When the Bully ISN’T the Student

When-the-Bully-ISN'T-the-StudentThere’s 2 weeks left of school and it’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I am sitting in the middle of a group of 7 years olds laughing and making geometric patterns with blocks on desks. A stern body walks into my room and positions itself at the front of my desk.

As I look up, a cold and expressionless face looks down on me and cancels my laughter. “Miss Kelly, I need to speak with you as soon as possible.” I respond, “No problem. I’m about to line the kids up for gym. I will stop by on the way back.”

As the stern body leaves my room, my throat becomes heavy and a coldness takes over my body. I already know what the news will be.

I look at the clock and it’s time to clean up.

I’m on the verge of tears as I line up my little 7-year-old angels. I keep it together for them, but I don’t know if I can keep it together for myself. As I release them into the gym, I become instantly sick to my stomach.

I gradually walk down the hall. My shoulders are tense and I’m about to fall apart.

I’m here. I look down at the floor as I open the door. I glance up at a vacant face. I extend a hello with a meek smile. It’s a broken smile. “Have a seat, Miss Kelly.”

The vacant face isn’t even looking at me as I take a seat beside the desk. “Miss Kelly, I am reassigning you next year. You will be 3rd Grade Intervention.”

My throat fills with pain as I lean back in the chair. I feel frozen. I feel hopeless. I finally speak up, “Do you realize this is my 9th assignment change in the last 2 years? Why?”

She rubs her neck with her right hand, looks out the window, and replies, “I know you don’t like this change, but that’s too bad. You’re going back to 3rd grade intervention whether you like it or not.”

All I can do is shake my head, let out a deep sigh, and get up from the chair.

I walk quickly and hastily across the hall. I enter the bathroom, lock the door, and collapse. I spend the next 30 minutes sobbing and shaking. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

I look at my watch and realize there’s only 5 minutes left. I have to get myself back together for the kids.

I stand up, take 3 deep breaths, and slowly make my way to the gym.

(Two weeks later..)
My mind quickly races as I look around to make sure I have taken all of my belongings out of my 1st grade classroom. The only things left on my desk are a Snapple iced tea and a school laptop. I walk over to my desk, double check all of the drawers, and turn my laptop off. As I lean down to pick up my laptop bag, I can’t help but wonder how, after 3 years, I could be this exhausted. I put the laptop in the carry bag and quietly exit the room.

As I make my way down the hallway, I pass by a colleague who recently put in her 2 weeks for a lower paying position at another school. She whispers, “Good luck. Keep in touch.” I reply with a quiet nod.

As I approach the door, my throat becomes heavy and a coldness takes over my body.

I’m numb. I’m calm. I’m now at her door. It’s closed, and there’s nobody in there except her.

I breathe in and grasp the doorknob. I open her door and take my first step in. I breathe out and position myself in the front and center of her desk. I look directly into her eyes and I’m silent. I can’t speak and I can’t look away.

Every emotion I’ve ever felt in this office is now in front of me. It’s shame. It’s fear. It’s humiliation. Then it’s pain, disgust, and anger.

I take a couple more steps around her desk.

I’m closer to her now and I still can’t look away.

With my head held high, I slowly place the laptop bag down by her feet. “I’ve had enough.”

———–

This post is an actual representation of my first years as an elementary teacher within the Springfield, MA Public Schools system. The experience I faced allowed me to realize that students are not the only victims of bullying. Every day, teachers (and other members of school faculty) fall victim to this type of behavior from other adults within the school system.

Good teachers are leaving the profession due to the lack of action taken on this issue. My own experience caused me to take a break from teaching.

This type of atmosphere is detrimental to the classroom environment. Not only does the adult suffer, but it also affects and influences the students.

When we discuss eliminating bullying among our students, we also need to address its existence among the adults in our schools. Adults need allies and support just as much as our students.

If kids can stick up for each other, it’s time that adults stand up, speak out, and take action.

———–

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36 thoughts on “When the Bully ISN’T the Student

  1. What a great post that echoes what goes on in schools behind the scenes. Thanks for being brave enough to write it. You reveal a great deal of honesty, emotion, and truth in the words you wrote. Although I don’t work in a “bully” environment from an administrator, I have been bullied by co-workers and it sucks. I often wonder how we can make it better. But, I don’t have an answer! Wish I did.

    • I am bullied by a couple of co-workers. They have been teaching at the school for over 30 years and they pretty much run the place. Our principal won’t stand up to them. I took their abuse for the first couple of years being a new teacher and not wanting to rock the boat. But last spring I started to stand up for myself. This fall it has been about the same, except we have a new superintendent and he is aware of the problem. It is starting to get better, but not much. I am now searching for a job in another district. (I teach in the only elementary school in the district now.)

