Saturday, April 23, 2011

T. Targets & Teachers. Workplace bullying

Target: a person, object or place selected as the aim of an attack.

Targets of bullying go to work to get their job done and are rarely interested in office politics or conflict, they're not interested in power plays. They may have high moral values, integrity, a strong sense of fair play and dislike arguments and aggression. The target often has a mature understanding of the need to resolve conflict with dialogue and negotiation. Many are reluctant to make a formal complaint against the bully and would prefer to forgive and get on with the job at hand. They are often extremely strong individuals who are able to withstand serial bullying for years.

The target may be vulnerable (see V) is some way, for instance need to pay a high mortgage or may be a sole parent living off one wage. They may need to stay in a work environment to cover expenses, even though they may be experiencing daily torment and feel locked in, as if there is no escape. They are not weak because they stay.

The target  may be artistic, imaginative, creative, academically above average, or may be different in some way. Many targets are caring and empathetic, forgive easily and are unwilling to resort to the lying and deceptive tactics of their tormentor. They are often criticised by the bully as being soft and overly sensitive, but in reality are showing a mature ability to respond to the concerns of others gently, with respect, dignity, consideration and tolerance. In addition, the target may show a strong sense of independence and self reliance, they have little need to be part of the 'inner clique'.

The bully on the other hand will generally try to recruit others into the 'chosen' group. They are malicious, callous, and uncaring about the needs of others. The bully manager may refer to his or her management style as 'tough', 'rough and tumble', 'strong', or 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen' and respond with impatience, irritability and aggression when this style is questioned or when he is referred for management mentoring.
East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
Teachers as targets (link to information for Queensland teachers who are being bullied. Some of this information is relevant for others)
Teachers who are independent, self-reliant, self-motivated, imaginative, innovative, and full of ideas may be targeted by others in the profession, particularly if they have an envious, malicious, bullying department head. The bully boss may be threatened by the competence and popularity of this staff member.

Sadly, many excellent teachers who are keenly aware of the difficulties faced by their caring, gentle students - the loner, the nerd, the learning disabled, the child who is a bit different in some way - may be hounded out of the profession. The hierarchy appears afraid of the very qualities that make them excellent teachers, and often does little to support them in the face of ongoing, relentless bullying.

Sometimes these very teachers have been able to protect the student targets from bullying by other students and staff. When they are "let go" the students are again vulnerable.

Teachers as bullies
Teachers who are serial bullies may also delight in targeting vulnerable students as well as other staff. They are devious, cunning, vicious, undermining, cruel and vindictive when they have found their target.  These malicious teachers not only restrict the child's access to enjoyable activities as punishment, but devise humiliating, belittling punishments on a daily basis for the target, possibly making fun of a mild physical deformity or a learning difficulty. They make cruel and callous criticism of the child's work, calling them 'dummy', 'failure' or bringing the classes attention to the simple fact that the child is different is some way.

This constant undermining and bludgeoning of a fragile self esteem can affect the child for life. Many adults have told me that whenever they try to prove that they can do something challenging, the face of their teacher tormentor and the onlooking class appears in front of them, and they hear the belittling, undermining, cruel and malicious comments, even 50 years after they've left school. Many never achieve their potential.
East Side Gallery. Berlin. 2009.
"You'll never amount to anything, I don't know why you try", "What a loser", these and other cruel phrases prevent the student from learning and actually encourage the child to go into a protective mode and should never be used in the guise of "It'll make him try harder".

Uncontrolled shouting is excruciatingly painful for a child with certain hearing difficulties. They cover their ears to prevent the pain, which increases the rage of the out of control teacher. Students in a classroom with a teacher like this will have difficulty learning.

Teacher Training
Teacher trainers please take note: all trainee teachers should be explicitly taught how to manage a classroom effectively so all students can learn, this must include thorough training in effective management of child bullies. Every primary teacher trainee should be given thorough training in how to teach mathematics, reading and spelling to all students including those with learning difficulties. Sending trainee and new primary teachers out without these vital basic skills is appalling, and that it is happening in 2011 is .... (words fail me)...

The importance of tackling bullying in Primary schools is well documented, and makes obvious sense. Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco have written some excellent papers that I hope to discuss at a later date.

Further information on bullying at school here. For schools, teachers and other interested parties: CASSE (Creating a Safe Supportive Environment) has an inexpensive conference in May 2011 in Melbourne, link here.

What is your experience as a student, teacher or target? 

Here tomorrow: Underestimate & Unrelenting

There are many outstanding resources on line. A couple I find useful are Bullying. No way! an Australian resource for teachers and students, and a UK site Bully On Line. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and each country will no doubt have equally good or more relevant websites. If you're being bullied please seek advice from a professional health care practitioner experienced in this area.

Over at jumpingaground I'm spending the month Drabbling using alliteration, often with an environmental theme.


Tony Payne said...

I don't think I could survive high school these days, and I definitely don't know how how teachers manage.

Kids seem to be able to get away with anything these days.

Sylvia Ney said...

I was a victim of bullying when I taught high school. I loved working with the kids, but staff members made my job very difficult. I didn't realize until after I quit how much stress I had been under. It's sad this is an issue. You always think you'll leave that behind after graduating, but some people will always be bullies. I'm so glad I found your blog. I'm stopping by from the A to Z challenge and I look forward to visiting again.

sue said...

Tony, the job certainly isn't for the faint hearted!
Sylvia, it really is sad that those who want to do a good job are often prevented by people who have an entirely different agenda. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Arnold said...

This can't succeed in reality, that is what I think.
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