Monday, November 30, 2009

Bullying in the workplace

It was 2003 or 2004. According to our teacher's Collective Agreement, if a principal wanted to discipline a teacher, s/he has the right to Federation representation. My principal, we called her "The Princess" behind her back, accosted me in the hallway. The Princess had been named this in her previous school, be her previous staff, with whom I served on Federation Executive. We knew her reputation.

I was teaching in a portable at the time, far from the madding crowd. The Princess spoke harshly, and loudly, told me I was to appear in her office immediately. My legal response was, "Not without representation." I was the Shop Steward and I knew the rules. She said, "Fine. We'll do it here." In the hallway she proceeded to chew me out, not for the first time, for an apparent misdemeanour that could not wait.

Two of my staff were just behind us, in the photocopy room. They heard her yelling at me. Parents in the school volunteering were not uncommon, and I worried that they might be listening to this verbal abuse. It had kept up for two years. It was continual, unavoidable, unpredictable, and demeaning. It lowered my self-esteem. I felt humiliated. I felt suddenly disempowered and totally in shock, having been an executive member for 20 years, a workshop presenter, a published author, a mentor, and leading Curriculum Technology expert. Eventually, my emotional illness began to become a physical illness. As a single parent, with many irons in the fire, my physical body was telling me that it could not accept this torture any more.

I tried yoga, meditation, massage, exercise, speaking to Federation colleagues, counsellors. The bullying kept up. From teaching my favourite grade 6 class, out in the portable where we could do science experiments and take advantage of the out doors.

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. having been bullied by my principal, which is not uncommon. A quick search after listening to a CBC radio show, demonstrates this fact. Across the world. Bullying in schools is not a new issue. It seems to be getting more press, and rightly so.

Yes, I was bullied by a principal. She bullied me, female staff, prevented my Professional Dev't, she bullied and called the police on the Parent Council chair, thinking funds had been tampered with. She was a walking time bomb.

I documented it in great detail. I took it to my union; they did not understand. I had witnessed to the final incident, who were willing to attest to the culminating incident.

I wrote a letter, documenting in 7 pages the harassment, and sent it to my superintendent.
The Sup't forwarded this to the health and safety officer who promised me help.
Suddenly, there was no bullying according to the Health and Safety document, according to management, because gender and race was not involved. The bully's husband was a principal of program in the board office.

I was traumatized and took a month off work.
I still have issues with authority.
Yes, it is PTSD. I retired early with a huge financial penalty.

I hope something can be done. Bullies in school grow up to bully in the workplace. And people who are afraid of being unable to keep their power, bullying when managing. In hindsight, I could have gone to the Ontario Workplace Safety Council. The Board did not seem to care that I needed to use up LTD time, and needed to avoid the bullying in this way. It was not my style. They preferred paying for an occasional teacher to be in my classroom. When I used the Employee Assistance Plan to speak to a counsellor, they told me that principal bullying was on the increase.

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Teachers want principal ...[PDF]

Principals and Teachers: Bullied and Bullying Bullying teachers don't want parents regularly complaining to the principal or berating the principal's superiors; it's a simple matter of self-preservation.

Bullying at Work | Teachers TV
30 min - 19 Nov 2006

The Bullying Prevention Handbook: A Guide for ... - Hoover -

  Teachers who bully students: A hidden trauma - Twemlow - Cited by 20
Rural elementary students', parents', and teachers' ... - Stockdale - Cited by 46

Bully Principal Costs Fortune

6 Apr 2009 ... Teachers deserve a safe and healthy workplace, too. Bullied Teacher Wins $225000
. Bully Principal and District Supporters Costs Employer

1 comment:

TeachSafe said...

I have started a blog specifically dealing with the same kind of behaviour that experienced for South African teachers. I was harassed twice, in two different school by the principals over a period of 7 years. At the time, I knew what was happening to me was wrong, but I could not put a name to it, until I came across an article in a teacher newspaper on workplace harassment in South African schools. This made aware that many more teachers than I were being bullied, and realised that the people doing the bullying were most likely unaware that what they were doing was illegal. This is simply because not enough has been done to expose this behaviour, hence the reason for my blog. Thank you for your work.

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