being me, reflection

When Teachers Bully Teachers

image from icanread

Three years ago, I wrote an anonymous post and asked a friend to post it for me.  The story was burning up inside of me, but at the time I was too scared to publish it because I was in the middle of the situation, and terrified that it would only get worse.  Yet I knew that there had to be others out there like me, who were going through the same situation, who felt so all alone just like I did.  

Today I choose to reclaim my past as I leave my old district and school and venture forward, it is time to take back the power that this situation had over me.  It is time to move on and away from the past.  It is time to tell the story of what can happen when teachers bully teachers.

The year I got hired at my school my mentor moved away.  I was eager, ready to learn, and most of all ready to form a team.  Unfortunately I was the third wheel to a two-some that had been together for some years and had gone through some pretty heavy-duty stuff.  They switched classes, they knew each other like the back of their hand, and I was the puppy always trailing behind, hoping they would throw me a bone.  It wasn’t that they excluded me, I just don’t think I knew how to fit.   After a while, I decided to go on my own, after all, my students were waiting for me to teach them and not having a team was not going to be a good enough excuse to fail my kids.  So I forged on, challenging myself and hoping that one day my team would find space for me.  That year I was by myself through difficult parent situations and difficult student situations.  I ate lunch in my classroom because no one sat with me in the staff lounge.  It wasn’t that they didn’t like me, they just didn’t have time for me.  Instead other teachers were busy pointing out how I was a favorite since the principal spent so much time in my room.  They didn’t realize that the reason he was in there was because I invited him just so I had someone to help me that first year.  I didn’t realize how I was viewed until later in the year I was pulled into my principal’s office to be reprimanded for having said “Have a nice weekend” in the hallways.  I was told that someone had complained about me since I should be thankful I had a job and not look forward to the weekend so much.  In fact, it was later included in my formal observation that I should know my place more.  Stunned, I asked who it was, but was refused an answer.  I left that conversation wondering who would want to get me into trouble over something so trivial well knowing that it could have been many people.  I felt so alone.

I heard the rumors about why I was hired (because of my looks), I heard how I was the favorite and was therefore given easy classes, extra things for my room, and basically had a free pass.  I cried about it, got angry, tried to discourage the principal from coming into my room.  It didn’t help.  He stopped coming but the rumors continued.  The whispers as I walked by in the hallway, the icy stares, the unreturned hello’s.  The social isolation would have made any mean girl proud. So I got really quiet and tried to keep to myself, finding a couple of people I could trust, continuously trying to reach out to my team, hoping that someone would take pity on me.   Few did, after all, I had done it to myself.

Once more I ended up in the principal’s office; this time a teacher had turned me in for disagreeing with a veteran teacher in a small meeting.  I was written up for being disrespectful and not knowing my place.  Again I asked who had come to the principal and was given no answer.  It was not in my best interest to know and I should be happy that there were not more severe consequences.  It was even put in my formal observation for the year, my permanent record, and I had to submit an apology to the teacher, who by the way, was not the one who had complained about me.  Instead I was told to keep my mouth shut, know my place, and try to get people to like me. The ignorance of my principal that he, in fact, had anything to do with the fact that people despised me was more than I could take.  I started to contemplate moving but decided that I wanted to stay to try to make a difference, to change the attitude, rather than to let them run me out.

This year I knew was going to be a challenge.  One powerful teacher, in particular, had become the ring leader of my hate group.  She complained about me to anyone that would listen, including my fledgling team, parents, and, of course, the principal.  For some reason she had power and people listened. I knew that some of my more unorthodox ideas such as limiting grades and homework were really going to upset people, particularly some veteran teachers who already disliked me, she being one of them.   And yet, I knew I had to keep growing as a teacher whether people hated me or not because after all how bad could it get?  I would always have my principal or so I thought, instead I didn’t.  He left me alone because he was told by senior teachers that they knew I was his favorite and how hurtful it was to them.  So instead I became isolated, fending for myself.  Thank goodness for a couple of good friends, my husband,  and Twitter or I would have lost it.

