Be the change, being a teacher, being me, new year, reflection, Uncategorized

Stop Labeling Different – It’s Time to Stop Teacher Bullying

image from icanread

I took a deep breath before I hit “publish” on my post “When Teachers Bully Teachers.”  I had decided that it was time to stand publicly behind the story, to claim my words, to face my fears, and yet with my fingers hovering over the button,  I couldn’t help but be afraid.  Afraid that nasty comments would follow, afraid that people would shun me, afraid that it would start all over again.

Within minutes the comments started coming.  At first, I opened each one with trepidation; would this be the comment that told me I was full of it?  That I had done it to myself?  That surely I deserved the treatment I had gotten?  Instead, it was story upon story of teachers sharing their experience, of teachers saying it had happened to them.  Then my inbox started filling up with private reach outs, then Facebook.  As I closed my computer that morning, I looked at Brandon and said, “There are so many of us and I thought it was just me.”

Teachers bullying teachers is real.  Principals bullying teachers is real.  Within our communities, where we try to teach children how to act as adults, there are many adults not living the words they teach.  Some are doing it on purpose like in my situation, others may not know the damage they are doing.  But it needs to end.  For me, hitting publish was the first step, but now I see that there is so much more must be done.

If you are being bullied:

  • Know you are not alone, unfortunately.  Look at my post and all of the comments it got. This is important, you are not alone, you are not the worst teacher in the world, you are not a horrible person, you do not deserve this.
  • Stop labeling yourself.  I was so good at coming up with excuses for why this was happening to me that I only made it worse.  I kept thinking how I was doing this to myself and it was all my own fault.  No one deserves to be treated poorly, not even someone who does things a little bit different or has a strong opinion.
  • Share your story and speak up.  Even if you are not ready to confront your bully, share your story with someone; an administrator, a colleague, the whole world like I did.  Reclaim your story to stop the process.
  • Then stand up for yourself or find a way out.  There are two ways to fix the situation because suffering through it is not one.  One is to confront your bully and try to put an end to the situation, however, when I tried to do this it didn’t do much.  SO then know it is okay to leave, to find another job, a better situation.  You are not a coward, nor are your running away.  You are saving your soul and that is important.
  • Make peace with yourself.  I still worry about what I did but it is time to let it go.  With each moment this summer I am allowing myself to put the past in the past.  We have to forgive ourselves and allow ourselves to heal.

To stop bullying at your school:

  • Be welcoming.  So much can be said for reaching out to new staff.  A friendly hello and introduction can go a long way, but don’t just do it in the beginning of the year, keep checking in.  Keep reaching out and making sure every person in the building feels they have someone to speak to.
  • Reach out to everyone.  Sure, my bullying started my first year, but there are others that have said it started later.  So make it your mission to make new connections every year, even with current staff, you never know who might be feeling lonely.
  • Be a nice person.  I know many of us assume we always are, but this is something we should all focus on.  Be nice, be kind, be open, be inviting.  Don’t put others down just because you disagree with them.
  • Don’t believe the talk.  I know many teachers at my old school were swayed by powerful words about me.  Instead, dismiss the talk completely or seek out the person who is being talked about to hear their story.  One teacher did that with me and it made a huge difference in how I saw her and our relationship.
  • Stop labeling different.  Too often the people we ostracize are those doing things differently.  Don’t be afraid of change, or at the very least, ask questions!  If someone has made a change in how they teach there is probably a reason for it, so ask them why, dig around a little bit, be open to new ideas.
  • Recognize your own behavior.  Too often we don’t see what we do as malicious or even bullying, but we need to be honest here.  How often have we slandered?  How often have we snickered?  How often have we excluded?  Take stock of yourself and see how you need to change.
  • Follow your own classroom rules.  We had one rule in our room, “Represent.” Whatever your rules are, make sure that you are following them too.  If the kids can do it, so can we.

We must say, “No more!” and share our stories.  Don’t be afraid like I was, don’t suffer in silence.  As a close colleague of mine told me when she read it, “I guess I knew you struggled, but I just never knew how severe it was.”  And that was my mistake.  I should have gone to administration with the union, or I should have gone higher up.  I should have stood up, but in the moment it was too hard, too scary, and so I kept my head down and suffered through it.  I will never make that mistake again.  Please help me stop the bullying.

