Joanna’s story: finding a way forward after bullying

Primary school teacher Joanna* broke down one Sunday afternoon because she couldn’t face going into work the next day due to bullying.

She rang our helpline and was hugely relieved to be told by one of our counsellors that she wasn’t over reacting and the situation was unacceptable.

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"I would definitely encourage others in a similar position to me to get in touch with Education Support helpline. You’re not alone. They really understand."

This is only my second teaching job. I’ve just completed my third year of teaching and I really love my job and especially the children that I teach and engage with on a daily basis.

However, the job wasn’t the problem. It was my Headteacher. When I was interviewed for the job we seemed to be on the same wavelength. I thought we would work well together. 

It didn’t turn out that way. Instead she’s made me feel victimised and picked on.

She claimed, wrongly, that I’d yelled at a child when I hadn’t. This accusation left me feeling cornered, unsupported and with nowhere to turn at work. I became quite terrified of her. 

I believe myself to be a typical ‘fresh out of University’ teacher who loves the job. I just want to teach the children in my class, and not deal with staffroom politics. I’m vibrant and have a hands-on approach to teaching. I care so much for every single child in that school not only the ones in my care.

Night terrors

Since this admonishment from the headteacher, I’ve had night terrors and on one occasion, even a panic attack which resulted in my collapsing onto the kitchen floor in front of my boyfriend who was very supportive.

One weekend it all got too much. I was sat on the sofa, dreading going into work the next day. I really needed somebody to tell me it was all going to be okay. I searched for education counselling services and the Education Support helpline popped up. I recognised the name from a poster I’d seen at work in the staff room so I knew I was in the right place. I rang straightaway and spoke to a lovely lady.

I just unloaded and told her everything I’d been through up to that point. She listened intently and helped me to realise that my feelings were completely normal. 

"We ended up talking about a lot, not just the stresses I felt from work and the anxiety attacks I was experiencing as a result but things from my past and how I’d dealt with them. "

Plan to move forward

Together, the counsellor and I decided on a plan to move forward. The pressure of having all of the answers myself was completely removed. It was like having a huge weight on my shoulders taken away.

The helpline made me feel so much better. It helped me to try to take control of my situation. Most of all I felt supported and much less alone. 

I am still employed but currently on long-term sick leave while I decide whether to go back to my old school or try to find a new job. 

I’d go anywhere, I’d drive 100 miles, to work in a school again. I love the job and I love the kids. And I really hate being out of work. There’s a school at the end of my road and seeing the children there every day breaks my heart and reminds me what I’m missing.

I would definitely encourage others in a similar position to me to get in touch with Education Support helpline. You’re not alone. They really understand.

*not her real name 

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