Throughout this process I have been forced to look in the mirror again and again.  Am I those things that people claim?  Am I a person not to be trusted because the principal is my confidante, because I am his favorite?  Will my students fail because of me?  Will they not be prepared for the rest of their school years because of what I did to them?  I have had to reflect and tear myself apart as I wonder; did I do this to myself?  Sure, there have been days I have not been proud of, days where I should have kept my opinion to myself, or tread more lightly.  Yet there has also been so many days where I did not deserve the treatment I was given, where even after extra effort, people just did not care, did not believe, did not want their minds changed.  I also question myself; is this all in my head?  Have I created the awkwardness, the silence, the people passing by my door rather than coming in?  Then I realize that it did happen, that the rumors were spread, those hushed conversations, those scoldings really did happen.  Perhaps I could have done more but I guess I will never know if it would have changed anything.  I know I have not been a perfect team member, I know I have made mistakes, but I have also tried to do my best.  I have been open, eager, welcoming, and ready to share.  And yet somehow all of this was not enough,

So what has this year been like?  Like the worst high school experience, the only thing missing has been being locked in a locker or having my car keyed.  All year I have fought comments about how awful I am as a teacher and how dare I challenge what veteran teachers are doing.  I have been told that other teachers worry about my students since I am not teaching right or even preparing them well.  I have been told that I need to know my place over and over and that no one likes me.  I have been told that no one wants to be on my team and that I am giving the school a bad name.  I have been called selfish, delusional, and ineffective.  I have been called a bad teacher.  So this year I have cried, vented to close friends and just tried to rise above it.  I know what is best for my kids.  I know that I am good teacher.  And yet, I am worn down.

It is funny; I have lied so many times about how supportive my school is of me, that I sometimes start to believe it.  My principal was supportive, in secret, my special ed teacher, ELL teacher, and a few friends were, but that is really it.  Some teachers have not cared, which was a welcome relief or just outright told me how they feel.  The powerful teacher told me that she is genuinely worried for my students since she does not feel they will be successful next year and that I shouldn’t be allowed to teach.  At least this time she said it to my face rather than behind my back.

So a couple of weeks ago, I did the unthinkable, I applied for a transfer to another school.  After a secret meeting was called to discuss how the principal cannot be trusted and the powerful teacher cried about how she was the victim at our school, I thought; enough.  I don’t want to be the scapegoat anymore.  I don’t want to be in a place where success is not celebrated.  Where challenges are not desired. This is not me.  I love teaching and I want to teach for many years to come, but I cannot go to work in a place where I am not welcomed.  Where I am blamed for things I have nothing to do with, where people feel they have a free pass to tell me how they really feel about me and my teaching style without even knowing anything.  So I am leaving, and my heart is lighter, and yet I feel like a coward.

I feel like I should stay and fight for change like I have been the last 3 years.  Like I shouldn’t rock the boat.  But I can’t stay, it will devour me if I do.  When I pressed send on that email letting my employee coordinator know that I wanted to transfer, I felt the biggest weight lift.  And then I felt tears.  These years of being hated, of not knowing who to trust or who to confide in has taken their toll.  It will be a long time before I try to have a close relationship with my principal, in fear of being labeled, I will have a hard time trusting team mates.  Too many times the accusations came from the team I was supposed to have and the protection did not come from my leader.

Postscript – I didn’t leave.  I never got any of the transfers but instead received a phone call late one night.  It was the ring leader calling to apologize.  I still remember her words telling me that she knew she had done me wrong, that she had been a bully, that she had prayed about it, and she was sorry.  In fact, she was so sorry that she had decided to leave the school (not just because of me).  She asked me if I could forgive her and although I should have said yes, I told her I didn’t know.  The damage she had done to me was so raw that I couldn’t think of forgiveness at this moment, I still don’t know if I could.  So I stayed and I became a 5th grade teacher and found a team, one that might have thought I was a bit crazy, but still supported me.  One that taught me that we can all get along, that there is room for all sorts of teaching, and that there are ways to discuss our differences.  I stayed three more years until my heart called for a new challenge and a new district.  Which is where I stand today, poised at the edge of a new adventure, hoping that this never happens to another teacher.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

132 thoughts on “When Teachers Bully Teachers”

  1. What a fantastic entry! Thank you so much for sharing. Although this hasn’t happened to me (Praise Jesus), becoming part of a team of great people who care about the education of students, and become like an extended family of sorts, is one of the main reasons I wanted to become a teacher.

