Being bullied in the work place.

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.

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My first twinge at missing my old job.

Now I really don’t regret leaving my my old job. I would never, ever return to my NQT post for love nor money. I struggled, but I didn’t hate it. It just wasn’t the place for me. There were too many cliques, I never felt good enough, every lesson observation was ‘just not there yet…’, the work load was unbearable, the hour commute even more so. There was constant changes to marking policies, book scrutinies, unachievable appraisal targets, constant pressure and humongous stress. I didn’t sleep at night properly, I could never relax- always feeling guilt that I should be lesson planning, marking, in putting data etc. Plus, I had the constant challenges of working in a deprived area of Yorkshire with a 92% EAL intake. I felt like I was constantly treading water, using all of my energy just to keep myself my drowning. There was no way that I could have continued like that. At times I felt like I was loosing my sanity.

Fast forward to now: A class of 5 children, an earlier finish time, an exact seven minute drive from my house, lovely colleagues who don’t know the meaning of the word clique, an unnaturally supportive Head, a higher paying salary, more creative control, no traditional assessments, time to do planning each day and genuinely a much more rewarding job.

However, today my old colleagues were told which year group/ class that everyone would be having from September and it was all over Facebook (I still have a love/ hate relationship with the thing). For the first time since I left I felt like I was being excluded from this really cool club. Everyone was commenting on each other’s statuses, saying how excited they were for next year, how they couldn’t wait for September and how ‘amazing’ it was going to be. I realised that I have truly and once and for all left the place where I did my NQT and RQT years and that I was no longer part of ‘The Family’. And I must admit, I felt a little bit sad. I no longer had a right to comment, I didn’t know what the little in jokes were that people were mentioning and if I’m honest, I don’t really know my old colleagues anymore and they don’t know me.

But after a guilt free cup of tea while watching telly, a nice after work stroll with my baby, then playing with him in the garden, plus only writing 6 reports- I realised that yes, I did feel a little twinge of sadness that I was no longer at my old job and that it’s ok, because I did have some good times there. But ‘some good times’ can never compare to my job now, where I have a lot of good times in my school life and many more good times in my home life. Plus my sanity.

I am no longer tread walking. I was doing a nice leisurely breast stroke and it feels so, so good.

Starting the new year after a good lesson observation!

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It finally happened. After a dreadful, stressful NQT year. A failed final observation and the morale of a depressed goldfish, I finally got a ‘good’ lesson observation just before we broke up for the Christmas half term. And even now, it feels bloody great.

I think teacher’s morale, outlook on their job and general well being could be improved dramatically by just a few simple positive words of praise and encouragement. I do not understand why SLT members in school feel it is productive to belittle and constantly criticise other teachers in schools, then get confused when said teachers don’t suddenly pull out ‘outstanding’ lessons with the high energy and jazz hands of a West End Performer. Simple fact. You will get more out of teachers if we are shown a appreciation, praise and constructive criticism.

Anyway, back to my lesson observation. The school is way overdue an OFSTED visit. We were due one in April 2014, never happened. We were determined we would be visited in the summer term, like the school behind us. Never happened. ‘It will be in Autumn term’ subject leaders were saying. We thought it would be the third week in September. Never happened. In fact, the call never came at all last term, and at 1.30pm on the last Wednesday of the week we all breathed a sign of relief.

Mangement are feeling the pressure, as unannounced and without, the second to last week of term we were all told that we would be getting observed. Lesson observations were to take place for everyone in the school that week. Either the Headmistress or Deputy head would be observing us. I was nervous to say the least, especially as I still have my own personal stuff going on and had a hospital appointment straight before the observation. But the main reasons for my concern were; One, the headmistress had only ever seen me teach for 15mins during my lesson observation at my interview, two she knew all about my struggles last year and three, she is the person that deals with my appraisal/ performance related pay. I was more than nervous.

However, it went fantastic. It was a writing lesson, which is always difficult with younger children, but there was no major criticism; behaviour was in place, children used talk partners, there was role play to help them with their writing, work was differentiated and I effectively used my TA. To say I felt on cloud 9 was an understatement. I was elated, I felt the weight of my last observation lifting, in the space of 10minutes of feedback I felt my confidence in myself growing. I was happy. I had job satisfaction and even though I’m dreading the alarm going off at 6.30am on Monday, I am looking forward to going back to work. I want to go back. My confidence is returning and I no longer feel like I made a mistake becoming a teacher.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all teachers could just have 10mins a day being praised by their management? What a wonderful, yet unrealistic, thought.

Overwhelming response to my last post.

