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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bullying is alive and well in the Duval County School District

Some typical definitions of bullying are; someone who uses superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what they want and a person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people. I am sad to say bullying is alive and well in Duval County. Now I am not talking about in the halls or at recess or what happens between students. I am talking about what happens in the teacher’s lounge, during evaluations and after school when all the kids have gone home. I am talking about how administrators bully teachers into getting what they want, making them victims of intimidation, treating teachers in an unfair and cruel manner.

I am not saying all administrators are bullies. On the contrary we have many wonderful administrators but like we have some children who insist on using violence and intimidation to get what they want we have enough administrators here in Duval County that a few bad apples is threatening to spoil the cart. We have enough acting in a fashion that should concern and embarrass us all.

I recently completed what I thought was an excellent training. If the instructor was half as good with her students as she was with us teachers I can truly say she must be incredible. At the end she told me this was it for her and she was putting in her papers to retire. When I asked why she told me how an assistant principal had ruined the year for her and made teaching no longer worth it. I have heard a variation of this story hundreds of times and about how principals and administrators talk to teachers in a fashion that would get teachers in serious trouble if they did so in the same way to their students.

Teachers’ especially new ones have very few protections while at work. If a principal or an administrator gets it in their head that they don’t like you, they can make a teachers life very difficult. Spot lesson plan checks, constant visits to your room, a change in assignment, a hit to an evaluation, a loss of merit pay, a lack of respect in front of peers or worse in front of children, a dismissal of concerns or issues, a lack of support, a denial of trainings, it goes on and on the subtle ways those with a little power can make a teacher’s life miserable. I know one teacher who was told she could no longer park in the teacher’s parking lot.

Veteran teachers tell new teachers all the time to be quiet and take it. That it is best to fly under the radar, when they complain in confidence about unfair demands or overbearing administrators. It used to be after three years teachers had some kind of protection, what the public education-hating crowd convinced some of the public was tenure but now even that is gone. From this point on teachers have become at will employees capable of being fired at the end of the year for any reason, real or imagined.

You better pass this amount of children or your evaluation will suffer, you won’t get merit pay or you know what I have a neighbor whose nephew says he might want to try teaching so you could be gone. Don’t think about writing any referrals either. The same goes for refusing to work extended day, Saturday school, to tutor on your personal time, running a club, taking on extra work or projects, or just plain don’t think any kid should get grade recovery for any reason. Well from now on refuse any of these things at the risk of your evaluation or job.

So what some people might say. They like to point out with this economy there is no end of applicants but what they don’t like to point out is, do we really want anybody willing to roll the dice teach our children and five years ago when the economy was good we didn’t have enough teachers and we were recruiting in India and Canada. That’s right friends we were traveling thousands of miles away to find teachers for our students in Florida because not enough people were willing to roll the dice. If the economy ever does turn around we won’t have enough warm bodies to staff our classrooms.

The legislature has recently given principals and school districts carte blanche to intimidate and bully teachers, not that they needed it. Petty tyrants like the one who made my brilliant reading teacher want to quit are already alive and well throughout the district. They use the hammer and the fist to get what they want. They intimidate and cajole and use methods we want to protect our children from in order to get their way.

How are teachers supposed to stick up for their children, how are teachers supposed to point out flaws in the system, how are teachers supposed to do what is right when they might lose their job for it. The best administrators get their staff to want to work with them, to make them want to succeed, they don’t use fear, threats and intimidation to get what they want. The best teachers use similar methods as well.

Bullying is alive in well in Duval County and like how we have seen it adversely affect children and have called for its stop we should likewise demand administrators stop it as well. We need to support and back our teachers. We need to nurture the new ones too. We need to have a district where everyone feels respected and appreciated until they prove other wise, not just play lip service to that idea.

1 comment:

  1. The only way to stop bullying is to report it to authorities and take appropriate disciplinary or legal steps. It isn't easy, but those who are bullied really can't complain if they have not blown the whistle on fear, threats, intimidation, etc.