This is a rather embarrassing post to write and I have been fighting the urge to stay mum for sometime. But I can’t ward off the urge of sharing it.
I have never been bullied when I was in school. I was a fairly popular kid and due to my academic performance was quite the teacher’s pet too. Apart from one or two instance of girls trying to sabotage me, I never really had any scarring or unpleasant experiences. So you can imagine my shock and surprise when I realized that I was being targeted by one of the senior teachers in the school I work. Now I don’t really want to rant on about the details of every silly and juvenile act she did, so let me summarize this real quick for you.
This is my first year in this school working as a counselor, (the irony is I work with students on anti-bullying all round the year) and I was really excited about this outstation field trip I was to go to in February. ( Read about my awesome experience here.) But when I got there and began working or (trying to work) I found that information was consistently being kept from me, my questions were being openly ignored, conversations were halting abruptly when I came and no one was really talking to me. I was being pulled up and given feedback for random ass things. It took me a good couple of days to realize what was happening, and once I did I did not know whether to laugh or cry. You’d think adults would behave better than students and that office was at least a little better than the meanness that is commonplace in high school. Picking on people based on stereotypes and prejudices is still there I am aware but this one just blindsided me.
I don’t know how I managed to keep my cool and plied on fighting off all urges to take the next flight back home. Those 10-11 days were really long and when I got home, I was so relieved I cried. What a terrible experience! While on the fieldtrip, I did not raise my voice or react but once I was back, I decided to lodge a formal complaint against the teacher in question to the management and this is what I wrote:
I am writing this letter to share my experiences on the field trip which I was unable to do in a group forum due to the personal nature of some of my issues. This is my first experience on an outstation field trip and it saddens me to share that it was a rather unpleasant one for the reasons that I am going to elaborate further.
I began this trip with a lot of questions, especially about my role and the expectations from me and unfortunately till the end, I received no concrete answers. Instead, I was at the receiving end of an openly cold treatment by one of the High School Teachers, for reasons that I could not in my limited understanding grasp.
From the little that was shared, I got the impression that the lead teachers held me responsible for the behaviour of a child who is under treatment for a behavioural disorder. As I clarified in the teacher’s circle time as well and am doing so here again, I was assigned the child not to “control “ him and nor is a counsellor a magician who can modify situations and individuals in a jiffy. I was assigned the child to avoid any triggers for the child and to deal with him using some strategies that would help him to cope during the trip. Probably, this was not clear and I was pulled up and given feedback for ‘not performing my role with the student effectively’.
During the visits, as schedules understandably went through last minute changes, I found myself running pillar to post for updates and on more than one occasion, in spite of asking two-three times, my questions and opinions were ignored. When I addressed this in the teacher’s circle time, I received some comments that have ignited this letter. I was in the presence of all teachers said to have “hostile energies” and was told to “quit my job” and sit at home if I am unable to perform my duties due to my personal hang-ups. I was asked to go around asking the teachers-in-charge repeatedly for answers even if they do not respond in the first two three times and to do so without getting offended. If this was the norm for all the teachers, I would have complied, but as I found, this was only to be my privilege. I also wondered if raising your voice is all it takes to turn all your opinions into facts.
I am reporting this not in the hope of some action being taken, or this to become an issue because like I shared with the HOD on the trip, discussing it with the person in question is vain. I am writing so I can share and practice what I preach to the students about standing up for oneself.
Like I shared before, I started the field trip with a lot of questions and I returned with some more. Mostly about fairness and equality that the school believes in. And it brought to my mind a famous quote from George Orwell’s Animal farm:
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
I wonder if this is true for our school as well.
I turned in my letter and was called for a meeting with the management. Truth be told, I was nervous, the teacher I was raising a finger at was working in the school for a almost decade and I was a newbie. I wondered if I had stepped over an invisible line by writing such a terse letter.
But I was warmly surprised to find them empathizing with me and appreciating me for keeping my composure. Apparently, this teacher has a track record, each time she offends someone in a similar manner and is known for breaking the rules and her foul language with students (And is she is an English teacher). She has apparently resigned a few days ago for reasons I do not know yet and my letter will be shared with her during her exit interview.
And here I thought I knew who all the bullies were in High School. Apparently I missed a big one!