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Ever been bullied or made to feel so ill you ended up off with stress or resigned? Please read.

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by dht46, Feb 15, 2015.

  1. chuk

    chuk New commenter

    I have been off for several months with depression related to a pupil assault that took place 28 months ago. (A year 10 student tried to strangle me.) Although I did return to work after many months off work after said assault, I suffered a relapse. The school are dubious about whether this depression is connected and are now trying to get rid of me through sickness absence measures. The hearing date has not yet officially been set, but apparently my union rep thinks they will try and end my contract directly after the hearing just before the end of this term. The matter is being passed on to regional level.They offered a half-hearted settlement, but I have turned it down. Long story short, but I am now on the 10th day of only getting 2/3 hours sleep, since hearing about their intentions. Although I am receiving therapy, I have had some pretty terrible days, and on one of those days I did actually contemplate suicide. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of leaving behind my wife and children, and the fact that my parents would be distraught having already lost one of their children to cancer (my sister died of bone cancer in 2004 aged 36, leaving three children aged 5, 8 and 10)

    The worse thing about it all is the new head's lack of compassion, and taking a stance which is punitive rather than supportive. I am completely exhausted due to lack of sleep.

    No 'get well soon' cards.....No comforting e-mails or letters.....

    I have worked in tougher environments than this, having served in the military in the 1980s. (I served in the Falkland's conflict). If we had a problem then, there was a support network available, especially if you had served in a theatre of war. Ironically, when I was going through difficult times at my school in the lead up to the assault, my own son was doing a tour of duty in Afghanistan. To say I was stressed and worried was an understatement. However, I felt that nobody really understood.

    From what I can gather from 16 years service as a teacher in 4 different schools (including a 5 year stint as a head of year) some senior managers are just not cut out to lead people let alone manage them. Cowardly tactics are often used and they certainly don't appear to lead from the front. A favourite tactic used by one head was to put a nasty memo in your tray last thing on a Friday just as you were about to go home for the weekend. Usually a veiled threat.

    Bullying by stealth is the way it is done. I prefer it when you can see the whites of their eyes.
  2. chuk

    chuk New commenter

    As an afterthought, maybe petitions should be raised online in order to force MPs to debate the subject. (I can't remember the exact rule about the number of petitions needed.) I need to go to bed now and try to get some sleep.
  3. FreddyK

    FreddyK New commenter

    Hang on in there Chuk. You are not alone and have a loving and caring family from the sounds of it.

    Clearly that place is not right for you.

    From what I've read depression is considered a disability and can fall under the protection of the Disability Discrimination Act. It is also considered as something that can be brought on and doesn't necessarily have to be disclosed at the start of a job as sufferers fear discrimination. The better managers should recognise that. Those that don't understand mental health issues sympathise less easily.

    Try to get some sleep. It's not easy to avoid thinking about work when you're off - I'm struggling and only on Day 3/4.

    Sleep is so important, one cannot operate without it and being away from work has helped me try to get a grip of sleep patterns. All things considered the time away has also helped me realise I need out and I have made up my mind about leaving this school now. If I wasn't scared of a reference being ruined I wouldn't think twice about putting in a grievance about my bullying line manager, whose actions set off this leave of absence.

    All things considered I think we as teachers should not be afraid to insist on everything we are instructed to do be written down for us, and for witnesses for all tricky conversations if we aren't doing it already. It's a shame but we'd not think twice about putting ourselves in such positions if we had to interact with pupils, yet I do now believe in our profession perhaps we start to think about safeguarding protocol when working with colleagues, for our own protection against workplace bullying and harassment. Clearly Grievance policies aren't worth the paper they are printed on.
  4. rooney1

    rooney1 Occasional commenter

    I hope you slept a bit. Your head has a duty of care. As you have been off for quite a while presumeably you have seen occupational health. Let your union deal with the school - you need to look after yourself and your family. Noone who hasn't been physicallly assaulted can really understand how it can affect you long afterwards and then you had all the pressure of having a child in Afghanistan. Don't rule out a settlement- it might not be what you want but it might be the best option. Do you really want to go back to that school.Work out a realistic amount - do a top amount and the very least then let your union deal with it. This may not be what you want but it might be the best of difficult choices. From my experience it's just horrible at the time and things can take a lot longer to 'move on' from than you think but you do move on and learn to deal with it. After my experience I didn't think I would ever be able to walk into a school again but having had amazing support from friends and colleagues in other schools who couldn't believe what had happened to me . I have a part time job which I really enjoy and although I am not earning what I was life is good and I now wouldn't want my old way of life back . I just wanted to let you know that there is light at the other end.
  5. chuk

    chuk New commenter

    Thanks for you kind comments 'freddy' and 'rooney'.....much appreciated. Good to know there are people out there in similar situations. It helps.
  6. FreddyK

    FreddyK New commenter

    End of the first week of a two week absence due to WRS.

    I genuinely feel it will be a struggle to return back to work after next week. I know I should stay away until I'm better, but I do not wish to fuel any arguments in my HT's mind for a poor reference.

