Workplace Bullying in Schools: Teachers Speak Out

Today’s blogger is Amy Orange, an Assistant Professor at University of Houston–Clear Lake, whose recently published article Workplace Bullying in Schools: Teachers’ Perceptions of Why They Were Mistreatedappears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum. In that article, she shares her research on teachers who have suffered mistreatment.

As educators, we are familiar with student bullying in schools and various ways to address the problem.

What isn’t publicly discussed as much is workplace bullying in schools. Yet workplace bullying in educational settings is more prevalent than in other environments (Fahie & Devine, 2014), with the exception of nursing (Berry, Gillespie, Fisher, & Gormley, 2016).

When I looked at the reasons why teachers felt bullied by their administrators, few patterns emerged that showed a single clear factor that led to teachers being targeted. Some felt it was because of their age and others felt that their own behaviors, such as being outspoken or questioning their principals, may have led to the mistreatment.

Others felt that their administrators were jealous of them, either personally or professionally. Some teachers perceived that it was simply about power and that their administrators needed to exert power over them for unknown reasons. Ultimately, most of them will never know why an administrator targeted them, but the perceptions they shared with me are their realities (see my piece in this issue of The Educational Forum).

Interestingly, when discussing my research with colleagues or at conferences, I’ve had some ask whether the teachers who felt bullied were “bad” teachers, as if that somehow excuses the administrators’ behaviors.

Others have asked how I know whether the teachers I spoke with were really bullied without talking to administrators too, as if the teachers’ perceptions of what happened to them were not valid without the administrators’ discussing their perspectives. If people feel bullied, it is real to them and they will react accordingly; it has consequences for their performance at work, their desire to stay in the profession, and their mental health.

Even if it is a misunderstanding or misperception, it should be dealt with so that both the teacher and administrator reach an agreement about how to positively work together and treat each other with professional courtesy.

Prior research found a connection between low autonomy and the likelihood of being bullied in the workplace (Baillien, De Cuyper, & De Witte, 2011; Bowling & Beere, 2006). Therefore, one potential approach to managing this crisis is to increase the amount of autonomy teachers have in the workplace; hopefully this could contribute to decreases in workplace bullying in schools. Another approach may be to change the culture of the workplace. Changing workplace cultures that condone bullying, rather than refusing to deal with the problem, is not easy; but everyone deserves to work in an environment that is not harmful.

There are no simple solutions to this problem. One of the major issues with addressing workplace bullying is that we can’t create policies to make people treat others decently—kindness can’t be legislated. But we need to hold adults in schools to the same standards we do students and create the expectation of treating people with respect.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the current issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through October 31, 2018.

How Does Our Garden Grow?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to teach a kindergarten class. I spent days designing the lesson, and I will never forget the look of excitement in the eyes of the students as they participated in the lesson I created. A seed was planted; I wanted to become a teacher!

All teachers are responsible for inspiring students to contemplate and investigate career pathways as well as promoting college and career readiness. Teaching is one of those careers. The U.S. Department of Education reports teacher shortages throughout the nation in all geographical areas, subject areas, and grade levels (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, 2015).

While grow-your-own strategies have included initiatives, such as alternative licensure programs, formal efforts have not included the classroom teacher in the recruitment of future teachers. Teachers of all grade levels have the expertise to grow-their-own through purposeful efforts.

