It’s taken me a while (nearly two and a half years to be exact) to feel ready to write this post, that’s how much the subject matter affected me. But sharing is caring and it’s always ‘nice’ to hear that you’re not on your own in these unpleasant situations.
To put it bluntly. While I was a mainstream teacher I was bullied in my last teaching term. As a grown woman it was and still is very embarrassing to admit that. But I was and it was horrendous. I am a very confident, bubbly person. I’m a ‘girly girl’ and love spending time with female friends. I was fortunate enough to love school as a child. I have a loving husband and a super supportive family. I was the last person to ever think I would be a victim of bullying, especially adult bullying.
I’ll give you a little background information. I used to work in a 2 form entry school. The other teacher in my year group was ok. We got on, so I thought. She was quite a bit older than me, always a little stressed and very negative about the job and life in general but nothing you thought twice about. It was just her.
When I went on maternity with my first child the school became a 3 form entry school. The new teacher that was appointed for the third class was ‘lovely’ ‘great’ ‘you’ll really like her’ ‘your sort of person’ I was told by all the staff while I was off. I was looking forward to getting back to work. And when I saw the new teacher I was excited. She was bubbly, dressed like me, was the same age and bonus- had a thing for cocktails. Except she was very off with me from day one. I thought I was being paranoid but I wasn’t. There were definitely vibes coming from her. The older teacher however seemed to love her. They got on like a house on fire and it soon felt like I was back in high school. The two of them would huddle in meetings together, share their medium term planning while I had to do all of mine by myself., even though we were all teaching the exact same thing. The older teacher would arrange school trips with the other year class and not tell me and so I would have parents asking me why my class weren’t going on a trip when the other classes were. That was the first time I would know about it and it was highly embarrassing professionally.
After a few months the new teacher thawed towards me. We would chat if the older teacher wasn’t around and discovered that people were right, we did have lots in common. On the rare occasions that the older teacher would see us talking she would flounce into the classroom looking furious and talk in hushed tones to the new teacher then flounce out the room giving me dirty looks as she did so. She started saying ‘morning babe!’ loudly outside my classroom to the other teacher then would look straight through me when I came out of my classroom. Looking back now, it was all very petty things, but they started occurring on a regular basis and it soon got on top of me. Like when we had to team teach and she slammed by lesson as inadequate and told the head of KS1 that I ‘wasn’t coping’ coming back after maternity. She would do extra booster secret end of term assessments and give them to the other teacher without my knowledge then at whole staff meetings she would read out the results from both classes. The Head asked me where my results were from the tests and that would also be the first time that I was aware of them. She would talk loudly outside my classroom so I could hear ‘X I’ve printed you all the resources for this week’s numeracy lessons. You know, after we discussed it last night.’ It was like I didn’t exist.
It was December when other staff members started to comment. Christmas in our school was a big thing. The Christmas performances were a huge deal and the whole school looked forward to seeing what each year group did. I was thinking how I would cope working with the older teacher on the rehearsals as we had done every year, now she obviously had a problem with me. I didn’t need to worry. The older teacher had took charge and had arranged the year group performance without my class. It looked odd on the day. All year groups performed together except my class. Staff knew how temperamental this older teacher was and they said ‘she’s leaving you out. She’s not being very nice towards you. She’s got issues with you etc.’ It was nice to know it wasn’t me but also made me sad as I felt sorry for myself.
The new teacher, who I was quite friendly with now told me that she had asked the older teacher if my class needed these resources/ tests/ school trips/ were a part of the Christmas performances etc. and was told I had said I wanted to ‘keep my class separate and do my own thing’. I was shocked at her blatant lies but it made sense why she hadn’t said anything. Once she realised what the other teacher was doing she would give me the resources anyway. And she had started to see the real side of her. She would have a go at her if she saw her talking to me and would go in moods if the other teacher complimented my teaching. It was all ridiculous.
The thing about being bullied as a teacher is that it sounds so insignificant to other people. ‘Just ignore her’ my family would say. I started to keep logs of the incidents but on paper they looked pathetic ‘ignored me in staff meeting. Spoke down to me in front of class’ etc. But when you’re living it day in day out and it’s constant, it grinds you down and even the strongest person can break.
My TA was my saving grace. She saw everything and supported me throughout. She saw curled up in our stock cupboard crying, she saw me try to hold it together every day, she saw me at my lowest and saw how I tried and failed to get help. I went to the Head of year ‘oh it’s just X, you know what she’s like.’ I went to the Head with my log but she was going through her own personal problems and couldn’t off any support. I went to the Head of Governors and was told ‘you’re not the first to be a victim of her and you won’t be the last. She’s not worth it. Leave it.’ But I couldn’t leave it. I didn’t want to go to work. I woke up with a knot in my stomach every morning. She was making me ill and I couldn’t do it anymore.
‘Everything happens for a reason’ and I do believe that. I had no intention of leaving my job when I did. I had just come back off maternity, I loved the children and the parents and had great friends at the school but despite this I knew I could no longer become a shell of myself. I started looking for jobs and couldn’t believe it when I saw my dream job. A Pupil Referral Unit. And not just any PRU, but my local one that I had been driving past for 10years and longing to work there. I was told by everyone that jobs don’t come up there. Well one had and it was perfect for me professionally and personally. To say I was ecstatic when I got the job was an understatement.
News of my new job seemed to infuriated the older teacher even more but it made me stronger. It disempowered her. She could no longer upset me and she knew it. I ignored her ways now and the new teacher had also fully realised what she was like and distanced herself from her. On my last day, the whole staff members (bar one obviously) came to the staff room to wish me well and give me cards and presents and that afternoon the hall had been given to my class all afternoon for a goodbye party. The new teacher asked if she could bring her class and we had an afternoon of silly games, loud music and lots of laughter. The older teacher was on her ppa and walked through the hall during our party. The look of absolute horror and anger when she saw the two classes and us teachers have fun was priceless. I knew she was trying to have a confrontation with me too. On my last day, having never done so in all the years working there she came into my classroom to use my classroom door to get to the car park. The door was open as I was loading my car with presents and belongings. She burst in dramatically with all her books, dumped them in the middle of the floor and went back to get some more. I thought she wants an argument and I could give her one. I’m stronger now. I could tell her all the things I’ve wanted to say to her for months and she couldn’t do a thing as I would never see her again. She came back into my room and dumped another pile of books in the middle of the floor. I waited for her to come back into my classroom with the third pile of books. I didn’t acknowledge her, I just walked out of the door to the car park and locked the door. My TA had been helping me load up. I gave her the key to hand in and thought of the absolute anger on the older teacher’s face when she realised that she didn’t get the argument she wanted and now had to lug 90 books back out of my classroom to another door that leads to the car park. I never looked back.
I went out socially with the new teacher a few months after I left. She told me that before I had returned from mat leave that the older teacher had told her to ‘be weary’ of me. She had said that I’m a nightmare, a really bad teacher, I never do my share of the planning and I’m not to be trusted. I was angry and hurt and it all made sense now why she had been off around me at first. It’s also disappointing with how the school responded to my claims of bullying. I’m just so thankful every day that I’ve now got my dream job and in a way I have my bully to thank for that. And for that reason, I no longer hate her.