  2. I got a phone call like this from our asst. Superintrndant last summer letting me know I was switching schools and needed to be ready next week to greet parents at the new school the following week. Fun times in the teaching world.

  3. I have felt the same way and it ultimately pushed me to teach at a private school. As a second year teacher, I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to fight an administrator. I just continued to keep trying to please her and waited in fear as other teachers were continuously being let go or reassigned. Now, as a more experienced teacher, I still look back at how I was treated and wonder why these type of people are not held accountable?

  4. It’s even more fun when it’s admin teamed up with selected favored staff members (most union who get prime teaching assignments-3 classes to the normal 6) to alienate and punish some and praise others who are in the “crowd”. I’ve taught a different class each year for the past 10. I usually stay in my room to stay out of mind. God forbid you point out a problem, or speak up…you are ridiculed and ignored. It makes the job a real trial. Not what I imagined.

    • Hi Melissa, I believe the behavior you are talking about comes along with this sort of environment. It’s horrible and I definitely know how you’re feeling.

  5. I enjoyed reading your post and can totally relate! I spent 6 years being bullied and abused by a principal. Our faculty was so distraught. Some were lucky and able to leave, but others like me could never get other jobs as much as we tried. It changed me and I am still not totally over it. The worst part is the school system knew and chose to ignore it. They turned their backs on us.

    • Hi Lynn, I can definitely relate with the school system knowing and choosing to ignore it. I tried taking action, but they essentially laughed in my face. It’s horrible. I hope things are a little bit better for you now.

  6. I went through the same thing my first 3 years of teaching. I was bullied and embarrassed and ready to quit. Growing up I never let anyone bully anyone and here I was letting people make me feel inadequate. Luckily I suffered a bit longer and administration and other teachers left and the new ones are awesome.

  7. I’m not a teacher and just hearing from my niece and nephew talk about how the Principal at Muchin College Prep. bullies her teachers, the students and in many cases the parents, saddens me. Can’t something be done!

    • Edith, I wish that something could be done. The saddest part of all this is that I DID try contacting the union and higher ups before giving up completely. They essentially laughed in my face for thinking anything could be changed. It is awful.

  8. Wonderful post. You’ve very brave to speak up on this touchy subject. I never had an experience as extreme as yours but I’ve certainly had principals who ruled with an iron fist. After an involuntary transfer from an elementary to a middle school the superintendent told me “We place teachers where we need them, not where they’ll be happy.” I stayed only one year and then moved on to find a district where I was needed and could be happy.

    If teachers are not happy with their teaching assignment, they will not be able to give their best to their students.
    Debbie

    • I completely agree with you. I definitely could not give my best to my students last year. I am happy to hear that you found a new district where you are happy!

  9. In some places, where the Union is strong, there may be a clause in the contract that protects you from involuntary transfers. Check with your delegate! Good luck!

  10. Everyone I know in this boat is too scared to speak up because we all need our jobs. So we put or heads down and do what has to be done.

  11. i had a similar experience in my first teaching placement. the admins weren’t helpful, the union didn’t even bother… no one could help. i ended up resigning & had no idea what i was going to do. i ended up getting a lower paying job that i absolutely love. i’m so happy i did end up making that change, but it is really upsetting that i had to go through an entire school year of misery at the hands of the people who are supposed to support you.

  12. Thank you for posting this! I am in a very similar situation at this time. It is unfortunate that we strive to teach our students lessons that the adults themselves refuse to follow. It is hard to find the will everyday to make it to the end of the school year. It’s sad to know that this happens in other places, but comforting to know that there are other teachers out there to reach to for support.

    • I completely agree. I’m glad you appreciated this post. It’s a tough topic, but it needs to be addressed! :-/ Enjoy your summer! 🙂

