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.