Monday, November 6, 2017

BATs Quality of Work Life Team Members:  Their Journey, Their Story, Their Words.

Members of the BAT Quality of Work Life Team and the AFT EQWL Team

There is So Much at Stake!
By: Kathy Beery, Member BATs Quality of Work Life Team

A little background  first
I became a member  of BATS, Badass Teachers’ Association, soon after it formed in 2013.  Many of the teachers’ posts on the site were tales of bullying, retribution, harassment, and mandated compliance at the  expense of competence.   In  October of 2014, there were several teachers that completed suicides within  a matter of weeks, because of the stress they experienced.

This brought together a group of teachers, which included myself,  who participated in a town hall conference  call with AFT President, Randi Weingarten.  Many who participated shared stories of bullying, racism, ageism,  and environments full of unrelenting stress.   Our profession has been under attack for many years by policy makers  and we continue  to be  the  scapegoats for their ill-conceived  policies.  It was very clear that our voices were not being heard.  In the Spring of 2015,  a Quality of Work Life  Survey was distributed through  Social  Media.   Over 30,000  teachers  completed  the survey and the results  “screamed”  that  teacher working  conditions  were toxic.

Think  about it a moment.   The  environment  that  teachers work in,  is  also  a student’s  learning  environment.  

As  we continued our  work  with meetings  at  the USDOE (Summer 2015) and NIOSH,  National  Institute of  Occupational  Safety and Health (Fall  2016,) BATS  and AFT brought in the New  Year (2017) with a scientific study, to  be  rolled  out  in late Spring,  focusing on the  health and  wellbeing  of teachers.

The results show that teachers have  one of the most  stressful jobs  in the Nation!   Many of the  results from the  scientific  study mirrored  the results  in 2015.   Teachers  reported  being  stressed  often/almost  always at  a rate of 69%.   Compare  this  to  all  other  careers  of 30%  (NIOSH.)  Stress  contributes  to  health  issues.   How  many teachers do  we  know personally   that suffer  from  anxiety, diabetes, high  blood  pressure, etc?

Teachers  are  being  bullied.  Virtually every school district  has anti-bullying policies  directed  towards  students.   However,  little  has  been  done  to  recognize bullying in  the workplace.   In  the 2015  survey,  30% of teachers reported being bullied.  In the 2017 survey, results  showed that  1  in  4 (25.4%-26.7%) teachers  report  being  bullied.   That’s a much higher rate  than  the general  public  of 6.9%.

This  is just the tip of the iceberg!   More  results  will  be  coming soon.   What  is  the “takeaway?”   We have hope for change. No  teacher  should feel  that  they have  no  choices  except to take  their own  lives.   We  deserve, yes deserve,  dignity in  the  workplace.

We,  BATS  and AFT,  will continue to push for a  healthy workplace  through legislation.   There is so much at  stake,  our students’ and  our own well-being.   We  can  no  longer  be silent bystanders!   People’s  lives are at stake.

Why did I join BATs? 
By:  Sandy Goodwick, Member of the BATs Quality of Work Life Team

Because BATs has openly and systematically addressed the reality of today’s education system.

I teach special education - and I was born with a disability, so I’ve always viewed teaching through the lens of “liv
ed experience” just as teachers of other minorities view their role in our profession. In 2012, after speaking out against the bullying tactics of a special education administrator, I was retaliated against. My administrator wrote me up for supporting parents in IEPs. I had never been “written up” for ANYTHING the previous 40 years. Another administrator deliberately failed to put me in annual payroll… ensuring I would not get paid. When I went to Payroll, then HR… and put myself back on… the administrator wrote me up for putting myself back on Payroll. When I filed a formal complaint against my employer - LACOE - with CA Department of Education, LACOE’s compliance officer even agreed with me that the administrator HAD intimidated me. CDE mandated that LACOE train its administrators on how to not intimidate teachers, and send them the evidence.

A month later, LACOE fired me. They said I resigned. At the same time, a local teacher died of suicide after having endured months of administration bullying. Her parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit. I began activism against workplace bullying. During the two months I was “fired”, LACOE kept my name on the classroom register. When I finally returned to the classroom, LACOE said I was a ‘new hire’ with no seniority. Several months later, at a 2 day hearing with 265 teachers being laid off, I was the only teacher the OAH judge immediately reinstated to full seniority with a position.

But by then so much trauma had been experienced that I felt no relief, for I still had to teach until I retired a year or two later. It got worse… I filed both workers comp and a civil lawsuit. They both settled. I’m out and I’m safe. But what about the teachers who are teaching?

I became part of the QWL team because I’ve seen the horrors that come from bullying/retaliation when a teacher stands up for principles, values or integrity. We know the deep costs inherent in recognizing problems. Teaching had been my life… and bullying/retaliation absolutely upended it. I don’t want others to go thru the hell that I and others have gone through. In the short time I have worked on the BATs QWL Team (2013-now), I have learned of AT LEAST ELEVEN EDUCATORS (paraeducators, teachers, administrators, a superintendent) who have died from suicide. We MUST do the work to create a safe and supportive place for ALL in our schools!

Our schools should be where we expend our greatest efforts to touch the future. When teachers are overwhelmed by chronic problems (large classes, inadequate prep time, lack of materials, poor facilities, unrealistic expectations, etc.) there is a breaking point where people lose hope. I fear many have reached that point. I deeply hope that the work we have conducted will enlighten policy makers to actually care about the people in our schools.

I Joined a Committee
By: Ann McAbee, Member BATs Quality of Work Life Team

As the highest paid teacher in my school and teaching the age of retirement, I was singled out for harassment by my principal, a few colleagues, and my superintendent.

The nightmare of bullying began and I found myself being isolated and alone. My local union (who was legally obligated to support me) turned their backs and did nothing to help me. My depression strengthened and I felt worthless and alone. That is when I found The Badass Teachers’ Association and finally learned that what had been happening to me was happening all around the country.

I also learned that there were teachers who were killing themselves because of the stress and bullying behavior on the part of their school administrators.

I joined a committee of BAT teachers who worked many months on putting together a survey. The purpose of that survey was to get a sense of what is really happening throughout the country. The results of the survey confirmed to us that this was a universal issue in our own country.

While government agencies and union leaders around the country began to show interest in our survey, it became apparent that our survey was not statistically accurate but simply raw data.

Again our little committee worked to create a similar survey but under the conditions that would be statistically reliable. The results of the second survey supported the data from the 1st survey and proved that the teaching profession is in crisis.

While I continue my journey of healing from the abuse I suffered, I have appreciated the results of our work that proves I was never really alone during my most difficult experiences. I also believe that being able to bring to light the continuing harassment teachers suffer, I have not only begun to help others, but have helped myself as well.

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