Why Are They After Me–What’s Their Motive?

Question:

I’ve been teaching over 30 years, mostly at one school. Last year I was transferred to a different school, one with only 6 other teachers and an ed. tech. Early in the year, some of the other teachers criticized me directly about simple things: the way I parked- needed to move my car over a little, I rang the bus bell one minute early. When my classroom was 61 degrees I asked for the heat to be turned on and other things that could cause the world to end.

A few months into the year my principal came to me and said that two people had complained to her. As one person walked by my room, she overheard me talking about being out the next day to attend a funeral. The children asked me a few questions and I answered as “generically” as I could. The other person also walked by my room and claimed that I asked personal questions about the students. Following that, the principal sent me an email telling me to stop drinking soda in front of the kids. She also informed the custodian, who takes her break at the local store, not to buy me any soda.

Recently, I was summoned to the office, yet again. This time a parent claimed she was worried about me because I posted on Facebook (yes, horrible idea) that I was very sad and disappointed at my job because of the way I was treated and didn’t know what to do as the children are wonderful and special and I loved being with them. This is (suspected) parent had a child in a different class. Yesterday, the principal came to me and told me it’s my coworkers who have chosen to complain to her and not talk to me, as they are afraid of me. They think I will “put them on Facebook” if they express their concerns directly to me.

I am literally very sick over all of this. I want to meet with all of them and clear the air. I have no intentions of any retaliation, but if I can’t get this cleared up, my depression and anxiety will be at its peak. I can’t stand the backstabbing; this principal keeps notes on all the complaints, and I’m more than just a little angry. I’ve hated going to work since the first complaint. I get sick to my stomach when I drive to work. I cry on the way home most of the time. I can’t focus on the simple joys in life, as I’m overcome by this hostile work environment. I’ve tried to do my best for my students and accept the complaints with professionalism. I don’t think I can do this one more day.

I also have 147 sick days left and I’ve never abused sick leave. What are these people after? Do they actually have an agenda? I’ve seen and heard plenty by the other staff members that’s not only inappropriate, but also illegal, and I’ve never once complained. I don’t understand their mentality or purpose. Please lead me in the appropriate direction to put a stop to all of this. Just to mention: I have a documented disability in chronic depression and anxiety from PTSD. I’ve struggled with it for 15 years. Obviously, I’m getting worse very quickly.

Signed,

Hate To Go To Work


Answer:

Dear Hate To Go To Work:

One of the failings of some of us humans is that we feel we are OK when we can point to others we think are not OK. So it is that sometimes those who enter an ongoing conversation are forced to wait her/his turn before really invited into the conversation and are put down subtly or learn later that they have been the topic of put-down gossip: “She’s not like us; look at how she parks. She rang the bell too early. The rest of us didn’t insist that the temperature be turned up.” Moreover, your principal called you in her office with bad news. Your detailed account seems to follow a scape-goating scenario. It is understandable why you hate to go to work. And why the stress has made you sick. You’ve felt alone and unwanted. It’s also understandable that you needed someplace to vent your frustration and anger. However, as you acknowledge, making that topic public, via Facebook, was a bad idea. So you have helped an unhappy situation escalate. Your principal had to intervene and now she needs to see if some unwritten rules can be spelled out, such as: · We don’t say something about a coworker behind her/his back that we have not said to her/his face. · Making public workplace matters is unwise. · Creating a friendly learning climate entails making each others instructional job easier; therefore, civility is the rule. · Tattling to the principal creates a hostile climate. You are right when you wrote, “I want to meet with all of them and clear the air.” Have you requested this to your principal? Such a meeting is long overdue. Ideally, staff meetings would be regularly scheduled and along side instructional matters, relational communication would be addressed. This Facebook mistake and the events that provoked it demand that you and your principal and staff need to collaboratively spell out the dos and don’t of how all parties should communicate. Since you are the most distressed and have been the target, it seems fitting that you apologize and briefly explain yourself. I say briefly because long speeches interfere with a problem-solving of all present. This is not just your problem. You are not in this solo although you may have felt you are. Teaching a child as the saying goes takes a village and making a school that is a center of learning is impossible in a hostile environment. Voicing that very statement is something that needs to be said by your principal and echoed by all of you. It is summed up in my signature statement: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

So think big. Don’t play this sad story over and over in your head at home, driving to and from work and between classes. That won’t help. Neither will biting your tongue. Find some relief in doing some things you enjoy outside of school; walk, yoga, sing in a choir, etc. Engage the principal at school in making a learning friendly environment. You need not face this alone.

William Gorden