    1. I know sounded sort of weird for that to be one of my main reasons. I went through a lot of bullying when I was young and I feel that working in a team environment where we share the same goals and objectives, as well as the same feelings towards educating todays youth, is something that can make or break a happy workplace. I am lucky enough to have worked in two great schools with great teams. And when I say teams I really mean Together Everyone Achieves More. We all know that our jobs depend on each other. That the students depend on a great lower grade education in order to support them in the upper grades and if there is a way that an upper grade teacher can assist a lower grade teacher, or vice versa, then we step up to help each other. The old saying is that “It takes a village to raise a child” is soooooo true. Therefore if that village does’t work together, then that’s when it will hurt the education of the child(ren).

  2. Hi Pernille,
    As I as was reading your post, I felt that some of it (the parts where you share your self-doubt, confusion and misery) could have been written about me at another time and place. The confusion has been the worst for me – not understanding and not being able to figure out why something is happening and what have I done to cause this situation. It has put me in the victim mode on more than one occasion. We tend to repeat situations unless we are able to work through them, not so much to figure out why anyone would do such horrible things without cause, but to understand what we can do to change our reactions to such situations. I believe, though I haven’t yet put this into practice on a consistent basis, that our reactions to what happens is what matters. It is important to not let outside forces dictate how we view ourselves or the actions we take. You and I know that what we do is for the common good of our students and no one can take that away from us. It’s a hard road to travel when you feel unsafe in your workplace. It shouldn’t be that way and it behooves school leaders to make sure that doesn’t ever happen. But, you and I know better than that; administrators who respect and support all of their teachers and create a trusting, risk-free environment are few and far apart. My heart was breaking as I read your post, mostly because I’ve been there, done that, but also because I thought I was the only one who had experienced a similar situation. Thanks for your raw honesty. It will help others who have been through a similar situation. Maybe, I need to read Awakening by Angela Watson again this summer.

  3. Pernille, Thank you for telling your story. Your story shows what other teachers might feel/experience although they might not be willing to write it publicly. Teacher bullying happens and I’m glad that you brought light to it in your narrative. I hope your new school appreciates that talents that you bring to the table.

  4. Pernille, a very powerful story, reminding me, as a school administrator, that I have to use every tool at my disposal to create an environment where everyone feels safe and valued. Not just the students, but most importantly the staff. Real student progress can’t be achieved if there is disharmony (or worse – from your experience) that exists amongst colleagues. Hopefully your strength and courage can be a support for others in your new role.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I went through something similar years ago and people outside of education just couldn’t understand why it affected me so much. They would just say “who cares what other people think” and “just ignore them”–but I was not strong enough to do that. I spent a lot of time thinking about why people are that way, especially in a field where collaboration only benefits the students. My conclusion was that some people just need to put others down in order to build themselves up. I try to reach out to our new teachers on campus in the beginning and let them know that they have a sounding board if they need someone to trust. I think there are many others who will be able to relate to your experiences. I would love to work with someone like you on my team, I like being inspired! 🙂

  6. I rad this and hoped I haven’t been one of the tight-knit team mates that doesn’t make it easy for a new mate to join in. I have taken this as a cautionary tale to welcome new mates and be supportive as teams expand. Thank you for the perspective.

  7. Pernille,

    Thank you for sharing this. I can relate to much of this story in my own setting. What I have found is good/bad teachers are all in the eye of the beholder. I have worked on teams where they loved me and my ideas. I have worked on others where that was certainly not the case. I have had principals who thought I was a forward thinking and innovative teacher. On the other hand I have had principals who thought I was a troublemaker and a “rebel”. The funny thing is in all of those cases, I just kept doing what I thought was best for kids. There will always be people who love you and hate you no matter what you do. I think it was Winston Churchill who said something about if you have enemies it means you stood for something. 🙂 Just keep being awesome.

  8. Thank you for writing this story. I could easily have inserted my name in many of these sentences. I have been called the favorite and have been talked about behind my back by my team. It is sad that this happens in so many schools and to so many teachers. I have also decided to make a change this year. Same district but different grade level and different school. Many reasons went into the decision, but sadly this is one of them. Hopefully by sharing your story, you will help others to continue to do what they believe is right, and you will bring to light one of the main reasons why teaching is such a lonely profession at times. Best of luck to you in your new adventure!

  9. Wow, Pernille, thank you for sharing your story. Perhaps one day, I will be ready to share mine. I have 2. One was by a teacher who was moved to another assignment and I was hired as his replacement. The other was a first-year teacher hired at the same time I was when I moved states with 15 years experience. She thought she knew more than everyone else in the building and was completely unmentorable.Instead of learning the school culture and working to learn to teach, she ran to the principal (we had 3 in 3 years) to complain about how mean someone, usually me, was being. She should have been fired at least twice in the first 4 years for things she did and said to kids. She’s still there (I moved states again), promoting herself and getting involved with national projects to bring recognition, but she’s still a lousy teacher. She has some support from some random students, but not much.