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to the over whelming response that I have had since I posted last night about failing my final NQT observation. I have read through every single comment and got so much advise. It is great/ upsetting to hear that I am not alone. some of you have had horrendous times and as a whole my NQT year has been tough, but not soul destroying (until yesterday) and I have genuinely enjoyed my year. Yes, I am pleased that I have passed my year, but as one blogger posted, it’s a shame that an NQT goes through so much stress only to dread year two and be put under more intense pressure.

I have had 24hrs to think about what has happened and unfortunately, I am still not fully over the ‘blow’ and I found myself quite down and unenthusiastic today in school. When I was teaching I almost had a ‘what is the point?’, it has really knocked my confidence but most importantly my drive. At the moment (and I hope this will change) I feel like it has dampened my spirit and they have dimmed a little bit of my light. My mum rang me at lunch time and when I answered the phone she commented on how ‘disheartened’ I felt. She too said get the union involved, but I agree with Toby when he said getting the union involved would ‘mark my card’, my card has already been marked somewhat because of me speaking up to the TA who was belittling me. (She just so happens to be best friends with the teacher who did my observation. Petty coincidence? Friends sticking up for each other? Getting their own back? Maybe. But I don’t want to start going down the paranoid route).

I have reflected and spoke to lots of people regarding yesterday. The facts are, I have never had an ‘outstanding’ observation this year, although I have had good, positive ones, and until my final observation, I was making progress. I have only had negative observations when my mentor observes with another higher level member of staff. I personally don’t respect my mentor as a teacher, I have seen her teach and it was one of the most shockingly bad lessons I have seen in my life. At the end of it she said ‘sorry, I’m so embarrassed. I’ve not taught RE for ages…’ Anyway, it seems to me that she just goes with whatever someone else says. It is annoying that to save her own back she has put the blame on me. I am also kicking myself because she offered to look at my planning for the lesson and I said it was ok (HUGE mistake) as in the slating she said ‘I mean, you don’t even want advice, I offer to look at your planning but you refused.’ I didn’t refuse, I just said I would have liked to try myself and see how it goes, so now she is scott free on the responsibility front on that account. I still think my lesson was not a fail. The children were engaged, loved the lesson and learnt something. I don’t agree with the intense planning scrutiny and observations that are to come, but I have come to realise that it is all a game and if it means three months of hell to get them off my back after Christmas, then so be it.

As the eternal optimist I will now state the positives:

*The first, most important one is that I PASSED. I have passed my NQT year. I survived. My salary will increase and I don’t need to go into the new academic year with unfinished business, so to speak.

*I am still in year 2 next year with the same TA. We work together well, she is extremely supportive (my school rock), and I have all my planning and will have a better idea of what to do.

*My headmistress has been so supportive, to be honest. I went to see her this morning. She told me that she had heard about my bad lesson observation (that’s just great, isn’t it?), but she is going to have a meeting with me tomorrow afternoon to go through how she is going to help me come September. (A bit embarrassed about this- but pleased with the support). As my TA said, she wouldn’t be putting all this in place if she didn’t want to invest in me.

*My children have made progress and moved up the appropriate APS points. Not everyone is on track, but they have made great progress and a few have made huge jumps.

*’What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ All this pressure next year will make me the strongest teacher I can be. I will be a ‘better teacher for it.’

I know it will be hard work. I know it will be tough. I know that there is no chance of trying to get that elusive work/ life balance come September. But the positive thing is, I’m ready. I’m expecting it. And I am going to prepare for battle in the summer holidays.

I can and I will do it!

Last observation this week…. why am I so nervous?

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Well, to say my NQT year has zoomed by, that would be an understatement. One minute it was September and I was full of enthusiastic energy, then it was December where I was questioning my abilities and sanity, fast forward to Easter, where things were looking up and now I’m here; three weeks to go. And one final observation.

I am nervous. Very nervous. This is my last chance to prove that I am a good teacher with elements of outstanding. If only it could be that easy. I have been told that my lesson this week must be ‘sparkly’, and have lots of ‘sprinkles’. Yes seriously. I have been told to do a Science lesson that is sparkly and has sprinkles. My face must have shown what i was thinking as my mentor said ‘don’t ask me what a sparkly lesson is… but you know…. make it big and lively’. All this was said with large accompanying hand movements. 

So now it’s a Sunday afternoon and I have 4 days to go and my mind is a blank. I haven’t got a clue. But one thing I am sure of, is that I will get my good with outstanding if it bloody kills me, because I have to. I cannot deal with the stress of being ‘RI’ (requires improvement), my self esteem has taken such a battering this term, that I have to finish the year on a high. I’ve been there on both sides of the scale. I’ve had a nearly inadequate observation and i’ve had a nearly outstanding, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out which one doesn’t cause sleepless nights.

