Dr. Spilchuk – Vicious Gossip, Intolerance, and Clique-Building2017-06-02T14:25:37+00:00
Dear Dr. Spilchuk…

August, 2006

Vicious Gossip, Intolerance, and Clique-Building

Dear Dr. Spilchuk,

This past year, at an International School, I learned that working with people was a far more complex matter than I had ever anticipated. I became very weary of the vicious gossip, intolerance, and clique-building that occurred; especially from those people who appeared to be all nice and sweet to someone one second, and as soon as that person left would say the meanest things about them without thinking anything of it.

I recall that you once wrote in one of your articles that working in an international school was much about survival and perseverance. I also recall you saying that one of the biggest problems you may encounter in international education, and particularly in international bilingual schools, was the miscommunication between Eastern and Western staff. This was particularly so in my school last year. Having been raised in both cultures, I often felt caught in the middle and was pressured by both sides for understanding when there was a major cultural division on staff during any educational issue.

Unfortunately, to persevere, I had to make the conscious decision to lay low and keep to myself as much as possible while trying to maintain a good work ethic and helping whenever I could. Can you give me some advice that might make my next year easier for me to deal with?

Sincerely
Linda

Hello Linda,

Being in an international school does not have to be the way that you described it. Unfortunately, your situation occurs more often than one might imagine. This is particularly so in schools where there is no strong or moral leadership from the Principal or School Head. A lack of strong leadership will allow staff members to splinter into cliques that sometimes are characterized by the back-biting and two-faced behaviours you described. Miscommunication resulting in anger, frustration and gossip often drives out-of-clique teachers into their closed door classrooms. Viciousness of the type you have also described drives out-of-clique teachers to privately network with clusters of other teachers whom they can trust and with whom they can confide about the unsafe out-of-classroom environment in the school. While staff-room and staff meeting discussions should be open and honest, this does not happen because of teacher fear of reprisal and bullying.

Linda, sometimes the best a teacher can do is to simply to go into one’s room and teach the children. Alternatively, you might meet with the Principal or Head to discuss the situation. Remember, however, that it is likely the teachers who are bullying others already have the ear of the Principal. As well, since this type of situation often arises from weak administration, it is likely that your Principal will be so ineffective that he or she cannot deal with the situation, regardless of the information you share. Another strategy you might use would be to discuss the situation quietly with other teachers, then blow the whole issue wide open at a staff meeting. This is certainly a method I would be tempted to try. It can be dangerous, however, as sometimes teachers who profess to be supportive and who say they want to speak out, slide into obscurity during confrontational staff meetings…and you can be assured that this meeting will definitely be confrontational as you will be calling the bully/bully group on their behaviours! You could be left standing alone. I truly believe that it is better to stand alone with ethics than to stand in a group without, however. Finally, I would suggest both of the following:

a.) Go to Bully on Line to read about similar teaching situations, learn all you can about how to protect yourself from School Workplace Bullies and combat this deadly workplace safety hazard.

b.) Read my doctoral dissertation online dealing specifically with the types of behaviours in school atmospheres similar to that which you have described. You can find my work athttp://www.collectionscanada.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk1/tape3/PQDD_0011/NQ59673.pdf You can also find other articles I have written on Workplace Violence and Teacher Bullying online on Google or Yahoo by simply typing in Barbara or Barb Spilchuk.

Please do let me know how your new school year shapes up. Take care of yourself and remember that there are many out there who understand your situation and support whatever decisions you make about your future. You can contact me anytime in the coming year to help you walk through whatever situations you encounter as a result of your decision to take a stand in combating the Workplace Bullying in your school.

Sincerely

Barbara

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