  10. I found you because I made it a professional goal to expand my PLN… and so I began to read your blog, bought your book and follow you on Twitter all in a matter of a few weeks! I’m blown away by your passion and honesty! I am a veteran special education teacher at the HS level as well as the lead teacher for my department. As a veteran and a leader I will take your situation to heart as I return to school with new leadership and 5 newly hired teachers so they will not be alone and left to trying to figure it out on their own. Each school has a culture but yours would seem to be the opposite of your passion and beliefs…I can only hope you have found a school that values passion!! Thanks for sharing!

  11. That’s so brave, to own your story in this way. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many teachers and for those who are more conscientious about their behavior, it’s certainly something to carefully consider.

  12. With 3 new educators joining my team this upcoming school year, your story opened my eyes so that I make sure I am NOT one of those who shuns our shuts out fellow teachers. I was the outsider for 10 years before making the change to a different department within my school last year. It was the best thing in my career I have ever done. So THAT was what being on a team was supposed to look like. 🙂 Bless you and happy trails with your new position in education!

  13. Thank you. I can identify with this entry on so many levels. My bullying (as well as many teachers at that campus) came from the principal. I actually left education, all together, because of her. But, God had other plans and pulled me back in, to use my gifts and talents. Thank you, again.

  14. This post is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. While gathered with a group of extremely passionate teachers recently, we began to discuss how many of us had been labeled “unprofessional” on our official evaluations. Every single one of us spoke of the isolation that we have felt at our schools. It is hard to believe that places that should be dedicated to building communities (schools) can be so quick to isolate educators. Sharing stories like yours begins to end that isolation because it starts to unite those of us who have experienced similar things. Too many of us know the sting of teammates who don’t understand us and therefore shun us. Too many of us know the hurt of whispers and rumors that others use to explain away our successes in the classroom and beyond. And too many of us know what it feels like to live in the daily isolation of a school who is scared of change and therefore pushes out those who push for it. And when we hear each other’s stories then we remember that though it feels lonely sometimes, we are not alone. And knowing that helps us cling to what we know and what we believe. I think it is exactly why so many educators find a home online. On Twitter. On blogs. It is our chance to connect. To end the isolation. Thank you for contributing to that in so many ways. And here’s to hoping for wonderful community, support and connection in your new district and new school.

  15. Thank you for having the courage to share your story since I don’t. For over five years, I have experienced many of the things you have described. Perhaps one of the most disheartening things to me is that this is happening amongst educators who profess to have the best interests of kids/others at heart, when in actuality they are role modeling the exact opposite. Thank goodness I found a PLN via Twitter and inspirational professionals such as yourself! Best wishes for your new educational adventure!

  16. Powerfully written. Thankfully I’ve never been in that position; the teams I’ve worked with have all been amazing. But a million years ago when I was subbing there were a few buildings that I refused to go back to because the teachers were so unwelcoming and unhelpful. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Thank you for posting your story. I have just finished year 24 of my teaching career. I have the attitude that I will not be run off by a bunch of petty, mean, unprofessional people who are at the beginning of their career. I was told I was being “negative” a few years ago when I remarried because I didn’t want a “bridal” shower at school thrown by my team. Huh? I wasn’t called into the office for my reprimand, instead I was screamed at in the copy room about 20 minutes before the night of Open House. Shocked? Yes. But, I have too many years under my belt to know that this type of situation in NOT the norm. I have my support staff away from school that help me keep my sanity. Yes, this next school year will be a challenge because the Ast. Principal has already made a comment about my class having a “lot” of “issues” in it. I didn’t say a word because as always, I take what I get and I appreciate the lives I get to touch. I am a Teacher! And to quote my mother, “This too shall pass!”.

  18. Thank you so much for this post. I left teaching primarily for that reason. I loved the kids and teaching itself but the bullying from another teacher was too much!

  19. Thank you for sharing your story. Your experience and mine were similar. Twitter and blogs didn’t exist then, and the isolation was crushing. Now with a digital PLN, teachers can share with each other and know they are not alone, and that they will persevere. I went through two horrible years of tattling and betrayal. Ultimately, those administrators and teachers moved on. I stayed, realizing that our school culture was changing and those that were resistant, lashed out. I am still cautious and don’t always choose to share when what I’m doing is different, but our school has evolved to be a welcoming and supportive place, where we all try to put the students first. Change can be threatening, and change with success even more so. I’m thankful you found a way to stay true to yourself and to help others at the same time.