So, yes, I will go out all singing and all dancing, I will create a lesson that is false, not a true reflection of how I normally teach and go way over the top with what little energy I have left and I will show my mentor what sparkly means. All teacher’s find that they have to become West End performers to jump through the hoops that this current government is setting for them.

Gosh, it’s all so fake and artificial. 

Welcome to education under Michael Gove. 

Office politics.

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Before I was a teacher I had worked in a lot of schools. And the first thing that I noticed was how bitchy they were. Every school I went in was full of catty women bitching about another workers clothes, way with children, a new partner, what time someone arrived at school, what time someone left. I couldn’t believe it. They would have lunch with a work colleague, only to bitch about them the second they left the room. I was shocked. I didn’t think that schools were like that. How wrong I was. School had been full of cliques when I was there as an child, so I suppose it wouldn’t be any different now that I was there as an adult.

That is until I started at my school.

It was different. There was no bitching in the staff room. There was no colleague that was a ‘target’, there was no one that people rolled their eyes at when they spoke. Even having a female head didn’t cause any problems. She was, and thankfully still is, a professional. I have never heard, seen, or been told about anything underhand or bitchy that she has done or said. She is strictly business (at one school I worked at with a female head, she had exploded at her staff on the Monday morning after the Christmas do because no one had wanted to sit with her at the table. Another time she had said ‘that’s fu*king nice!’ when she heard that all the KS2 teachers had gone out for a meal without inviting her. Yes really). My head isn’t like that. She’s scary. But she’s great. I like her.

Anyway, slowly, since December I’ve heard little snippets from my TA about ‘politics’ that I should keep away from. Like the fact that the only male teacher in the school is going around saying he will be Deputy soon, how the foundation and KS2 managers’ boyfriends are best friends so be careful what you say to one about the other (or about the school) because they will talk about you behind your back. And how the SEN teacher, never drinks at work dos because she likes to listen to everything that is said by loose mouths and report back to her best friend (the headmistress). Thank goodness my TA told me these ‘secrets’, and has given me much valued inside knowledge. Not that I would ever say anything controversial in school, but there’s always times when you slip up. Last month a new teacher was slagging off the KS2 manager to the KS1 manager (cringe). How was she to know that they see each other every weekend and that their partners are best friends? And ultimately is it my place to pass on the insider knowledge I know or just keep quiet? I had to just keep quiet unfortunately. Not that I wanted to, it’s just if I start a conversation with ‘don’t say anything, but…’ I straight away get caught into the office politics web.

My eyes were definitely opened this week though. My TA was off on Wednesday and as I have 30 children and quite a few SEN another TA was sent in for the day. Now she’s not my sort of person, but I thought I got along with her and that she was decent, ok. Well, we have a school trip to Bretton Yorkshire Sculpture Park coming up (dry weather please) and a parent came to me with an envelope with the trip money. I definitely took the envelope and then a mass of parents were at the door asking questions about the trip, questions about homework, had a seen their childs pe kit? Jack came home with Ali’s trousers on… etc. etc. Next thing I know, my TA had said have you got x’s trip money? Oh no! I realised that I had put the envelope down in the madness and I couldn’t find it. I looked everywhere where I had been in the morning and I couldn’t find it. I said it will definitely be there and I’ll look at the end of the day. And if I couldn’t find it, I will just pay the money my self. ‘Aw, don’t worry about it. It’ll be here. Look for it at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be in until next week.’

That was that. My full time TA came back the next day and said that I had to go to the admin office immediately and tell them that I had lost x’s trip money. My TA said that as she was walking into school that morning, the TA who had been in my class yesterday had come running up to her and said ‘you’ll never guess what? That bloody NQT lost x’s trip money yesterday. I mean, how can you loose someone’s envelope with trip money in?! Anyway, I went straight to the office and told them.’

Well I was in shock! Not only had she said ‘don’t worry, you’ll find it’. She had put me into a false sense of security and brushed off my own panic and concern. Don’t worry about it. She said. It’ll be fine. She said. What annoyed me the most is, why didn’t she be honest and say it to my face. I went straight to admin and told them I had lost it. I said I will pay for it myself. They were extremley understanding and said ‘don’t worry’ (where have I heard that before?) and that to be honest trip money is not my responsibility. I offered to pay for it and they said don’t bother. All parents know that the school policy is that all money for anything and everything must be handed into the office.

Once again, I realised in schools that you can’t trust everyone. A loyal TA is worth it’s weight in gold and no school doesn’t not have any office politics. And how I miss open aired ‘bitchyness’, because at least then you know where you stand. Hidden politics is way more dangerous.

Ps. I paid for the trip money the next day with my own money.