Some teachers dread going back to school because of early mornings, limited restroom breaks, or lack of time with family. There is another group of teachers whose lack of enthusiasm is due to the environment which they work. For this group of teachers, there is an employee, co-worker, supervisor, team leader, dept. chair, supervisor, or administrator that has created a toxic workplace for him or her.
Teachers often sit through training, school assemblies, and workshops about bullying – students bullying other students. But, how many faculty meetings or inservice meetings have you attended that told you point blank that the actions of an employee could be considered bullying and create a toxic workplace for you?
We teach lessons and host school assemblies telling our students to NOT be a bystander. Bystanders give tacit approval to the bully. Yet, how many teachers have witnessed a fellow staff member using these same tactics with a co-workers and said nothing? Shouldn’t we walk our talk?
The new school year is upon us and sadly this is often a time when bullies will find new victims – the newly hired teacher or a teacher who has moved to a new team within the school.
CHALLENGE FOR TEACHERS
Introduce yourself to the new teacher or new team member privately. Tell this person that you would like to help and let them know the best way to communicate with you. Do you prefer chatting before or after school, email, or text? Tell your new co-worker:
“While you love your school and have been here X number of years. You realize that it can be hard being new. If anyone is less-than-nice, giving you a hard time, or is being a bully you would like to help. You always hope for the best, but if something happens please do not hesitate to contact me at ____.”
You have opened the lines of communication which is important if you want to fix this problem.
Some schools, unfortunately, have “D.W.s” – Designated Witches. D.W.s have usually taught at the school for a very long time. Through the years, people have accepted that this is how this person behaves. This person was issued a “Designed Witch Card”. It is like a get out of jail card from Monopoly – no consequences. You may have even found yourself checking the parking lot to see if there was a broom in her parking space. Other days you wonder how YOU can get a D.W. card. Unfortunately, a D.W. can also create a toxic environment.
If something does happen how will you handle it? You and your co-worker can discuss this and decide.
When a new co-worker told me about another employee actions, I asked her if she would be comfortable with me having a chat with the employee. I told her that I suffer from “Mother Hen Syndrome” and do not appreciate it when someone else is acting this way.
I went to “Ms. Bully” and asked her if she could tell what happened the day before with Miss New Teacher. She immediately got defensive and told me it was none of my business.
While it was true that this particular incident wasn’t technically my business, her actions create an unhealthy work environment for my co-worker, which trickles down to me. Miss New Teacher dreads seeing Ms. Bully so she gets stress headaches or dreads coming to work so she calls in for a sub more often. A sub next door can mean more work for me. So, YES, Ms. Bully I was making this my business. Or I would be happy to accompany Miss New Teacher to principal’s office to discuss the incident there. But, I thought I should discuss it with Ms. Bully first.
After explaining how her actions could impact me in the future, she became a little more cooperative in our discussion. At the end of our conversation, I told her that I would be watching to make sure there isn’t anymore “incidences” with other co-workers.
In order for this to work, it takes employees who are established in a school, to take a stand and speak up!
CHALLENGE FOR SCHOOLS
Have you read about Gretchen Carlson filing a harassment case against Roger Ailes? When the news first broke, most reports seemed to be slanted in Mr. Ailes’ favor. The story changed directions, when more details came to light. Some of the women were told that Mr. Ailes has too much power when they reported it years ago.
Granted, Mr. Ailes was doing a different type of bullying than the type that takes place with employee-to-employee in schools everywhere. There are many teachers who are suffering from migraines, tension headaches, and other anxiety ailments because of the behavior of other teachers.
It isn’t just the victim that pays the price. Districts and students are also paying a price. Districts have higher cost of health insurance claims and higher use of substitutes. Even with the highest quality substitute, students are not getting the same level of instruction as they would with their assigned teacher.
Teachers should not have to file a harassment lawsuit to stop this type of behavior. Districts need to take a stronger stance and implement new policies on this issue. Until districts do this, it will continue.