  20. Hi! I cannot stop thinking about your post. Teachers should be supporting each other instead of creating toxic professional relationships. There are enough critics out there bashing teachers so we don’t need to do it to ourselves. Stay positive, Stay passionate!!

    1. I love your response! So very true, unfortunately for some reason I feel like I am a teacher but some of my colleagues are still petty high schoolers. I’ve realized if a person was a bully as child they will most likely continue as an adult, even if they’re supposed to be role models (teachers). I’ve actually been bullied more since beginning my teaching career 15 yrs. ago than I ever did as a child. If an administrator allows the bullying behaviors and ignores staff when they complain about the bully teacher then it fosters an environment of negativity and distrust through the entire school. It only takes 1 bully teacher, being allowed to continue, to bring down the morale of an entire school faculty. I’m so glad things worked out for you. Let’s hope they do for everyone.

  21. I relate to your story so strongly. It is exhausting to deal with those who should be a team constantly complaining, accusing, and isolating you. I am glad you have found a true team now.

  22. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and hurts. I have felt like this with my on team but not because I am the youngest but because I am an older, veteran teacher. I have wanted to “fit in” to this team and I have never felt like I belonged. My team is changing this year and I hope it is different, but I can only hope that it is. It would seem that we all have and need a “sense of belonging” and that includes school too, where we bring our hearts with us!

  23. Your story could have been mine. I never realized that the ringleader was a bully
    – I just labelled it unprofessional. I now know to call a spade a spade. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the isolation. Thank you for sharing your story. I tried to change grade levels… But I’m going back to the same disfunction in September.

  24. Thank you for sharing your story. I have not been in your situation, but have tried to always be welcoming of new teachers & careful to not judge how others do their own magic in their classroom. It goes to show that relationships really do matter, above all else. We need to remember that with our students as well. Thanks again for opening up & helping others through your experience. 🙂

  25. This is regularly my life in teaching. I tell people that people seem to love me or hate me and I can never really figure out exactly what. I lost a job last year because of this. One woman just had it out for me. They offered me a 7th grade science position knowing I am an English teacher. I moved to avoid accepting something I didn’t love. It was painful but such a reminder of why we must teach kids to be brave. You need it all your life.

    I want to see a pic of you with a I will be brave by…!

  26. Wow, just wow. My first year teaching I was in a very small school in northern Wisconsin. I was bullied by my mentor teacher. She refused to help me at all. I can not even go into it all but to say that I did move to an other school and was much happier there. I don’t understand why people do not just take new teachers under their wing. We were all new once. I now make sure that I go out of my way to welcome any new teacher I meet, on line, in the school, student teacher, 1st year teacher or just new to our school teacher. We all need support. I now work in a SUPER small school in IL (thank you Scott Walker) and it is such a supporting and loving environment I hope I never have to leave.

  27. It is never the kids that cause a teacher to leave. We can endure all sorts of issues and lack of this and too much of that. It s always the other adults.

  28. I just want to say that in the public school system no one but yourself is going to take care of you. I have taught 33 years mostly in inner city schools. Every time that I changed schools, I did it for me. Sometimes I felt bad for the children that I left behind, but I had to survive. I was not doing the kids any good if I was totally miserable. There were definitely some rough years along the way. I have been at my current school for 8 years. I absolutely love it. It will work out for you. Keep at it because your students deserve the great things that you can do for them.

  29. Thank you for posting your story. I went through something similar except my bully was my principal. It was the worst 6 years of my life and has left so much damage. I am still trying to recover.