  13. Thank you for posting this. I just resigned my position as a special Ed teacher because I couldn’t take my bosses harassment anymore. To clear things up I worked for my mil at her therapeutic day school and up until this school year for the last four years I brushed off her threats and attempts to control me. I wasn’t allowed to talk to or be friends with the other teachers, I received no form of training however she would threaten to fire me if things went wrong, and she constantly put me down in private about my teaching methods although she would publicly brag about the progress I made with students. I took this treatment because I loved my students and because I wanted to be a good dil. However, this school year things changed when I had my son this summer. Mil had my husband and I hold our checks (he works there too) for over a month because she couldn’t cover payroll but when I told her we needed to get paid it went downhill. Her reasoning was that my husband made a mistake at work so we had to hold our checks because of it. She would scream at me in front of students. She took away all of my authority in the classroom. Although she never looked at my lesson plans or sat in on a lesson she would go around telling staff that I’m not a teacher and aren’t teaching (I recently graduated with my masters in teaching in special Ed). If I spent time with the students I was wrong, if I talked to another staff member she said I was plotting to destroy her program, she told the other teachers to not talk to me, I’ve used my personal laptop as a teaching tool for the last 5 years but now it was a problem, the way I arraigned my desks was wrong and I should’ve known to never sit spEd students in rows even though the desks were set up that way for 4 months without her saying a word, if I sat down at anytime I was reprimanded because real teachers never sit down, and I was even written up for leaving my side in the room while I was dealing with a combative student which was in his behavior plan. The final straw came when she started making up issues against me. There was an allegation that one student made against another and although these students have never been in close proximity, she told the police and the school districts of the students that nothing happened, told the parents nothing happened, however mil pulled me in a closed door meeting and said she believed something happened. Mil has publicly shamed me, and threaten to make sure no school will ever hire me (public statement) because she’ll tell them stuff. This situation was effecting my marriage, my household (because if husband and I did something she didn’t like on our personal time she would take it out on me when I got to work), and my health. March 3rd I put in my notice (since mil had been telling staff and the principal that she was going to fire me) and that night she texted me to tell me that next day was going to be my last day. It hurt to not have adequate time to prepare my students considering I’ve had some of them for 3 years. My last day I packed 5 years of resources that I’ve bought out of pocket which made mil mad because she thought I was going to leave my stuff there. She said nothing to me my last day and hid in her office until I left and then started to talk trash about me to my husband. I miss my kids dearly but had no other choice but to leave. Sorry for this vent but when I read this post but it hit a nerve.

  14. thank you so much for posting this. I have been paid as a long term sub for 6 years in the same school district at the same school constantly getting reassigned. and I’ve just now gotten the probationary contract. sadly to draw the reassignment burned out I feel exhausted can most likely be seated the principal spreads rumors and tries to pit us against each other. no matter how many times all of the teachers at my school tells our union president nothing happened even when we go to the district nothing happens we still like the lost school at the end of the tunnel. thank you for letting us not feel alone

  15. Can I just point out the fact that s/he is referring to you as Miss Kelly, why not Beth? That is the first thing that made me feel all icky! You are a professional, not his or her teacher!!!

  16. My principal and assistant principal drove me to tears repeatly accusing me of untrue things and then when learning that they were wrong… No apologies. They spread rumors and made my life hell. They blamed me for their own incompetence. I finally had enough and left for a new position in another school. Best decision of my life! Don’t take abuse and bullying from anyone.

  17. Thank you for sharing this…it is nice to know I am not alone. I left the teaching career last year after constantly being bullied by the principal. I could never do anything right in her eyes. As much as it hurt to leave my kids and everything else, I feel so much happier. Hoping my TPT venture will take off as it allows me to still be in the education field in a way, without all the crap.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear that you had to go through this. Being bullied as a teacher made me feel powerless. My principal turned a blind eye, the vice principal instigated the situation, and I was told by my union that I couldn’t report her because “just like we’re here to help you, we’re here to help her too.”

    So if I had reported her, then they would have had to defend her, so I was told there really wasn’t a point. I became extremely stressed out and almost lost it when two of my students missed the bus and approached the bully for help.

    Instead of bringing them to my classroom or the office she said, “Go find your teacher” and walked in the building shutting (and locking) the door behind her. My students were found about a block away from school. The bully received NO REPRIMAND.

    Finally, I ended up leaving the school and have been at my current assignment for the last few (much, MUCH happier) years.

  19. I understand. I am in the same situation. I have cried for 3 1/2 years from being bullied. This year I was moved from a position that I have taught for 6 years. It was my passion. I was changed to a new position which has 5 grade levels. I am very unhappy and I can’t tell you the ugly things my boss has said to me. I don’t understand all the requirements of all the grade; therefore, I’m behind on paperwork. He called me a bad teacher when I have always had great scores and my students excelled every year.
    I can’t began to tell you the other things because there are too many.

  20. Loved reading your post. Unfortunately, this happens to very ‘seasoned’ teachers as well. Not to dwell on my situation but after over 30 years experience, I too was bullied by adults within my school and finally went to the principal and said I would be leaving for another position within the district. She didn’t want me at her building but made it rough for me to find another position as well. Now 4 years later I’m in a position I dearly love! To all those wonderful teachers out there, don’t give up, speak up and you can find a rewarding career in education.

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