Why is there still workplace bullying in teaching?

In the classroom, a teacher can plan a great lesson with tons of scaffolding and assessment for learning and be up to their neck in dedicated improvement and reflection time (DIRT), but if the relationship with their class is poor then learning will suffer. Similarly, if we cannot maintain positive working relationships with other staff, the quality of teaching and learning will also decrease, because we need each other for support. Tes reports

None of the above is news, and yet, as a profession we’re still struggling to get it right. One glance at the Tes forums or articles will offer tales of workplace bullying, of informal “support” plans and of staff being forced out of their teaching post by any means necessary. We tell our students to be kind to others but forget this applies to ourselves. In the end, staff leave – often jumping before they are pushed – with a settlement agreement that provides a good reference in return for never speaking about the issues that led to it. A culture of silence, of “like it or lump it” pervades, especially for teachers of non-shortage subjects that are unable to escape to another job so easily.

How has teaching become so toxic? When I was a student, part of what attracted me to the profession was the teamwork. There was a sense of belonging which does still seem to exist in many schools, but only on the surface – once something goes wrong, the knives are out.

I was once in a school on a supply contract, which was going well until I was told by another member of staff that my line manager was unhappy about a recent observation. The thing is, the observation had never taken place. No one seemed to know why this had happened, and no action was taken. I raised the issue with our union rep, my line manager set the record straight and we moved on. Weeks later, my contract was not renewed. The head assured me that they personally had seen good things, but that they had to take the line manager’s word over that. It was a very established department and we never really bonded, but we had never been at odds either. Whatever problems that existed with my teaching were never raised or discussed with me with the intention of making improvements.

The pressure is hitting us all and is filtered down from SLT to middle managers to class teachers. Everyone is scared to admit they are struggling, lest they be the new target. Instead of a team working together, we are trying to keep under the radar and hope “the other colleague” will be picked up on for their mistakes so that ours will go unnoticed. Middle managers are dipping into lessons and flagging issues up, but much of the time it feels as if it is paying lip service to SLT. Of course we need to be observing what goes on in the classroom and of course we should be acting on any concerns, but this need to document and escalate sometimes has no real intention of being supportive.

Read the full article Why is there still workplace bullying in teaching?

Have you suffered from work place bullying? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter – Tamsin

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