Due to the impossibility of shortening this piece, it will be delivered in parts.
What do you do when you become the victim of bullying? And not just any kind of bullying, but workplace bullying. As adults, we expect our days getting bullied to be finished. Then the ugly demon rears its head and it’s coming straight on for you. What’s worse than being bullied at the workplace, is being bullied at work by someone who is more than a colleague. Less than a friend, but more than just a colleague.
He was someone she trusted. They had confided in work place secrets together. He had even told her he trusted her. They exchanged holiday text messages, and an infrequent remark or comment as well. On occasion, they had gone to happy hour together with other co-workers. She knew him to be opinionated. She knew him to be outspoken. She also knew he was obnoxious. But she never figured him a bully.
At first the insults were subtle. She brushed off the snide remarks as simply part of his obnoxious personality. Now, she thinks that is why it escalated into a full blown verbal attack. Deep inside she knows better than to accept one iota of the blame for his behavior. She is smart. She can “read” people, and she can make judgments about the behaviors of others, and for the most part her judgments are correct. Why she didn’t see this situation brewing, she cannot fathom.
She looks back and pinpoints his unacceptable behavior to a conversation about her classroom management several months prior. As her collaborative teacher, he spent two out of the six periods in a day to service the special education students on her roll. His job was simply to give guidance and support to the special needs students, nothing more. He was not in her classroom to oversee her, nor was he there to supersede her authority in the classroom. Those were her classes. She was the “lead” teacher. She was in charge. Most of the special education teachers she had previously dealt with simply became part of the woodwork. Truly, their roles are to blend in so as not to make the special needs students stand out or feel obvious to their peers.
This was not the case with Bill. He talked over top of her. He interrupted her. And sometimes, most of the time, his interruptions were disruptive to the educational momentum of her students. When she gave her opinions on the meaning of the literature, he argued that his opinion was right and hers incorrect. At first, it was a playful sparring of sorts. It was good to have a differing insight, right? Next came the obvious disdain and lack of respect he had for her. Students began to notice. They became verbal about it. They asked if he was having a bad day, or maybe in a bad mood.
Pondering the age-old question many teachers ask, she wondered out loud if she was doing something wrong in her class. It just seemed that the students were “needy.” They were unable to concentrate on their lessons without constantly asking for help. There was never quiet in the room. It seemed to her that the classroom was constantly in motion. He offered his opinion, “You have no structure in your classroom.”
She was stunned. “What do you mean, no structure?”
He became agitated, aggressive, “You have no structure. Meaning, you have no control over your students.” It was not intended to be constructive criticism; it was meant to be a hurtful, hostile remark that could bear no seeds for improvement. It was meant to hurt her. It was meant to make her weak. He had zeroed in on her. She was his prey.
She was humiliated. She was embarrassed. She was hurt. When he saw the look on her face, he backed down, saying, “Just forget it. Now you are mad at me.”
She told him she was not mad, but rather confused. She asked for clarification. He refused.
A high school veteran English teacher of more than twenty years, she confided that she felt pretty good with her control and her structure. What did he know? He had only eight years in the field. And to top it off, his classes were all special ed so he rarely had over ten students at a time. She wondered how HE would manage with large classes, sometimes numbering over 30 students. Now that education had moved on to “differentiation,” his time was spent playing second fiddle to regular education teachers. He was no longer “in charge” of the class. He role was to merely provide support. She wondered if his problem was sexist.
His ways were not her ways. He was tough spirited. He was mean spirited as well. She was jovial in the classroom, good humored and quick with wit. She gave kids second chances. He barely gave first chances. She could move kids to work for her, while he moved kids away with his abruptness and obvious discontent with life. He was abrasive.
To be continued…