Ready, steady, teach - Sharp words that still wound

14th November 2008 at 00:00

Fifteen years on, I once again find myself the victim of bullying within school. However, I am no longer the shy teenager who was so cruelly victimised for two years by a fellow pupil jealous of my academic and sporting abilities. This time, it is a member of staff and I am a newly qualified teacher.

Just a week ago I facilitated a day with my 11-year-olds that focused on bullying and conflict resolution, yet it took a tearful conversation with a union adviser to finally hear and believe those same awful words: "You are being bullied."

Everyone said that the NQT year would be tough. However, a complete lack of support in terms one and two destroyed all of my confidence in the classroom and the staffroom.

Whispered rumours about my past and mutterings of discontentment about my performance were not that far removed from my experiences as a child and I found myself experiencing that same feeling of isolation.

Schools, although busy places, can be terribly lonely for the NQT trying to establish their position in the highly political structure. Many teachers are "on their way": clear about their direction and prepared to step on anyone to make their next leap. Other teachers are "established": far too busy and self-important to interact with a lowly NQT.

However, I write this article not to demoralise those thinking of entering the profession, but to stress that schools can also be places of great support; it just may not come in a guise you expect, and it may be necessary to actively seek it out.

It was my mentor who abused her power as head of faculty and, for three terms, broke my spirit and self-belief. Eventually, I sacked her and decided to stand up to her bullying.

Now, with a new mentor outside of my department, I have an ally who is committed to my professional development. I am also aware of the different people at all levels within the school who are approachable for support in all aspects of school life.

Although it has been hard, this job is worth fighting for. Teaching my classes is a privilege and I consider myself lucky to have a job in which each day is so exciting and fulfilling.

I will continue to fight the bully. I will not be broken.

Name and school withheld.

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