  1. Identify potential educators and plant the idea in their hearts and minds. Ask if they have ever considered becoming a teacher, then follow the question with specific, descriptive feedback on why they think they could be a successful educator. Encourage capable students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Include parents and guardians in the mission. During formal and informal conferences, share why their child would be a successful educator. Collective efforts produce an abundant harvest.
  2. Use “yes . . . but” in conversations to emphasize the positive aspects of the profession. Make it a practice to follow a voice of concern with a statement on the joys of teaching. Be mindful of how encouraging messages about teaching can influence a student who is entertaining the thought of teaching. Consider how your reactions to the challenges of teaching enhance and contribute to the grow-our-own approach. All careers have challenges, yet students in the public schools typically do not regularly interact with other career professionals nor do they hear about their difficult times. Teachers are part of a student’s daily life. Consequently, explicit positive messages are important during difficult times.
  3. Share your story. Reveal the motivation behind becoming a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Describe the events and special people who inspired the decision. Telling one’s own story inspires prospective educators and serves as a reminder as to why you entered the field. Reconnecting to your vision of teaching revitalizes your spirit and strengthens your mission of inspiring others to consider teaching. Share the chapters of your teaching life so that your students might begin writing their own.
  4. Create opportunities to explore teaching. Ask students to serve a mini apprenticeship as a teacher’s helper for a day or a week. During this time, reveal the positive aspects of a career in teaching. At the end of the apprenticeship, recognize the student with a certificate, a tangible reminder of the special event. This guided practice enables students to discover the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference in the lives of others. Students also can be assigned to work with teachers in the younger grades to build confidence in working with others while experiencing education from the teacher’s side of the desk. Student organizations, such as Educator Rising, provide the framework and support to encourage a career in education. Furthermore, Educator Rising promotes interest by allowing high school students to “test-drive” teaching and empowering teachers to act as ambassadors for teaching (Brown, 2016). These ongoing opportunities for practice exposes students to the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference.
  5. Think like a marketing agent and visually promote your profession. Positive messages in the classroom can inspire future educators. Posters that celebrate teaching and the power of learning can motivate students to consider a career as an educator. Highlight successful teachers on a bulletin board or in published news articles. Have students create works about teachers who have influenced them.
  6. Be a role model. Attract students to teaching by simply doing what you love to do: teach. Be the professional your students want to emulate. Welcome your students at the door with a smile. Facial expressions, attitude, and social interaction become your runway moves. Positive actions and reactions serve as fertilizer that encourage students to perceive education as a desirable calling.

The opportunity to teach during my senior year in high school planted the seed for a fruitful career in education. Teachers have the capacity to grow-our-own. Encouraging students to consider a teaching career begins in kindergarten and continues through 12th grade. Teachers hold the solution to cultivate and mentor the next harvest of teachers to make our garden grow.

Dr. Kathleen Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and Secondary Education at Eastern New Mexico University. She teaches courses on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, supervises teacher candidates during student teaching, and serves as the Assessment Coordinator of the College of Education and Technology. She is also the counselor of the Omicron Upsilon chapter at ENMU.

 

It’s A Small World, After All

We frequently hear about the importance of today’s students being critical and innovative thinkers and globally aware citizens. But did you know that the same discussions are happening halfway around the globe? As part of the 7th Annual High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange held in Beijing, June 7–9, 2016, a U.S.–China Education Think Tank Dialogue was held with a theme of Educational Research, Policymaking and Innovation in the Knowledge-Based Economy. Participants in the dialogue included policy makers, teacher preparation faculty, researchers, principals, and teachers. (You can download the agenda by clicking here.)

The presentations addressed topics such as lessons of education reform and development in China and U.S. educational reform efforts, curriculum reform, vocational education, and innovative teaching practices. The scope and variety of presentations provided attendees with a unique and comprehensive overview of education in China today. Similar to U.S. efforts to address inequalities in education and to equip our youth with the skills and mindsets necessary to thrive in the 21st century, Chinese policy makers and school administrators are working to improve access to quality education in the western parts of the country, to develop more critical thinking skills and creativity, and to make K–12 classroom instruction more student-centered.

As part of China’s commitment to internationalize its education, all 300 million students study English, starting in Kindergarten.

While the United States shares some of the same education goals, we also have similar challenges. Our Chinese counterparts are increasing funding and support of rural and minority schools, identifying new ways of engaging the community, working to make the profession of teaching more respected and with competitive salaries, and providing schools with more autonomy. Another area of commonality is providing professional development for educators and administrators. Because of Shanghai students’ high PISA scores, there has been global interest in learning more about Shanghai teachers and schools. Data from a Teaching and Learning International Survey revealed that Shanghai teachers have 62 professional development days per academic year.

All new teachers participate in a multiple-year induction program that includes a mentor who is an expert teacher. This level of support requires a financial commitment, which is particularly noteworthy given that 100 new schools are built each year in Shanghai.

The Think Tank Dialogue offered rich learning opportunities for both U.S. and Chinese educators. Reflecting on the three days of presentations, it is clear that we have much more in common than the differences that divide us.

