October 23rd, 2012

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Music Teacher

Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

I was a music teacher in a public school for 7 years. When I arrived, there were 10 students in the junior high orchestra. My last year, I registered 75. By any typical standards, I was a successful teacher. I recruited, my students were happy, they learned, they were successful, however, both of my bosses told me to my face that I was the worst thing that ever happened to the Music Department.

When my first Fine Arts coordinator was promoted to a different position, I thought things would improve, but the new coordinator was the same. They both routinely threatened to fire me for speaking my mind. I asked that our paperwork be in both English and Spanish so my mostly Spanish-speaking parents could read it, and I was called a problem in the department. My boss would come into my classroom on a weekly basis, call me sometimes daily to yell at me for something he felt was not done properly. My work suffered. My students suffered. I tried not to let my students see how depressed I was, but several of them over the years walked in on me sobbing alone in my classroom.

My Union refused to do anything for me, saying that since it was only one person, it didn’t matter. Unless he harassed the entire staff, they weren’t willing to help. He went after two of us relentlessly, and since the rest of the staff saw how awful it was for us, they just kept their heads down in order to stay out of the line of fire.

I have since managed to escape. My husband and I had a baby, and I decided I could not bring my son a depressed mother. He deserves better. I am now a stay at home mom, but I still have panic attacks at the grocery store every time the phone rings, because it sounds just like the phone at work. I feel better knowing that now, when I get up in the morning, no one is going to tell me I am bad at my job. No one will tell me I’m crap. That was a daily event before. I just wish what I went through mattered enough to effect some kind of change. The students deserve it.


Dear Beth,

I am sorry that you had to walk away from a job that you so loved.

The anti-bullying Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) calls bullying a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes a target’s health, career, and the job that the target once loved.

From the WBI Blog site and from WBI studies, the reasons why a worker is targeted:

  • They dare to be independent
  • They are more technically skilled than their bullies
  • They are well liked
  • They are ethical and honest
  • They are not confrontive
reference:  http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/who-gets-targeted/

WBI calls the field of education, the bullying-prone profession:  “A vast pool of people with a prosocial-justice orientation wanting only to teach, develop, and to help others grow, with a tenacity to never give up on others (however hopeless or resistant), oblivious to political gamesmanship by others at work.”

You increased the number of students in your program.  You wanted to send notes home in both English and Spanish because your students’ parents were primarily Spanish speakers.  The increased number of students in your program tells me you were well liked by your students.  Students listen to their friends to see which classes to sign up for.  Sounds like your instructional coordinators/supervisors were jealous of your popularity. 

It is out of fear that your co-workers did not help you, and looked the other way.  They did not want to become the next targets, and as you say they wanted to stay out of the line of fire.

I knew a teacher who was a great teacher in one instructional department, and switched to another department.  He wanted to help students whose native language wasn’t English.  He was bi-lingual in English and another language.  His classes were well attended.  He was beloved by his students.  Being bi-lingual wasn’t why the students signed up for his classes.  Students know when a teacher truly cares about them.  Your students knew that you truly cared.  The proof:  when you arrived there were 10 students who were enrolled in orchestra, and in your last year there were 75 students. 

During difficult economic times, physical education, music, art, and other programs are often reduced or eliminated.  A school board might think twice before reducing a popular program with high student enrollment.  Too bad your jealous colleagues didn’t think about that.

The panic attacks that you have when you go to the grocery store when you hear the telephone ring sounds like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The sound of that ringing telephone reminds you of the sound of the telephone ringing at work. You may want to talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing.  Your doctor can also refer you to a mental health professional who can help you to understand and cope with what you have experienced.


I think for all of us who have suffered from an abusive work environment, that even long after we have left that environment that a little of what happened to us, the residue, stays with us.  We can’t forget.  What we can do is to help others who are experiencing it, and be supportive.  By just listening, we are showing that we care. No worker should have to experience this.


Currently, workplace bullying is not against the law in any state in the U.S.  For those that feel very strongly about this terrible work phenomenon, there are opportunities to volunteer and help enact anti-bullying legislation.  If you would like to volunteer to help your state’s coordinator or want to become a volunteer coordinator, please go to the website:  http://www.healthyworkplacebill.org/

Beth—Congratulations on your new baby, you and your husband are truly blessed.  My sincere best wishes to you and your family.




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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 at 9:38 am and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola, Target Tale, Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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