Monday, April 22, 2019

Cower and the World Cowers With You; Stand Up and You Stand Alone

The blog post you are about to read may be painful to digest, but carries some hard truths.
Teachers in public schools have been under siege since the 1983 President Reagan Report,
“A Nation At Risk.” This report heralded in an era of privatization of public entities, and planted the seed to privatize public education.
A few decades later Corporate policies have nearly obliterated America’s Public Schools; a former Public Social Institution is now run as a business and Principal teachers have been replaced with CEOs.
There have been many casualties as a result of this Corporate Reform run approach to public schools. Experienced older teachers were summarily eliminated while their colleagues stood by, and younger less experienced teachers were hired who came through the ranks of Corporate-sponsored “Education” programs with Teach for America being the most well-known.
What may not be apparent about this culling of teachers is that many of them were victims of Workplace Bullying. While most teachers acknowledge there are Administrators who engage in bullying behaviors, what is not usually acknowledged is the accompanying bullying by fellow colleagues.

Nurses, social workers, and teachers are the most likely to participate in bullying their colleagues, the so-called “Caring Professions.” (1) Surprised to learn this?  Most people are. Perhaps that is why it catches so many people off-guard because they see teachers as part of a caring and nurturing profession.
This bullying by colleagues can take several forms.  The most common being active participants or by being passive bystanders.  Passive bystanders? How on Earth can they be responsible for workplace bullying of their colleagues?
According to the Alberta Bullying Research, Resources and Recovery Centre this bullying by bystanders often manifests itself as “moral disengagement.”  People develop standards that guide their moral behavior; what they will or will not do according to their own personal moral code. (2) However in the case of workplace bullying, bystanders tend to develop self-serving behaviors and justifications for overriding their personal moral standards.
People may feel they have a moral justification for standing by while others are bullied; that is there is a higher purpose for doing so such as fear of losing their jobs, and what would happened to their families, etc. if that should happen.
Colleagues often willfully refuse to understand just how serious the bullying of a colleague can be and the harm it causes to the target emotionally and even physically. They will minimize it or even ignore it in order to save themselves.  This often leads to diminishing the humanity of the targeted colleague; people will not even try to put themselves in the shoes of the targeted individual or even try to understand what is happening to that person, thereby disregarding the consequences suffered by the targeted person. (3)
People often throw up their hands and say this is how the system works and diminish their own responsibility and complicity in how this system works. They try to keep a low profile because they believe this to be the only way to avoid getting bullied themselves.  They are wrong.
People will stand by if someone does come forward in support of the targeted colleague but will not offer to band together in support of the target and even themselves.  By their self-serving behavior, they often can not see how galvanizing support would seriously hamper workplace bullying not only of the target, but also of themselves at a possible future time.
So they blame the victim.  The victim should not have spoken out or not have been so forceful or forthright about their standards and principles.  It’s their own fault.
As one who has experienced many of the above scenarios, my best counsel for those undergoing workplace bullying is this:
Realize you are going to be alone.  One cannot expect help, comfort, or solace from fellow colleagues.  For that I am truly sorry.  Moral disengagement by colleagues is real and pervasive. If you are fortunate enough to get any comfort or sympathy from others be grateful.  More often than not you won’t.
Do what you need to do to take care of you.  Get therapy, take a leave of absence, or anything you can to diffuse the impact this bullying has on your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Do this without any guilt or remorse.
Follow the procedures and policies outlined by your school district, but with the caveat they may be just lip service without any real teeth behind them.  Document all that you can.
Use a search engine and look for sites that deal with workplace bullying such as The Workplace Bullying Institute, ( and and others and get to know them.  Study all that you can about bullying and how it operates.  For background information, a good friend recommends, “Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession”, by Dana Goldstein.

Last but not least do the unthinkable, plan an exit strategy.  Prepare and find a way extricate yourself from the situation just in case it becomes an intolerable nightmare for you.  That is not cowardice, it is intelligence and there is no reason to feel bad about that.
Be true to yourself.  Prepare yourself.  Love yourself.

© 2019 Wilma de Soto
Wilma de Soto is a member of the Quality of Worklife Team of the Badass Teachers’ Association
  1. “When Teachers Bully Other Teachers”
  2. “Workplace Bullying and its Relationship to Moral Disengagement”, Sereda, Terry
  3. “Moral Disengagement and the Bystanders of Workplace Bullying-Reflections”, Creighton-Lacroix, Wendy


  1. This is an amazing piece of wisdom and insight. Moral disengagement is so pervasive and demoralizing moreover it’s not just in the teaching profession which is sadly true. I have weaved together some support of some colleagues as I continue to be the best teacher I can be. I have oftentimes felt alone and wounded by some colleagues who are not willing to help just acknowledge the situation if at all. Nonetheless reading this validated what I have secretly knew along. Thank you ����.

    1. Thank you very much indeed, Gladys. It's unfortunate that so much of this is true.

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