Faye Snodgress is chairing a session on Higher Education Reform and Employment with presenters Dr. Leon Richard, Chancellor of the University of Hawaii Kapiolani Community College, Dr. Sun Cheng, Director of Vocational and Technical Education, National Institute of Education Sciences of China, Dr. Yi Li, Provost and Vice President, California State University-Northridge, and Dr. Wu Ni, Director for the Education Policy Research Center, National Institute of Education Sciences of China.

Faye Snodgress is chairing a session on Higher Education Reform and Employment with presenters Dr. Leon Richard, Chancellor of the University of Hawaii Kapiolani Community College, Dr. Sun Cheng, Director of Vocational and Technical Education, National Institute of Education Sciences of China, Dr. Yi Li, Provost and Vice President, California State University-Northridge, and Dr. Wu Ni, Director for the Education Policy Research Center, National Institute of Education Sciences of China.

Given KDP’s commitment to advancing sustainability literacy, I met with our partner, the Beijing Association for Education for Sustainable Development (BAESD), which is interested in becoming an affiliate chapter of KDP. BAESD is involved in the establishment of a national Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) District and Green Development Exemplary District in the Shijingshan District. China’s commitment to ESD has set a good example worldwide in curriculum development, teacher training, and innovations in technology. As part of working together with educators and other countries to promote the well-being of human society, the group is interested in establishing a partnership with U.S. high schools that have incorporated either environmental education or sustainable education in their pedagogies and curriculum.

Dr. SHI, Gendongi and his BAESD staff, principals, and teachers.

Dr. SHI, Gendongi and his BAESD staff, principals, and teachers.

Being in China for the Think Tank Dialogue also provided an opportunity for me to meet with two of our Chinese chapters. Members of the Far East China School chapter shared the many ways that members use and benefit from KDP resources, such as listening to and discussing podcasts, reading articles from the Record, and using the professional development resources and tips shared in emails from KDP Headquarters. Chapter members are eagerly awaiting Convo 2017!

KDP Counselor Dr. Chen Xaioda proudly displays the KDP banner which will hang in the school’s conference room.

KDP Counselor Dr. Chen Xaioda proudly displays the KDP banner which will hang in the school’s conference room.

The KDP Asia–Pacific Network for International Education and Values Education (APNIEVE) chapter, which was established by KDP Laureate Dr. Zhou Nan-Zhoa, is interested in expanding membership beyond Shanghai. Some new goals were established for collaboration between KDP and APNIEVE related to joint research projects and participation in exchange programs for teachers, principals, and students.

An international experience such as my recent trip to China reminds me how much we can learn from talking with other educators, whether they are part of our local community or teach in schools around the world.

Dr. Xiong Jianhui, Secretary-General of UNESCO-APNIEVE and KDP Chapter Counselor, joins me in showing our updated planning document.

Dr. Xiong Jianhui, Secretary-General of UNESCO-APNIEVE and KDP Chapter Counselor, joins me in showing our updated planning document.

We share a deep-seeded belief that education is the path to a better life, and we strive to ensure that today’s youth are responsible global citizens who have the skills and understanding to address future challenges in an equitable manner.

We are united by a profession in which we all strive to continually improve our practice to ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. It is a small world, after all.

Faye_S_7-1-14Faye Snodgress, CAE, is the Executive Director for Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education.

Reinforcing the Value of the Teaching Profession

Will today’s students be ready and able to meet the challenges of society’s uncertain future as literate, creative, and critical thinkers; as wise, compassionate, and knowledgeable citizens; as workers with the skills and ability to resolve challenges within their professions? The answer to this question lies with teachers and the teaching profession.

Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education is partnering with fourteen other leaders of educational organizations to release a joint statement that seeks to reinforce the value and importance of the profession of teaching. With more than 200,000 educators represented, the statement expresses the belief that teachers, as change agents, have the ability to fill our communities with informed, caring, and engaged citizens.

The full statement can be found at http://bit.ly/Teaching2016.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” proclaimed one of the world’s greatest advocates, Nelson Mandela. Today, we are reflecting on these words and choosing to stand together to continue to share this powerful message.

Through the collaboration and partnering of our various organizations, we are positioning ourselves to inform decisions and reinforce the value of the teaching profession as one worthy of respect and equal status among all other professions.

Michael Connet, Senior Director of Programs and Communications for the Association for Career and Technical Education, shares, “ACTE is pleased to be able to signal its support for the joint statement regarding the profession of teaching and the message it delivers.”

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