The Teachers’ union is clear: since dues are paid by teachers, not by kids or parents, the union’s job is to protect and increase teachers’ salaries and seniority.
I love good teachers. I come from a family of teachers. My life has been crucially enriched by teachers. I teach.
But I won’t support the teachers’ unions focus only on salary and seniority. There’s something simple the union can do to protect its own members and to get my support.
Everyone involved in schools knows there’s a problem. Everyone points fingers at everyone else but no one takes the obvious actions. Why wait until there’s another killing or another suicide before they act?
Sometimes I get mad enough to want to see the bullies and the adults’ people’s pictures in the post office among the most wanted, or on television, so we can recognize the slackers when we see them at the supermarket. Who do I fault?
Legislators and school board members: How can they not have laws and policies? I know there are lots of problems writing good laws and crafting effective policies, but if they’re not up to the task, resign and let us get some adults who can. We all know that if their kids were targeted, they’d spring into action.
The teachers’ union: I’m appalled that the union isn’t leading the fight (read, “spending their lobbying dollars”) to make legislators pass laws and school boards implement strong policies to empower and protect teachers when they intervene. They have all the evidence they need to act.
According to the article in the Dallas News, “Rena Honea, president of Dallas teachers association Alliance-AFT, says, ‘Teachers have intervened in the past. They have been injured. They have not been able to return to work. They have been reprimanded for intervening. So there is a huge question mark as to what's truly appropriate. Teachers who have intervened in the past have found themselves on the ground, suffering from sometimes serious injuries, a 2008 story by Tawnell Hobbs found. She found that assaults by students on Dallas ISD employees and volunteers had more than doubled over a 5-year span from 147 incidents in 2002-03 to 312 in 2006-07, according to district statistics.
Principals and teachers: They’re stuck, hanging out to dry on their own, unprotected by their employers (school boards) and by their union. That teacher in Seagoville, Texas was risking his career and his personal life if he intervened. The attacker could have beaten him. The attacker and his parents could have sued him. No one is protecting him. He’s in a no-win situation. How come the school district doesn’t have a clear, strong program that requires principals and teachers to act?
Harassing, bullying, abusing and beating kids are terrible acts. Irresponsible adults who have good reasons, rationalizations, excuses and justifications for not intervening are even worse. They convert targets into victims.
Targets can resist and get help from responsible adults.
Victims are unprotected, helpless and isolated. When victims grow up:
They tend to perpetuate the pattern of being victims in relationships and at work.
Which professions, in their teaching schools and in their on-the-job practices, foster or tolerate the worst and most flagrant forms of bullying? I don’t know, but teaching is right up there with doctors and lawyers and others I may be overlooking.
I see two kinds of principals running two very different kinds of public schools.
By the way, not only public schools, but also colleges, universities and professional, post-graduate training schools (teacher training, medical schools, and law schools) are hotbeds of faculty harassing and bullying students, and faculty bullying other faculty. Don’t believe me? Check out the law suits and blogs. Ask the teachers, doctors and lawyers you know personally. Ask about arrogant, narcissistic, abusive control-freaks.
How do teachers bully other teachers?
Senior individuals, including principals, have power and control over junior teachers and will misuse that power for personal reasons, including sex. One variant is, “Suck up to me or I’ll sabotage your career.” Another is, “I’m powerful and I enjoy making you squirm.” Or, “They did it to me and now I’ll do it to you.” And, “It’s for your own good. It’ll make you stronger.”
Often, cliques of senior or even junior teachers try to run the show. One variant is, “Join our clique and suck up to us or else.” Another is, “Don’t change my perks or the status quo, and don’t threaten my job. Don’t expose our failures or dirty laundry even though we’re not changing. If you do, we’ll get you.” Their favorite tactics are to ostracize the offender and to blame all the problems on him or her. These vicious gangs will try to silence or remove offenders for nitpicky, trumped up reasons.
What can you do if you’re managing such an environment?
In my experience, successful change starts from the top down.
At a college, university or professional school, it takes a very powerful and very politically astute new administrator or new department head to change the environment. The new person will have to weed through his staff slowly and carefully, replacing the worst bullies and narcissists for legal reasons and in legal ways. He’ll have to have support because there will be widespread personal attacks and law suits.
At a public school, change requires a new principal supported by the district administrators and school boards. The new principal will have to be a master at enrolling a core group of supportive teachers and the media, and maneuvering around the union. Entrenched people, like infected splinters, are hard to reach and remove. But persevering and savvy principals can set a new tone in their schools.
What can you do if you’re a target?
Notice the signs. If you’re ignored, blamed or attacked in public, especially in front of students, you’re being set-up to be the target of a public media campaign as a troublemaker who needs fired for the well-being of the school. There’s no negotiating with these righteous predators and flying low won’t get them to back off. You won’t get the union to back you.
Hire a good lawyer who knows how to get the right publicity – not the school lawyer. Being right won’t prevent a smear campaign, full of innuendos and lies, against you. Learn what to document on your home computer.
You’ll probably end up looking for a job in another state with one of the few district administrators who can see the truth and are willing to take a chance on a “potential troublemaker.”