Another form of Bullying…

The type of bullying I will address today has nothing to do with children.  It has to do with adults who are supposed to be working in a professional capacity.  This is not an opinion on sexual harassment (although that is a form of workplace bullying that all are familiar with), but of another more devious kind of bullying.  I will call it professional libel.  In this I will address it as it occurs in the educational environment, but whether it takes place in the educational system or in other areas of state employment such as corrections, mental health, etc…It is ever-present in every lounge and in every aspect of state business.

When a person commits professional libel, they spread rumors or talk of something they do not like about a professional in such a manner that it results in the person being unable to teach effectively and/or creates a hostile work environment.  New teachers have their own ideas to bring into a classroom as they are taught new ideas at a university.  If a teacher with years of experience sees a way that this teacher can improve, it would behoove him or her to try to give feedback and/or mentor the new teacher during times when he or she is not busy.  It is a known fact that many new teachers burn out and/or quit the field within five years.  I feel a study should be done on the real reason behind this trend. My opinion is that the new teachers are “outsiders” and often ignored.

An administrator or senior teacher who does not sit and have a talk with that teacher, but goes to complain behind the back of that person is NO professional.  It is not the new teacher that is in the wrong field, but the person doing the complaining.  In some states, that results in complaints of creating a hostile work environment which are successful, largely in part, because nobody has tried to help the new teacher improve upon his/her practices.  Often it is not the practices these people who these complainers  have a problem with, but the fact that the new teacher has his or her own ideas or opinions that do not fit with those of the clique.  Yes you have read that correctly.

When it is found that a “clique” is operating in this fashion against a new teacher, then it is the clique that should be transferred to other schools in the district (different ones) and if an administrator is found to be a part of the problem, demote that person for setting an improper example.  All employees need feedback and if senior teachers and administrators are  not willing to give it in order to address or correct the issue(s), but then work against the new teacher, then they are not leaders.  They are problem children and should be moved or dismissed from their positions.  If that new teacher is not doing anything in violation of a code of ethics and others are willing to slam and talk about this person behind his/her back, it is NOT the new teacher that is violating anything but those doing this garbage behind closed doors. In many states, these people can be also be brought up on ethics charges in front of their state education agency.  This is why they will never leave anything in writing, and will not work to address issues, but junior administrators that are in on this will not renew contracts and/or bully a teacher into resigning their position at the end of the year.  Some superintendents are aghast when they find that a teacher suddenly resigns, only to find out through third parties that one of those under him/or her had been practicing this trend of bullying because the new teacher didn’t tend to “blend” well with staff…THEN that superintendent has to take action against that person because the new teacher was harassed not for what he or she did IN the classroom, but for what he or she did not do outside the classroom, such as attend a soiree at the principal’s house on super bowl night.  What they don’t understand is that if that new teacher is savvy enough to contact their union and the board finds that the new teacher was not properly mentored, trained and then slammed, those who did it CAN LOSE THEIR jobs and certifications (worst case scenario) and probation for that offense is not something that they want on their records.

SO these types of “bullies” (which is what they are) resort to other tactics…They gossip…They complain…they want to feel important so the new ideas being brought in are some sort of threat to them and their ways. They never bother to talk to the new teacher or include him/her into certain things they all do together.  They are resistant to anything new being brought to the school environment because they fear a loss of their own control.  They fear change.  They won’t listen to the new teachers’ ideas for fundraising and such because “the old ways are the best ways”.  If we expect a change in the way we are educating our children, we had better take a very hard look at how new teachers are treated and why.  A five-year burn out rate is unacceptable as is ostracizing a new teacher for not being part of the “clique”.

Perhaps districts should be made to include something that the Wal~Mart Corporation has done.  All new teachers should be given “Grass Roots Surveys” statewide that they can mail in themselves.  This will give the education agencies a good idea of why the new teachers are quitting and whether or not the problems that are causing the shortages are due to the fault of administration or personal circumstance.  Just make the forms to where they are available for teachers to request and then to ensure their identity being protected, allow them to do the survey ANONYMOUSLY.  This way, over the next few years, the agencies can learn more effective ways of addressing the needs of the new teacher and ensuring that the “problem children”  (if a majority of surveys indicate hostility and improper treatment of the new teacher) are properly removed from the payroll.  It will also cut down on lawsuits resulting from such behavior.

A lot of these new teachers are also ostracized for their beliefs.  If they are Christian, Jew, Hindu or Muslim–they are (more often than not) ignored.  Ironically in my careers both in corrections and as a teacher,  the only group of people who seem to be treating these new personnel with any amount of decency are those in the fields who profess to be atheists.  Atheists do not judge by the faith one professes to be but by their strengths and weaknesses and they often try to help them to improve when those of opposing faiths literally shut them off.  Not all atheists are closed-minded and don’t care what one’s faith is because not all of them ascribe to the hate speech given by the likes of Bill Maher and Joy Behar.

