Bullied at school? Here's what to do

Not all people who work in schools are the caring, sensitive little bunnies one might wish for. There are lots of fantastic people in schools who are more than happy to share their expertise with new teachers. But every now and then you may be on the receiving end of behaviour that is less than helpful or encouraging. Some people find it hard to switch off from the sort of assertiveness needed to manage a class and boss their fellow professionals around like recalcitrant youngsters.

So what do you do when someone upsets you? Rule number one, don’t let it get to you too much. Assertiveness training is worth considering, even if you just read a book on it. Being aggressive or passive takes a lot out of you whereas you can feel an inner calm if you’re simply assertive. Killing rudeness with kindness is a super strategy if you can bear it. But look out for behaviour that moves from the inconsiderate to bullying, something that is not unheard of among staff in schools as the number of cases reported to the Teacher Support Network demonstrates.

The Stress Management Society, a voluntary organisation, identifies two types of bully:

  • Someone who needs to put others down to raise their own self esteem
  • Someone who is overloaded and whose tension leaks out as aggressive behaviour

The second type is more common but the first is more dangerous. Bullying has a destructive effect on confidence, morale and health - all things that are essential for teachers. A knock-on effect is that you may be the last to realise that you’re being bullied. Teachers tell harrowing stories, but then say: “Please don’t say anything”. They’re worried about making matters worse.

Steps to take if you think you are being bullied include keeping a record of incidents, noting how you were made to feel and what you did to address issues. Speak to someone you can trust - you may find out you’re not the only one who has suffered. Whatever you do, don’t put up with it. If you are being bullied, the Stress Management Society recommends you should:

  • Keep a diary of each occurrence, with time, dates and witnesses. If you hand this over to your manager, keep a copy for yourself.
  • If you are being bullied or harassed via emails, letters or memos, keep copies for evidence.
  • Speak to your union representative as soon as possible: they can accompany you to meetings with your manager.
  • Let your line manager know as soon as you can because they have a responsibility to resolve the issue.
  • Keep a copy of meetings with your manager and always have a brief meeting with your union representative afterwards.
  • Let the bully know in writing that you find their behaviour unacceptable. If you don’t feel able to do that, ask your union representative to write on your behalf.

Contact The Stress Management Society

Contact Teacher Support Network

Need more workplace advice? Visit Teachers’ survival guide