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Teacher Stress


John Simkin
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I think it depends what you mean by bullying. I am surprised that Andy has only seen one example of this. I have seen dozens of cases. However, I am sure my definition is different from that employed by Andy.

Perhaps you could share with us what your definition is?

Sure. My dictionary says: “to treat abusively; intimidate, cruel to others weaker than him/herself.”

I would go along with that definition. Although in schools it is less about strength/weakness but someone’s place in a hierarchy. Therefore it is fairly easy for someone near the top to bully those below them. The whole process is more common in schools than in other workplaces. The reason is that most teachers have only ever known the educational system. They were bullied as students. They discovered they could achieve success by responding to this bullying. When they became teachers they quickly adapted to the culture of the school. As they move up the ladder of success they get the opportunity to bully those below them.

It has to be remembered that bullies are intellectual cowards. They do not have the intellectual confidence to treat those below them in the hierarchy with respect. However, they only bully because others are willing to be bullied. It is vitally important for every new member of staff to challenge bullying when it happens. If possible, do this in a public place. I have found staff meetings is an ideal place to do this. Once a bully is aware they are unable to intimidate you, they will stop. In fact, if you do this during a staff meeting, they will become permanently scared of you. They might even be willing to sponsor your career in order that you never challenge them in public again.

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It is vitally important for every new member of staff to challenge bullying when it happens. If possible, do this in a public place. I have found staff meetings is an ideal place to do this. Once a bully is aware they are unable to intimidate you, they will stop. In fact, if you do this during a staff meeting, they will become permanently scared of you.

This is a point on which we can reach agreement. A point which nicely mirrors my original point about the importance for individuals to take responsibility for their own "stress".

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People can take responsibility for their own stress up to a point, but it is not always possible to handle it yourself when you are in an inferior position or when standing up for yourself is likely to result in an 'unproveable" punishment. For instance, here, teachers are employed by the state govt and we have a transfer policy which makes it quite easy for a bullying principal to "arrange"' the transfer of a teacher to a distant or more difficult school. It can never be proved, but it definitely acts a scare device to teachers who try to stand up to bullying.

Also, the dripping tap method of bullying can eventually wear the strongest people down. Some bullies are not in the least put off by public "outing" - the worst ones thrive on it, and continue to bully people in small but constant ways.

We had a case a few years ago where a college teacher was being constantly bullied by his manager. He did everything that was suggested to him to no avail. The employer was called in to intervene and a grievance procedure was put in place. This took months of stressful meetings and in the end, the employer admitted that they could not convince the manager that he was using bullying methods to manage. In the end, the only solution was to move the victim, and they had no real cause to discipline the manager as nothing could be proved, and he was totally oblivious to his own faults and simply kept on denying that he had done anything wrong. The process left the victim in a bad state of health and the bully with a sense of righteousness.

There is not always a simple solution.

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