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.

23 thoughts on “Stop Labeling Different – It’s Time to Stop Teacher Bullying”

  1. Thank you for continuing to blog about this topic. You inspired me to not only share your link on my blog, but also to recount my experiences (I deleted it several times before finally hitting publish :). But your courage is inspiring! I think it’s really important for people to know they aren’t alone and your advice on how to handle and prevent this from happening was sage advice! Thank you!

  2. I too, am so appreciative of the fact that you wrote about teachers bullying teachers. I sent your blog to the entire staff where I’m employed. The unfortunate thing about it is it is ignored and not dealt with as it should be.

  3. One of your recommendation was go to your union. I did try that with my bullying but because it was a teacher, I was told that since it was member on member the union could not step in. However, if the bully is an administrator, then the union can be of assistance.

  4. Pernille your post about bullying was so amazing. At first I could not believe that someone who is such a pioneer and inspiration to others would have gone through what you did. Within a short time I realized that because you are a pioneer and an inspiration that is the reason for you being bullied. Most teachers have doubts at times about their abilities. Some teachers work it out on their own, but some teachers look around and analyze and perceive what other teachers are doing. If a human being appears confident an insecure a person may become jealous and have anger towards that person. Hence, bullying begins.
    Thank you for making this problem become public.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It seems educators are so focused on student bullying, that they rarely notice teacher bullying. So many of us have been bullied and have stayed quiet for too long about this situation. Thank you so much for having the courage to express what many of us have been wanting to!

  6. A tough subject but one that needs to brought out into the open. Congratulations on surviving whilst still doing your best for your students. Best wishes for your new adventure.

  7. Pernille, this should never happen to teachers who are willing to take risks and engage in action research in their classrooms, or any teacher for that matter. Teacher bullying was the main reason that I left my teaching job in North Carolina in January. I never realized that it was bullying until I read your post. Thank you for writing it.

    I had grand visions for my career in North Carolina,but it just got to a point where one teacher would do whatever she wanted and if she didn’t like you, then she wouldn’t even talk to you. The teacher had no background in education and just passed a test to get into the classroom! After she stopped talking to me, she turned the students against me. I had kids who would blatantly use cell phones to call their parents during class, not turn in any work, intentionally do awful work, and start arguments and fights in my classroom. School rules stated no hats, hoodies, or headphones on in the building. She always turned a blind eye to this so that when I tried to enforce these per my supervisor, the kids would always make a big issue out of it.

    This teacher was trying to be a friend to the kids. She would follow them on Facebook,kik, and snap chat. Things got so bad that her three “team members” all left by the end of the school year. One left in October, I left in January, and another left in April. We had no admin, but the people who served in that role on a quasi basis couldn’t understand how to fix the problem. In my fifteen years of teaching I have never felt so helpless and alone. I had people I could talk to, but that was all it ever was, just talk. I feel like I let my students down because I said I would be there for them. It was a tough decision to turn in my resignation and leave half-way through the school year.

    Everything happens for a reason though. I have been hired to teach her in the Midwest and I will be in a well established school with many support personnell. Maybe, in the end, it was a blessing in disguise, but while it was happening it literally ate me up inside.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this piece. I am certain that you will have an impact on many teachers. Good luck in your new position!

    1. Wow! This sounds so familiar! Teacher on teacher bullying is one thing but when they include students, that is what drives me nuts about my coworker! I have ignored him, documented and lived by the adage of “the best revenge is success.” And, just waiting for him to move on… he is constantly applying for admin jobs at other schools. Oddly, no one wants to hire him 🙂