  30. Thank you for sharing. Although my story is a little different, I understand and thank you for sharing. For the past year, I have felt like you. The difference being that a colleague left and her replacement has become the bully and unfortunately has allied others on her side. In over fifteen years of teaching, I had never been yelled at in the hall, shunned at lunch or accused of things I never did. Students bully, but you are correct so do teachers. I have made my peace with one but the other still won’t even sit by me. Like you I have become quiet and will work on it for the students. I love teaching and the students learn and have fun in my classes. Maybe the other person will move 🙂

    1. My “bully” never apologized though and I was forced to resign. Being treated like the perpetrator when you are in fact the victim is too much. My sanity was worth far more. It’s sad that adults can behave like middle schoolers. I was friendly with many other teachers at my school but after I resigned and my story went on our local news I received a phone call from a colleague saying that “they” didn’t want me around anymore. I was giving them a bad name. It was hurtful when these same women stood behind me (so I thought) while I was taking action through HR to get this bully reprimanded for her actions. In the end, I was written up as you were for speaking my mind and ended up resigning. More people should know that this does happen and it’s not because you are a weak person or can’t stand up for yourself. I did stand up to her and took action but nothing happened. Thank you again!

  31. I was shocked to read this, Pernille. I hold you in such high regard; you are so inspirational. I have always respected you, your ideas, and your right to your opinion and to do what’s best for your class. Sometimes I would hear of something you were doing and think, there is no WAY my team would let me get away with that (no homework, for example…). Then to hear today that you didn’t have support from your team and school made me so sad. They are the fools for missing out on what you have to offer. I would love to be on your team!

    I am getting ready to make a move to a new grade level team. I am not a new teacher anymore, but I do think my ideas about teaching and learning are still very new, scary, and may offend or intimidate others who have more seniority than myself. (Not that seniority is a problem in itself, rather it is those teachers with traits like the bully like you mention). I love technology, teaching kids to think instead of regurgitate answers, and tend to be on the “sure I’ll try anything” bandwagon. Lately, I have worried if my own ideas would be accepted or create a divide between myself and the other teachers on my new team. I have been wondering if I would stick to my guns, make enemies, and do what I want regardless, OR would I assimilate and agree to whatever they are doing just to fit in. I just hope there will be a middle ground we can all agree on. That is what is best for kids, I think.

    I wish you all the best at your new school. Sometimes the grass IS greener! 🙂

  32. Thank you for being a voice for something that happens all the time – everywhere! When we cannot escape the toxic relationships in our work environment, we always have like minded educators to turn to on twitter.

  33. To all of you, I cannot tell you how saddened I am to hear how many of us have gone through this or are going through this. We are better than this. We are supposed to be people who build up, not tear down others. We are supposed to be examples of how children should act, not worry about our own shine and the fear of being overshadowed by someone else. I was lucky that the team I leave showed me what a team could be, otherwise I would have left so many years sooner. To someone going through this; it is not you, it is not ok, and it is ok to leave.

  34. HI Pernille,
    I have been following your blog for some time and enjoy your openness and enthusiasm. I rarely reply to blogs but for this one, I had to let you know that unfortunately, your experience is more common than anyone will admit. This happens often, the victims feel like they are the only one who has gone through it, and many great teachers quit because of it. Administrators need to understand that they can control this. Head in the sand won’t work. I taught in LAs inner city and at CA distinguished schools. There are bully teachers everywhere and administration needs to keep this in check. Bully’s are afraid of something and open confidential dialogue with all parties is the answer. But all I see is head in the sand.

  35. Best of luck to you in your new school. These dynamics are very real. I have worked with highly competitive teachers who only support those they don’t find threatening. I have played many roles myself- once I was the bystander when another was marginalized, occasionally I’m the one who speaks up – mostly when it impacts kids, but most often I am the outsider by choice. None are entirely comfortable nor are they productive. I wrestle with some collegial relationships, but you never know when your words and ideas will plant seeds of influence. If we lose our integrity, what then do we have left? We are all rooting for you Pernille, thank you for sharing this.

  36. A courageous illustration that the only way to preserve sanity is to keep creating beauty!
    Thank you for addressing an almost taboo topic. There is so much resources on protecting kids from bullying and nothing on teachers protections:

    Schools’ HR services seem to care so little about ensuring that enthusiastic teachers are not forced to shape down or ship out by the silent conspiracy for the least.
    Principals seem to protect the status quo rather than the risk takers.

    “The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”
    ― Noam Chomsky

  37. Thanks Pernille.
    I’m so glad that having lived through similar situations, I am now fortunate enough to be leading a school and modelling communication and support the way I always wanted it to be. I’m fortunate to have an amazing couple of DPs who are both on the same page, and we work together to build a school that supports staff, but that doesn’t shy away from having challenging, honest conversations. That’s how we get better at out job.

    If a team leader had a problem with a staff member, I’d support that leader to start the conversation they need to start, because they’re a leader.
    That ‘someone said..’ rubbish is soul destroying.
    So glad you found a way through.


