Written By: Robyn Shulman
Many times in our lives, we are put into unique situations in which we are not prepared. As a teacher, this can come in the form of many situations due to the vast amount of people we work with on a daily basis. Teachers can face student concerns, a challenging administration, problems with parents, state-testing pressure, and the list goes on. Due to the vast contact and communication we have, it is important to be prepared for unexpected circumstances, especially for novice teachers.
As we talk about bullying prevention in October, it is imperative to stress that bullies come in all ages, shapes and sizes. From kids to adults, and parents to teachers, bullies can be all around us. It is important to remember this definition of a bully because as teachers, it is our job to protect students.
Rare circumstances can provide for challenging issues in the classroom. For instance, consider you are a teacher working on a team, and you notice a co-worker is bullying the students in his/her classroom? What do you do?
Although this may be a rare situation, it does happen. I know, because it happened to me as a teacher. This event changed my entire view about advocacy, standing up for what is right, and working with school administration. This situation also caused great emotional distress leaving me feeling powerless and very upset many times. However, I did what any good teacher would do, as I made many promises when I became an educator.
Here are 5 steps you can take if you find yourself in a similar situation:
1. Clearly understand the definition of teacher bullying and/or harassment: What may seem like bullying could really be a teacher having a bad day. Make yourself aware of the school’s policies, legalities and concerns in regard to what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Many times the lines will be blurred. If you are confused, talk to someone outside of your school circle to attain a better understanding of the information. Talk with a mentor whom you trust before making any moves. Do not share this information with other teachers within the building. Truly understand the picture.
2. Document: If you have come to the conclusion that there is verbal abuse or bullying taking place within the co-teacher’s classroom, begin documenting immediately. Keep track of all inappropriate language and situations by date and time. Keep this information in a locked up area, as it is private and sensitive. Document any future meetings you may have with administration in your building. Protect yourself and your students.
3. Tell the principal: Schedule a private meeting with the principal expressing your concerns. If you have kept a journal of information, bring it to the meeting. Talk about your concerns, stress your advocacy for the kids, and remain strong. Reporting a fellow teacher can be difficult, however, it is imperative to do so. It is your responsibility as a teacher and a human being.
4. Tell the social worker: Make sure the social worker is aware of the situation so he/she can evaluate as well. The social worker has the responsibility to make sure the students are in a healthy school environment as well. His/her judgment of a situation is an important piece of the process.
5. Keep advocating: If you see that no action is being taken, and the abuse is still taking place, keep advocating. Sometimes, a teacher has to go outside of the classroom building to receive help. If your principal is not taking action, find out the proper route to take and whom to speak to in regard to your district’s policies.
This is a very unsettling and stressful situation for many people in all occupations. However, if you are a teacher, you have been given a different type of bullying responsibility. Protect the students and be strong, and be sure to understand the process and procedures for these types of situations. Reach out to your mentors outside of the school building for advice and guidance, talk with someone if you are upset, and keep going with your head held high.
You can make a difference and those kids need you. Don’t ever forget the promise you made.