Close this search box.

School Culture: Toxic Environments and Teacher Bullies

20151030_122016_001 Last week I posted a blog post that featured a letter to teachers who bully other teachers at school. When I posted it I really didn’t expect to get many likes or responses to the post. Boy, was I wrong! There were so many responses from teachers who had experienced bullying or were currently experiencing bully that it was unreal. I have never worked at a school where I felt like I was being bullied by another teacher, so I don’t have a frame of reference for what this would look like.

Some of the behaviors that were mentioned in the blog post were:

1. Sharing your opinion all of the time.

2. Speaking for others.

3. Over talking other teachers.

4.  Talking at other teachers.

5. Telling the administration everything that happens on the grade level.

When I read some of the  behaviors that this teacher obviously felt were workplace bullying tactics, I instantly thought about how many administrators consciously and unconsciously create an environment where this kind of behavior is acceptable.  I have worked at many schools and each school had a different culture. Some of the school cultures were toxic and others were positive. One thing I do know is that toxic administrators create toxic school cultures.  Administrators set the tone of the school and the success of a school rises and falls on the the administrator’s leadership.

20151030_172003My current administrator is a great example of a leader who tries to create an environment where the staff is valued and workplace bullies cannot survive. I’m not saying that our school is perfect because we most certainly have our challenges, however because our principal’s motto is “Assume good will”  it has helped me to give my coworkers the benefit of the doubt before I assume that they have done something with ill intent.

Yesterday we had our Fall Festival and the environment was reflective of our principal’s goal of creating an environment were everyone is included, respected, and seen as an important part of the school. While my school and my grade level aren’t perfect but I think that they are perfect for me!

12 thoughts on “School Culture: Toxic Environments and Teacher Bullies”

  1. Anonymously Yours,

    My bullying came from administration. It was the worse situation I have ever experienced, and I will never fully understand what happened or why it happened. It is a long story, but I left a job of 18 years, and I didn’t think I would ever teach again because of the psychological damage that was done. Then, I discovered that all schools are not like that today, and I found a school right for me. Of course, we moved states and went through a lot to get to this point, but I enjoy teaching again! I’m thankful to my administrators at my present school, and the staff as well.

    1. Your situation sounds like mine. I am trying to find other employment now so I can leave the school system for good. My Adm took an instant dislike to me and it was all downhill from there.

    2. Yes, I can relate to what you’re saying. I am supportive of teachers. A female administrator named L has been absolutely horrendous in handling a situation more than one that should’ve been handled in a calm manner. She has support of the Pastor.
      It’s a matter of respect and if you have a problem with a child for you to discuss it in front of other parents and teachers by your side is an absolute disgrace, and you are promoting a culture of intolerance and hostility!
      This is geared right now toward a school who is pretending to be Christian named Kairos in Largo FL.

  2. Thank you so much for bringing some additional attention to the role that administration can take in this issue. (I too was SUPER surprised at how this post was either dead on for some teachers and then there were others who felt like I was just complaining.) I have always said that I feel as if administration allows environments like this to happen. It can almost always come back to an administrator allowing others to act unprofessionally IMO. Thanks for so much!

  3. Thank you for posting this. I was harassed by my principal for four years at my former elementary school. There were teachers on the staff who helped him with his harassment. They would share things that were going on in my class, they would tattle if they felt that it would get me in trouble. It was beyond toxic. I have been at my new school for nine years. He continued to harass other staff members including those who initially helped him when he was harassing me. I could say now that he’s finally leaving the district 13 years after he started harassing me. There are teachers who bully other teachers and make it really hard to work in that environment. There is a book that I want to share about this type of harassment. It includes examples of not only principal harassment but how other teachers harass each other. It is called Breaking the Silence: Overcoming Principal Mistreatment. Please know that you’re not alone. If you are being bullied you need to talk to someone because it can be truly debilitating and it can impact your job. I experience poster medic stress after leaving my Formex former school I experienced post traumatic stress after leaving my firmer school. It took me a few years before I could even look at or even talk to former teachers who helped out my principal. To this day I still refuse to talk to his former secretary because she protected him and help him with his harassment. Funny, he turned against her too. It took even longer before I could look at my former principal without having a look of disgust on my face.
    Thank you again for sharing.

  4. Unfortunately, whenever bullying in schools get discussed, my first thought has always been that teachers are often some of the biggest bullies in schools. When I think of my own time in school, yes, there was bullying by other kids. But some of the worse came from teachers. The same was true for my daughter, and so many other kids. In fact, most troubled and troublesome students end up being bullied in many ways by teachers and administrators, instead of being helped. Bottom line, when anyone makes themselves angry, they get stupid with respect to others. Anger goes hand in hand with mistaken goals like power and control and revenge. It also gives anyone a false sense of power, righteousness, permission and protection, so those who make themselves angry are unlikely to see the “error of their ways” in bullying others. That’s true for teachers as well as anyone else.

  5. TaNitra Robinson

    Teachers bully when they feel there’s a reward in it for them. The truth is that we are bring a great deal of value to the classroom and campus. Policymakers and policy pushers have created this fear and arena of competition among teachers…..

    In the end we all are a vital components to education, not the school system and yes there is a difference!

    1. So true! We have brought too many politics into teaching, a heirarchy w teachers at the bottom, so much competition ( leaders, coaches) that it has turned into crab bucket mentality, Jr high all over. Such a shame. 20 years for me and it breaks my heart to see us acting w less integrity than the kids. We need to give back teacher autonomy.

  6. Yes issue of work place morning.,bullying and harassment of teachers by administrator and other staff is real. I started out as a bright eyes bushy tailed motivated teacher he toxic environments I experiences working in inner city and predominantly minority schools was a wake up call. The kids and parents were great. The leadership was clearly inadequate in so many of them . That however did not stop me from being and excellent teacher. I believe this type of school culture contributes significantly to the failure at these schools. I am currently looking for another school to teach at and seriously considering leaving the profession all together.

    1. Unfortunately, you are ABSOLUTELY correct. I love what I do but I can understand considering leaving the profession. I’ve been there before. I hope that you’re able to find a new school that meets YOUR needs.

  7. We have a group of teachers/staff that call themselves “the circle.“ They are an exclusive club with matching clothing day, special drink day, gobs of social media post talking about how much they love one another. They talk about all the other teachers in front of other non “circle” teachers so it will get back to those of
    us being talked about. The principal is a member so “the circle” teachers gets notified of changes, events, and other things before the rest of us. They are told personnel issues about other teachers… “circle” teachers get away with things like standing out in the hallway talking, using plan time to socialize, even leaving class unattended at nap time to gossip in the office… while the rest of us work hard as we should be. I feel like I am in JR high again… it’s toxic and unprofessional and very OLD. I can’t wait to come back to school and teach but the one thing I dread is “the circle”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I help math teachers who teach high need students to effectively manage their classrooms and deliver high quality math instruction. Learn more about me


Join our free resource library for free math instruction lesson plans and materials.