Pernille Ripp · teacher bullying

Adults Bullying Teachers – more common than you might think

A recent post by Pernille Ripp sounded eerily familiar and resonated with my own experiences as a teacher. It reminded me of my own trials and tribulations “fitting in” and “feeling appreciated” for what I bring to the table. I have always been an independent thinker, which has inadvertently created jealousies or bad feelings with other teachers and even administrators. I am not a “follower” and I have often gotten into hot water without realizing what was happening until it was too late. Yes, negative professional relationships abound no matter what field we are talking about. However, the situation that Pernille describes sounds all too familiar to many teachers and is ironic given school rhetoric around teacher collaboration and community.    
Pernille’s experience is, of course, unique to her situation, time and place. However, I know I am not alone when I say that many of us have experienced rejection and weathered poor relationships at our school sites, at one time or another in our careers. Some of these encounters have bordered on or have clearly been characterized by bullying behaviours by other adults in the building. If you haven’t experienced this, you have been extremely fortunate. I say this because of the many comments teachers have left on Pernille’s blog post testifying to their own bullying experiences. So, for those that have not experienced this, I hope you will leave a comment or two about how you have been able to rise above these petty (in the big scheme of things) but uncomfortable and potentially debilitating situations. For the rest of us, it’s time to reflect. 
I don’t think it’s about trying to figure out what was done to us and why or what we did to deserve a negative response from colleagues or immediate supervisors but rather how we can be smart and respond in a healthy manner without being blind sighted. I say this because I have had experiences where I have all the good intentions of doing just that, then I let my guard down, and boom, I am hit from behind. Of critical importance is the ways in which we react or respond to personal and/or professional attacks in our place of work. When these attacks happen they are intended (yes, I believe there is premeditation, here) to injure our professional and personal integrity. This is never justifiable but it can rarely be fought on an even keel. In other words, these situations aren’t usually resolved by confronting the offending party; they will always deny it and will, by that time, have a circle of supporters to defend them. So, one way to deal with these situations is to find others, including colleagues, students, family and friends, who can be positive with us in order to deflate the negative energy. We need to set our sights outside of our workplace in order to put these pernicious situations in context. If not, we will burn out faster than a waning candle. And, if nothing else works we can find our strength with our students.  
Of course, we are often our own worst enemies. I know I am, and by saying this I am publicly admitting that I need to follow the advice I just gave so freely and authoritatively. If I did, I would be a happier and more effective educator, not to mention that my family would appreciate my efforts. So, I hereby proclaim the following: 
  • to not allow others to get me down when I know that what I am doing for my students is right given my particular situation and group of students; no one knows them better than I do no matter what they think. 
  • To seek positive and like-minded colleagues (here’s a shout out to my PLN, both virtual and in person) from whom I can get and give support and sustenance. 
  • To treat others the way I want to be treated – it does rub off producing a trickle effect. (Maybe in that sense, Ronald Reagan was right – good vibes do multiply themselves.) 
  • And, finally, to consider alternative ways to connect, teach, learn, give back, feel professionally validated outside of my school because the reality is that it may not happen there. Sad but true. I am always enriched when I reach out to others through Twitter, blogs, etc and, as a result, my colleagues are impacted as well even if they don’t know it.

What have your experiences been? Do you think my proclamation is realistic? What do you suggest to teachers experiencing bullying situations in their places of work?