Tuesday, June 09, 2009

today: The Victims

I know personally what it's like to suffer bullying at work in a school. In fact, when I think about it, I know too many teachers whose lives and careers have been affected and sometimes devastated by the appalling behaviour of colleagues. Often, it seems that teachers who are suffering stress are targeted, somehow nominated as weak and pushed out of their jobs. The deep irony is that those teachers I know who have ended up ill with stress, at the end of their tether or just worn out are the ones who really care about the children in their care. Invariably the bullies are self-serving and the kind of bad teachers who also damage the education of their charges and the standing of their profession.

I myself was piled on with work and extra pressure as a response to me having time off with stress. Like sharks smell blood, the management, rather than address what had made me ill (i.e. their poor management of my impossible workload) they seemed to decide to pile on more work and responsibility. I tried hard, because I felt a responsibility to my pupils, to their grades and futures. But it was too much. I no longer teach.

A good friend of mine, also a superb teacher was targeted in his school. His results were consistently excellent. New management wanted him to achieve the same but with less time and fewer resources. When he couldn't the criticisms, undermining and questioning started. Observers were sent to his lessons, he was placed under constant scrutiny until he just decided it wasn't worth it. Another friend of mine who worked hard and cared about achieving excellent results for her pupils was not alone in applying for new jobs but being told explicitly that she could not leave. Whilst not being offered any opportunities within her school she was told by the head that he would give her poor references and deliberately block her attempt to leave. If she brought the Unions in that would simply give her a reputation and add to her unemployability. The real issue was that he didn't want to lose a high achiever but had managed his resources and internal promotions so badly he had nothing to offer her as an inducement to stay. Eventually she got out and is dong well, but another friend placed in a similar situation ended up with stress illness and left the profession.

I could go on. I could list the people with alcohol or drug problems, the people whose marriages are in tatters, the people who suffer ulcers and IBS, those who have committed suicide. All of them the victims of bullying campaigns either from specific colleagues or in an institutional sense, by blockheaded and arrogant managers.

Britt Pilton was probably the victim of both of these, a staffrom bully and a lazy and incompetent management who failed to deal with it.

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