrators about the bullying and have them intervene. Showing proof of the bullying behavior through your documentation will be especially helpful at this point. If the administrator is the one doing the bullying, contact the school board or your teachers’ union for help and support.

4. Do not suffer in silence.

Remember that the bully wants you to feel inferior and to be isolated. Do not allow that to happen. Maintain friendships with co-workers, do not sequester yourself in your classroom and do not be afraid to ask for help. By suffering in silence you give the bully power and he or she wins.

Bullying has become an epidemic in schools, but it does not have to continue. Be brave enough to stand up to those who may be threatening you or making you feel uncomfortable. No one deserves to be bullied.

Have you seen bullying in your school?

How is bullying among teachers handled?

Leave a comment, anonymously if you prefer, and let us know!


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12 comments
Tina
Tina

I have been bullied by a teacher for the last three years. At the end of the school year, I told one of my students who heard her bullying me to report it because she was upset for me. Nothing happened, no one did anything. What are we teaching our students when teachers can't even get help from being bullied? How do our students have any chance at success when they see we don't get treated with respect from the people we work with?

Gwen
Gwen

Interesting observation -- There are a few comments about men here doing this, but it seems that it is overwhelmingly women doing this, "Mean Girls" as another poster called it, and how I refer to it. What a pity that women are so hard on each other and feel the need to gossip and belittle each other. Instead of a "the more, the merrier" attitude, teachers at my school prefer to be clique-ish and exclusionary. I have been a teacher for 14 years and love working with kids. Two years ago, I had what I thought was a chance of a lifetime, to move to an amazing new city/country and pursue a life long dream of living in Europe working for an international school. I dropped everything and left my support network, friends and family and a great (+fun!) bunch of teachers at my last school. What I've found is hard to explain.... but a few ladies here decided last year that they didn't like me, and its slowly spreading like a rash. I'll have a nice conversation with someone at lunch, and think , "maybe they can be a friend", and then a few weeks later see them and they wont even say hello. I am a really outgoing, social, friendly and fun person who loves to socialize. This is the first time in my life that I have ever had trouble making friends.... Luckily for me, I have found friends outside of the workplace, but it just makes it so damn hard to get up in the morning. Don't get me wrong -- most of the teachers say hello and are "hi, how are you" friendly in the hallways... but teaching can be very isolating - i'm in my room all day with the kids, and except for a quick bite at lunch, I don't really have the opportunity to interact much with other teachers. I'm just at a loss here, the advice online says confront the bulliies, but i think they would roll their eyes to their clique and pretend i'm crazy, and I think it would fuel the fire. Going to administration is daunting, because i was schooled iin NYC that you only go to the boss if there a kid dying! I have no running records, no emails, just subtle stuff like no one will sit next to me, or they'll stop talking when i walk in the room, or I'll get a head-to-toe disapproving look. I just hate that I hate going to school, but i'm not ready to give up on my dream of living in Europe quite yet.... IF i did go to the admin, what do i say and not sound like a big baby? "oooh, people are mean" sounds so whimpy!! Anyways, it was nice to find this page and anonymously vent. LIke the article said, i dont even post negative stuff on FB...

Jane
Jane

Thank you so much for this website. It is helping me not feel so alone and to know that sticking up for myself is okay. My experience with this has helped me to grow even if I feel so afraid sometimes.

Sped Teacher
Sped Teacher

I am weary of an administrator who does not like special education, and does not respect sped teachers. He makes me feel worthless and belittled. He barks orders at me to go watch a core teacher's classroom, even though I am in the middle of helping a student take a test in the hallway. He has so little regard for what I do or my role in the classroom as a co-teacher that it affects the way the core teachers view me as well. He has gone behind my back and talked to them about me, and then told me that they all complained to him that I was not doing my part or was unwilling to do my job, both of which are untrue. When he talks to me, he talks down to me and I cry nearly every time I have to encounter him. I have a Master's degree in Special Education, but he makes me feel incompetent and worthless as an educator.