  38. Wow. How powerful you are to share your story.
    I have suffered a year of bullying, by my principal. She has lied and manipulated and accused me of being an incompetent teacher.
    It got so bad I resigned seven weeks ago and I begin at a new school in three weeks. I’m leaving a permanent teaching position to go to a fixed term position just so I can be the happy effective teacher and person I need to be.
    Today she told my class that she would be their new teacher (we have only two class rooms at our small rural school) and that the junior class were getting the new teacher. My kids were stunned mullets, very unimpressed.
    I worry for my class because she is a very inexperienced classroom teacher (10 years, 7 of those as a dance specialist, as opposed to my 19 years of classroom teaching) and I do not think she will cope with the numerous year and ability levels in the class.
    People who know what has gone on know she has behaved the way she has because she is threatened by my my experience and knowledge. She controls her release teacher, who has another 16+ years of experience on me, much the same way and he plans to resign early next term.
    I have known she had her eyes set on my room since day one. I wouldn’t roll over and go to teach the juniors (not my specialty area) so she made life very difficult, culminating in me not committing to buying my own home because I couldn’t trust her and losing my opportunity to get on the property ladder. I then found out she had applied to be the teacher of my class twice before, but the previous principal didn’t even consider her because of her lack of curriculum knowledge and experience. Then she applied for the principal job – and my board rushed the appointment from a very short list of contenders rather than readvertise. Some of those responsible for that are regretting that now.
    My saving grace for my sanity has been the support of my parents, friends and colleagues who come in to support learning from outside the school who see through my principal. Without their support things would have turned to custard and gotten much more messier.
    But the board will be receiving a complaint about the principal from me when I leave, and then maybe they might see what my other colleagues and I see.
    So thanks for your strength and boldness in standing up and highlighting bullying among teachers. It’s more prevalent and in more forms than people realise.

  39. Oh Pernille! I have cried reading this because this pretty much sums up my last 6 months. At the start of this year I began at a new school, my first & only swap in 7 years and I have walked into a minefield of snipping, complaining, negative staff and a senior teacher that is making my life hell. I was ‘lucky’ enough to do a job swap with another teacher but this has also become another reason for why I am not accepted. I am slowly finding a few people to talk to but I have spent the first half of the year pretty much alone and am really struggling. I cannot imagine what 3 years alone would be like.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am praying for a new team for myself next year & hoping that you never have to experience that again.

  40. Did this teacher ever go to her Federation or exercise any of the bd policies or legislation that forces the bd to address this kind of unprofessional treatment by the teaching staff and the principal?

  41. I have never personally experienced this as I’ve a strong and confident personality; however, this past year a male teacher often came to me upset because the two teachers on his academic/grade level team would not share resources or lesson plans with him. It gave me a very bad feeling about those two teachers (one of whom had taught my own daughter). How do we stop this?


  42. I left a school I lived and had been at for six years due to a new principal and special ed director and the lack of support I received. There were also a couple of teachers who made school unbearable. It was a very hard decision but the correct one. In the end, the students made progress but I will never be the same.

  43. Pernille, You are so courageous-to stay as long as you did and now to venture forth to a new position/new district. Your story is so common…I see it happening in my school and it rips the staff apart and sends any attempt at team building and collaboration down the drain It’s such a waste of valuable time, emotional resources, and so unprofessional. I became a teacher at age 45 to make a change in a child’s life and while I know I’ve accomplished that goal many times over, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve considered leaving the profession. I get tired of the these battles. Can’t wait to Skype with you 7/16!


  44. Pernille, thank you for sharing your story. Sad, as I read the comments, that it is so common. I had the same experience and it took a physical toll on me, I was out sick two weeks. Fortunately, I had a principal, that wasn’t willing to face my bully, but did move me out of the situation. It seems so strange that these same teachers express their love of teaching and seek collaboration and collegiality in their classrooms but don’t see how their own behavior hurts their coworkers.

  45. Sad story all the sadder for it being common. Weak management take a huge responsibility for allowing this to happen. Lesson to be learned: we don’t all fit everywhere and there are good, bad and very bad places we may find ourselves, in work and personal situation. It is important to realise when we are in the wrong place with the wrong people and even more important to have the intelligence and courage to leave those places and situations behind. Some places and people have problems beyond our ability to help them. We on the other hand have a destinity and a purpose which will be realised in some places and with some people; not with all.

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