Bullying doesn’t just happen between children. Nor is it reserved for those who “don’t know better” or have not been through bullying awareness training. Frighteningly, bullying takes place in offices, job sites, and schools by adults who should “know better.”
When we asked our Facebook teachers to take a quick, anonymous survey on bullying in schools by other teachers and staff, the response was immediate and overwhelming. Stories of being belittled and bullied by co-workers, administrators, parents, and support staff were common. From false accusations to hateful words to belittling and degrading comments in front of parents and students, teachers are not immune to the behavior they rally behind to stop.
The Scars of Bullying
As with children, the scars from being bullied linger. Teachers who were victims of this behavior reported that the incidents were not ones they would forget. They reported feeling “bad,” “hurt,” “insulted,” “awful,” “reluctant to go to school.” As educators, we empathize with students and can understand how bullying behavior can cause long-lasting damage and insecurities. What we tend to forget is that those reactions and emotional scars are not limited by age.
Every person, regardless of age, feels the same anxiety, pain, and trauma from being bullied. From the teacher who is demeaned by her administrator in the break room to the support teacher who is verbally assaulted daily by her co-teacher in front of the children, bullying creates scars on those who are victimized. As a teacher, as a human being, it is your job to stand up against bullying whether you see it happening between students or your co-workers. Being courageous can be scary, but being bullied is devastating. So often we stress to students how important it is to stand up for themselves and others, but when the situation presents itself in our own lives, it is easy to see how difficult it can be for children.
One of the challenges with being bullied by co-workers, especially in a school setting, can be the difficulties associated with filing grievances and taking complaints to a higher authority – especially when it is an administrator who is doing the bullying. One teacher reported that she had to go to the school board in order to get the bullying by her administrator to stop. The key is that she did it. She found a way to stop being bullied and brought the situation to light. Bravery, as she found out, comes in all forms
Today, challenge yourself to keep your eyes and ears open. Watch and listen to what is going on in your own school. Are nasty comments being made about other teachers? Is there someone who is picking on someone else? Does that half-joking comment made by a teacher at the break room table leave you with that awkward and uncomfortable feeling that bullying produces? If you see it, stop it.
Kindness and grace that originates with teachers filters down to abundant kindness in students. Your students watch your actions and reactions. If they see you ignoring bullying, they learn that it must be okay in certain circumstances. Be the role model you want them to emulate and stand up against bullying wherever you see it. You have the power to change a life.