    2. Tim, don’t know if you will see this reply after 4 years but thank you. I am a current catholic school teacher – 2nd year in this school, and had an awful time last year. Two teachers were hateful, and in July even got an email telling me it was my fault one teacher could not do her labs and how they all got along without me. But the thing that hurt is that I sent it to dept head and he to principal and I thought a christian principal would stop it but he did nothing. I lost a lot of respect and trust in him that month. I was warned by friends to not return but I did not want to leave them short as I teach in a high demand field. After a rough beginning they pretty much lay off me this year but I am ignored, do not exist and the bitterness has sunk in. I just wanted to make a really great program for my students and have worked overtime to bring new things to the classroom to engage them – and it has worked! They are doing their work and enjoying it! I think that is why I was targeted – not doing the traditional teacher thing. Like you I also struggle with effects when other teachers don’t follow the rules – I caught a student cheating last week – he was pretty bold at it also. He later came to me and apologized but said that many other teachers know there is cheating in their classes but they just let it go. I guess he thought I would do the same. This year I have respect from students for my stance but last year was like yours – outright disrespect for holding to standards. I had one student snidely tell me, as I was trying to convince him to do honest homework (not required by all teachers) – “Why do you care” as he proceeded to tell me how homework was not graded or looked at by other teachers. So while the relationship with students is 200% better this year, I can’t stand the isolation, the sad comments by other teachers who are so down and just want students punished for not performing – I want to look into fun lessons, labs and activities to engage them, it is working but not appreciated by coworkers. It is too hard and just gave notice I will not return next year. 4 months is a long time but I wanted them to have time to find someone good, and I need to disconnect for peace. I hope God has a good place for me to teach, I will miss it if I don’t. Your blog is an inspiration that I might be happy next year.

  8. You’re right that this is an important issue. I actually did a teacher action research project on this very topic after having a similar experience. I found that many, many teachers who take on leadership roles without having an “official title” are bullied by colleagues or administrators. I wrote an article for Choice Literacy about it. I wish you well in your new position.

  9. Pernille, thank you for your enlightening words. In a previous job, a teacher and I felt so bullied by another teacher. We scoured the Web for any information we could find about bullying. I actually joined an online bully prevention group (I don’t remember the name).

    Yes, it is a real and horrendous problem when it happens. Thank you for the courage to share your story and help others. This is the best written piece I have ever seen about workplace bullying.

    It is hard enough to retain quality teachers. We definitely do not need teacher tyrants inflaming other teachers.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing. Been there and it’s sooo toxic. How can we expect more from students when adults don’t even do the right thing?

  11. Pernille, this along with your original post “When Teachers Bully Teachers”, has truly been eye opening. When we think of school bullying, we think of student on student crime. To read through your posts as well as those commenting, it is shocking to see the frequency of these situations. As you said, in a world where adults are teaching kids to be adults, too often the adults are not practicing what they preach. Coincidentally, these bullying situations are happening right under the noses of those who preach “bullying safe zones”. It is motivating to see that you did not give up despite the bullying and that you have grown and developed as a professional also. Great article and fantastic insight to this issue.

  12. Pernille, great article. I truly enjoyed you thoughts and how well you handled your situation. I am also writing a book about this subject. We need to continue to give people a voice. Victims often feel that they may have caused the issues, but bullies latch onto a person they feel threatened by, which is NEVER the victims fault. Anyone interested in sharing their experience in my book can send a letter of interest to me.
    D. D James 2928 Sparrow Drive York Pa 17408

  13. Your two blog posts about Teachers Bullying have helped me more than you will ever know! Truly, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’ve been getting quasi bullied for seven years by 2 coworkers who were 2peas in a pod before I arrived. Well just recently, after hearing our principal was going to do some movement to revamp grade level teams, they felt their job was threatened or that he might move them. So instead they went together to his office, demanded that I got moved out of my current position and switched to another grade, or else they were BOTH going to submit for a building transfer. Both are effective teachers, on what he calls “the dream team” aka the leadership team that started out as volunteer. Funny, he’s continuously asked me to come to the meetings and become a leader, however, unfortunately I’ve had grad school class on the same night and other conflicts in recent years. He listened to them and moved me to the highest possible grade I can teach even though my degree and Master’s is in early childhood ed. 😥 thanks for being a voice and an advocate for all of us who’v sadly faced injustice and unfair treatment doing what we love most— teaching young innocent souls.

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