Because these administrators don’t have a faith in a supreme being, they are more apt to judge the new person by how the kids improve both academically and behavior wise.  It has been my experience that when an atheist administrator sees a student who was about to end up in jail change because of the positive influence any teacher has had on his/her thinking, that atheist is grateful that someone got through to the child.  In some cases where the atheist is the new teacher, I have seen them get ostracized by those of faith also, which is equally unfair.

Professional libel should be addressed long before it comes to a point where the new teacher ends up going to the board for help. If it gets that far, the administrators failed in doing their own job.  In a professional capacity, it would behoove these people to sit down with that new teacher (whether a probationary teacher or certified substitute) and discuss what they are hearing and make suggestions for improvement.  Many schools cannot keep teachers or get substitutes to stay due to this problem.  For example, when a savvy superintendent sees that there is one school in his/her district that cannot get and keep substitutes (both long and short-term) and teachers are quitting in the middle of the school year he or she should be asking “What is the REAL issue here?” and call the substitutes in that removed themselves from that school’s substitute list.  When a particular school has to resort to using aides as teachers, then there is a big problem somewhere.  Substitutes who removed themselves are more than willing to tell things as they see them.  They are not bound as the regular classroom teacher.  I can personally attest that in the district I work at, a fifth grade math teacher quit in November, and then the long-term substitute  hired to replace her quit two weeks later.  The math teacher was so stressed she left many of her classroom tools behind–ones she personally paid for.  I know because I had her class for about 3 days before the first long-term substitute came in.  I am friends with about 8 teachers there who have known me for years.  I know the real reason behind much of it.

Many of the others subs have taken themselves off of that school’s list–myself included because of what I have seen and experienced.  Everything that is happening is due to a few individuals who don’t know how to NOT complicate things.  The total number of substitutes that removed themselves from that schools list is between 10-20 in less than 6 months.  That is tragic. My parting shot to that school came when a student asked “Why is it that you and Ms… are the only subs who ever come back to work with us?”  Another student said, “Because we are bad.”  I asked, “Did someone say that to you?”  Several students said, “Well yeah…Duh..”  I told them all, “Whoever said that is not being honest.  It is not your fault and you shouldn’t blame yourselves for it.” They had already heard from another teacher that I might not be back next week.  One asked, “You will come back won’t  you?”  I told them I most likely wouldn’t, but it would be because I’m seeking positions elsewhere and my mother needs for me to move close to her.”  IF there is one thing I will not do, it is lie to my students.  The teacher who told them that had already discussed this with me because some of them had already heard about my mother and were upset that I might quit too.

Sadly, there is an ugly truth behind why the other teachers and substitutes drop from that school.  It was even sadder that a group of three are to blame for the whole issue that led to the teacher leaving and the long-term substitutes walking out.  One of them telling the kids that  they are to blame was the last straw for me, but I am sure that those responsible for the powder keg are tenured…They’ll come back until death or retirement–whichever comes first.  That includes an administrator that I once respected, but have since found him to be as hypocritical as those who cause the problems in the first place.

So I will end this with ONE simple question…How are we supposed to create a positive learning environment for the students, when the working environment can be so negative that even the students know what is going on before the teachers who are being hurt by it do?  Four students knew why the math teacher was quitting before the rest of the staff did because they were sitting in the principal’s office while the assistant principal (with his door wide open) was relaying to the math teacher things he was hearing from the “gossip train”.  Hell, no wonder she quit mid-term.  That was VERY unprofessional.  If this happens in other areas of employment (especially state employment), it needs to be swiftly addressed.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michael G.
    Jan 22, 2011 @ 23:42:37

    Brilliant post on a very important issue. Bullying of all forms is unnaceptable. Thank you for your wonderful post!


  2. Founder of Changesational
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 02:27:39

    Hey there Kadja2,
    I am closely aligned with someone who (as ”the boss”) is dealing with and is appauled by this sort of behaviour that goes on in teaching. Your post is great and I’ll pass it on to the interested parties. Incredible isn’t it that people can be so childish as to actually bully other professionals in an enviroment where everyone should be working together for the good of all?
    Thanks for your insights. By the way thanks also for sharing my Queensland flood story on facebook. Your support is appreciated! 🙂


  3. kadja2
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 04:28:32

    You raise a very important point. We are working for the good of all concerned, whether we be educators or correctional officers, this problem of “Tag Team backbiting” is a plague that affects both professions. If it is the prevalent in those two professions, it is only logical to assume that other state agencies are plagued with this also. The only way to get to the bottom of a lot of it is for TEA to implement a new reporting program that will enable new teachers to come to them with no fear of retaliation and the same holds true for the correctional environment when they report to their Inspector General or head personnel office. It is sad that this world is reaching a point to where ADULTS have to be monitored like children in order to set things straight in either industry.


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