Why should teachers put up with abuse?

8th June 2007 at 01:00
It was suggested by your columnist Stuart Waiton that teachers were complaining about "name calling" and that the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association had wasted time at its annual congress condoning that complaint (TESS May 25).

Nothing could be further from the truth. The behaviour we labelled unacceptable is verbal abuse as defined in the Violence at Work policy, written by those notoriously sensitive and over-protective organisations the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Executive.

Verbal abuse, which damages pupils and is rightly labelled bullying, also damages adults and is still labelled bullying.

Teaching is a hugely rewarding, but challenging, profession, requiring a highly-developed sense of humour and resilience in addition to adaptability and resourcefulness. Super-sensitive souls rarely make it past the stage of initial teacher education and, if they do, fall damaged at the probationary hurdle.

Teachers are largely immune from the silly and fatuous comments made about their style, make of car, and so on. But no one is, or should be, immune to the denigrating and nasty comments made anonymously on websites. Failure to deal appropriately with this is as damaging to the perpetrator as it is to the victim.

Perhaps your correspondent is suggesting that teachers should not be entitled to the protection offered to other workers? Anyone visiting an NHS waiting room, railway or bus station, shop changing room or local authority office will see at least one poster describing in graphic detail the damage caused by violence in the workplace.

These posters make it clear that anyone using verbal or physical violence against workers will be prosecuted. Is someone suggesting that the people entrusted with the future of our country - our children - should have fewer rights and less protection than other workers? If so, can they please explain who will educate our children when the last teacher gives up?

Ann Ballinger

president, Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association

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