Me
Me

I have been dealing with Workplace Bullying for years in Higher Education in Seattle. It is not only allowed, but the bullies are promoted. The ridicule and slander has left the workplace and I have to deal with bullying on the street as well by whoever my workplace bullies have friended on their MySpace or Facebook pages. I am dealing with Cyberbaiting inside and outside of the workplace, which in China they refer to as Human Flesh Hunting; in Korea it is called Cyber Violence and in the U.S. Mobbing, Cause Stalking, organised bullying. Because of the slander in my community, I am treated as if I am some sort of criminal by some on campus (Neo-conservative Christian for the most part). I have also been accused of immoral and unlawful things by these bullies. None of the accusations are true, but if you spread slander to the neighborhood that a person is a thief, pedophile, racist, etc. the community will react and they have.

Mandy
Mandy

I am considering leaving education after twenty years because I am always at the mercy of our school bully - another teacher. She looks for oportunities when other teachers are gathered in a group and then launches a verbal attack against me. She tells people I am an inferior teacher, students don't learn anything in my class, and she has gone to the principal and launched complaints against me several times this year. Of course, my colleagues come and tell me every time and everything she says and yet none of them will stand up for me (even though they say she is motivated by jealousy) because they do not want to be next victim. I know of three teachers who have transferred to another building, one who left teaching, and one who is still in my building who says this same bully teacher did the same thing to her when she was in my position. I have brought this to administrations attention and he tries to smooth talk me out of being upset every time. After a full year of this, I feel it is harrassment but realize no one is going to reach out to make it stop.

Andrew Williams
Andrew Williams

I have to agree with this posting. It's so important that we don't lose the meaning learned from this important article.

Carole
Carole

Last school year we had a serious bully problem on staff. One teacher was at the center of it and had others siding with her. It was so obvious to all of us who was "in" and who was "out." There were many attempts to influence the principal to get her on their side despite her continued efforts to remain neutral. Several people were hurt, especially those who are not youngsters. It is too bad when the younger staff cannot see this as a learning, sharing community and instead feel they should try to push more experienced teachers out the door. I for one, will be very careful who I talk to and what I say. I'm not going to withdraw; I'm an active participant in our staff. But, I will be very careful what I say and do around certain people on our staff. This is not a comfortable way to work. Hopefully it will be different this year.

Tammy
Tammy

Although most teachers and Teaching Assistants, with whom I have worked, are true professionals. I have seen and heard teachers and TA's bully others. Last year, I felt that bullying at my new school. Before I had a chance to introduce myself, my 'team leader' had invited my teammates to her house for dinner and fun. This group grew to include many of our young teachers (I think there are only 3 teachers over 30 at our school). I was excluded the entire year from these weekly social get-togethers (not one invitation). I realize that I am 15+ years older than my coworkers. But, at my previous schools, the ages of our team members were irrelevant to the fun we had as a team. My invitations to get to know my teammates during a quick lunch out on teacher workdays, etc. was always refused. I came to think of my teammates as clones from the movies'The Mean Girls' or 'The Heathers.' My teammates rule our PLC. Decisions are made by this PLC which affect my students and my teaching. Sometimes, I feel that their decisions are not wise. But, it is as if I am a ghost to these young teachers. They insist on doing what it is they planned during their 'evening get-togethers.'It's disheartening to feel so left out of the group. On the other hand, I know that with time, they will realize that they are fortunate to have me on their team (I think up all our creative projects,write newsletters, and always represent my team in a positive manner...except here...it's good to vent)!

Elaine
Elaine

I have been bullied for 14 years by a co-worker. She is a pro at it. She is not happy unless she is making trouble for someone that she feels is weaker, but she never does it in front of administration. Administrators just don't want to deal with her so, they let her have her way on nearly every thing she wants. She bribes the secretaries so that she ends up with the best students and parents in her class and makes sure that students that will pull test scores down do not end up in her class. Yet another reason I don't want to see merrit pay. Each new school year I dread going back because of her. I feel so battle weary. I just wish she would go away.

Lisa Conrad
Lisa Conrad

This discussion needs to be expanded to instructional paraprofessionals as well. The disrespect that is directed our way can certainly be described as bullying. The days of being copy girls/boys is over. All must be certified and continue that certification throughout their careers; most have degrees. Paraprofessionals should be a vaulued part of the teaching team. I have been fortunate to work with a great team of teachers most of the time. Unfortunately, I have also had to endure feeling like I was an indentured servant. The time for this type of behavior is over. Simple respect is a human right.

Brandi Jordan
Brandi Jordan

@Sped Teacher - To your students, the ones who matter most, you are the world. They will never forget your contribution to their education and success. (hugs to you!)