    It now becomes clear why I've seen lots of advice given to others about getting through and seeing the year to its end.

    The one thing I have learnt from this experience is how to recognise what bullying and victimisation look like.

    What surprises me is the veracity of the actions from several staff, however if one person - more than likely a line manager - is determined to act in such a way it will take place and there's nothing one can do about how they weave others into their orchestration except start to look elsewhere. Others simply will look after their own interests and stay under cover even if they fully agree with what's happening. Such is the nature of the job market at the moment.

    I feel I just have to keep my focus on ensuring my reference is in tact, after several years of no absence until now I think I should be able to explain I just felt burnt out to anyone enquiring, even though I know otherwise.

    Again, Grievance Policies are simply not worth the paper they are written on.

    If you find yourself working under any form of coercive manager, my advice would be save yourself the hassle and do what you need to do to get out as quickly as possible.

    Even as a HoD, I'm willing to dip into the supply teacher chain for a bit. I'm in a shortage subject and hope I'm found and taken under the wing of a school that needs me as much as I need them.

    Definitely am preparing myself for a bumpy ride ahead.
  7. Nikkibell811

    Nikkibell811 New commenter

    Freddy K - Don't rush back if you are not well. You use the word 'genuinely'. Believe me, it is 'genuine'. I have been off since November. I reached crisis point and took a week, and then another two weeks. The next note was for a month. It was a good six weeks before I started to feel calm and a little more rational. I didn't really understand how ill a person could be with WRS.

    Like you, I was angry - there were reasons why the stress had built over a year. Academy, new leadership, school improvement agenda - compounded by ridiculous workload. I had counselling which helped me to come through some of the feelings of hurt, anger, rejection etc.

    Now I have decided to move on. Why go back to a poisonous situation. I have little conversations in my head with the people who were horrible to me - but I no longer feel the need to actually voice any of it to anybody. I have let it go.

    Like you, I have decided to do some supply teaching. I have been SLT - but I don't want any of that now. My health and life is more important. Unlike you, I have not considered that my old school will give me a poor reference - so I hope that doesn't happen :)

    It doesn't feel like a failure - It feels good. I have decided. My choice.

    I used to read this forum and wonder how anyone could ever get back into school after an episode like this. I never wanted to set foot in a classroom again!

    But now I can see that there would be a place for me somewhere different and I am quite excited about that prospect. I am not rushing it though. I am off until Easter. I am better than I was - but not yet fully recovered. I think it would undo all the progress if I went back into the old situation but I wont really be ready to start a new one until September - so I need to negotiate my exit route.

    Good luck with your journey and thank you for sharing it. While you are off work, get outside in the fresh air, walk, eat well, talk with friends, watch films - It all helps
    gr8jd likes this.
  8. FreddyK

    FreddyK New commenter

    Yoda: if there was a way I could shake you by the hand I would. Thank you so much for your valuable advice.

    You have summarised every single feeling I feel right now.

    The hardest day was today, I know if I was in school I'd be in tears. I realise I've broken down three times this year in school and that's not normal at all.

    One of the things I have tried to do is get my thoughts together on a Word document, using a Bullying and Harrassment questionnaire that I found on my union's website. By doing that it helped me realise just what was happening and what I was being subjected to. We need to recognise the signs and look out for each other in and out of our staff rooms.

    What I do feel let down about the most is how I was betrayed, this was my first ever HoD role and you want a Line Manager who you can look up to and get full support from, not someone who is just in it for their own self interest.

    I totally agree about those quiet head conversations too!

    I definitely am clear on wanting to move on though. That's the main thing that's keeping me going. I will have to make a big decision at the end of next week, but I hope I make the right one where my health and sanity are concerned - we have to make that our number one priority.

    WRS remains one of those taboos in our vocation. Anyone reading who knows very little about it needs to realise it is real and can affect us, irrespective of experience or level of competency in our classrooms.

    I have accepted my GP's recommendations for counselling and therapy. I certainly welcome it.

    Take care Yoda :)
  9. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    The one thing I would say to anyone that's off work at the moment is don't even think of going back before you feel able to do it. If you do you risk making things worse. Stay off, get better and get out of that situation. No job is worth your health/life.

    After my experience I was able to get back into being a full time teacher and was one via long term supply for a number of years. I did leave the profession for a bit but chose to come back to it (missed various things, hadn't forgotten about the unpleasant things mind) via supply, I've since decided that I'll stick to daily and short term supply as long term isn't what I want any more. I do like working with kids, but I dislike both the other stuff and the effect it has on me when it comes to longer term posts. I come first, I hope everyone struggling can start to move forward and find their better place to be in.
  10. Happyregardless

    Happyregardless Occasional commenter

    "I never realised that my supply status would cushion me from the pressures my permanent colleagues face, but to an extent, it does."

    While sometimes, when working in a school you like, you can yearn to be permanent - yes - in many ways the above statement is true and means you are left alone to do a good job of teaching the children which is after all what we are all there for.

    This afternoon, found myself ENJOYING what I was teaching and the kids response was good and thought - okay - so maybe after all I don't care what XYZ think about my status or what 'grade' of teacher they perceive me to be - but these kids and I have enjoyed our afternoon and they have come out of it learning something new and ENJOYING learning itself - hang on to this, if nothing else.
    fa17 likes this.
  11. FreddyK

    FreddyK New commenter

    In the middle of week 2 and I emailed school for a request for information to be sent to me on Friday, in the event that I return to work next Monday.

    School emailed back to say they wish to schedule an informal meeting to discuss issues that I was aware of already. I've not been given any specific details, only a request on the Friday before I went on leave of absence to say the Head would like to discuss some new issues that have come up (discussion with Head, not Line Manager, as stipulated in the Disciplinary Policy).

    Called Union, they said if it's a return to work that's fine but if they wish to bring up anything else and I feel awkward and outnumbered, then I need to stop them and say that I feel uncomfortable and wish to postpone the meeting until I have a chance to be accompanied by a union representative.

    Union agreed it would be a good idea to email back and ask for clarity on the nature of the meeting so I've done that.

    I've no reason to believe it's negative in any way, as I'd have known something before the Monday of my first week of sick leave. The school have stated informal but inside me I believe they may be looking for a reason to observe me even more pre-capability, if that makes sense. SMT I should have mentioned have no-notice observed me between 5-10 times since last November, even though I'm not on Disciplinary or Capability procedures. I've come out Good or better every time. I'm the only member of staff that is subjected to this.

    I suspect it will be something to show that they're supporting me, to allow them to get more sleep at night than I do. I will wait for their response.

    For now I'm glad the union gave me sound advice.

    Curiously I was asked for a fit note, in the middle of my sick leave. I feel I'm the only one wanting to get back to teaching the kids - that is, after all, what this should be about right? Ironically when I make an appointment for a fit note I may not be deemed fit - what do I do?
  12. rosievoice

    rosievoice Star commenter

    FreddyK, do not attend any meeting on your own, no matter what they have called it. Have your companion take detailed notes, they will be your witness. These informal meetings often turn out to be something else.

    If your GP finds you unfit to work, listen to him / her. Your state of health is all -important.
  13. FreddyK

    FreddyK New commenter

    Good advice Rosievoice definitely will follow it. Xx
  14. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter

    Slightly off topic, but not meaning to be, I was bullied/vicimised as a parent and also when I became a governor because I had dared to make a completely valid complaint (not realsing that a number of other parents had also made complaints) and years later I still cannnot believe the duplicity and nastiness that goes on in schools.

    And it doesn't stop there. My daughter was bullied horrendously in connection with her disability (autsim) by a certain member of staff when she transferred to sixth form. She became so anxious she started having panic attacks and being sent home. Eventually she became too unwell to go and during that time not a word came through from the school - or even from her classmates. She did get back to repeat the year but her anxiety remains debilitaing and she is gain off with depression and it looks as if she will drop out of school completely and possibly study OU courses because of her fear of social situations.Suc a shame as she is so bright. But nobody really cares.

    I say hit them where it hurts. The NHS should charge schools for the damage they do to peoples mental health - and by that I mean teachers, pupils, governors and yes even parents.

    To all those of you who have suffered, keep smiling, look after yourself (no one else will) and don't lose faith in yourself.
  15. jomaimai

    jomaimai Established commenter

    Yes, the first time I wanted to fight and prove them wrong. Now (second time) I just want to leave in the best terms. I know what I have been told is not true.

    The whole thing is about them thinking that:

    • if an inspector goes through your door, the school is not going to be graded outstanding,
    • you are too expensive
    • or both.
    It has nothing to do with how well students in your class are doing.
  16. casper

    casper New commenter

    Add me to your list, I had suicidal thoughts and eventually just walked out. it was the best thing I have ever done. i will never forgive the person that did this to me. I now have a new career ahead of me in a different field, I have my life and my sanity back. it is an absolute outrage that people in this profession are being treated like this and no one seems to be accountable. This happened shortly after I went up to UPS 3, strange that??
    menhir likes this.
  17. Another one. Don't think I'd ever choose to work at an 'outstanding' school again because nothing less than outstanding was ever good enough for the Head and was setting up anyone who they didn't like to fail. I learnt a lot there but was so relieved to get out.
  18. Compassman

    Compassman Star commenter

    Outstanding should be something that very few teachers and schools obtain (maybe 5% at most). What's wrong with just being 'good'?
    fa17 likes this.
  19. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    Cos the government and seemingly now some heads don't understand the meaning of average. First 80% of children had to achieve above average and now well above average, now all teachers have to be outstanding.
  20. Compassman

    Compassman Star commenter

    I said the other day to a younger teacher that I had no desire to be outstanding. They looked at me like my head had just exploded!!!

    For 30 years I've done a satisfactory/good job, what the hell is wrong with that?
    tenpast7 likes this.

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