I left my previous job — in fact, I left my previous city — for a range of reasons: I was tired feeling constantly anxious and depressed, I was tired of having to deal with abuse at the hands of a manager who made it their goal to control the lives of their employees, and I couldn’t change my views of the city feeling constraining once my brain got stuck associating it with the abuse.

But I also left because I was tired of being made to ‘fear’ the powers of another person, relating back to that comment about the manager trying ‘to control the lives of their employees’.

And I wasn’t sure how to get away from that fear because it found ways into so many aspects of my life. Primarily, though, it was its impact on my ability to survive. To be able to pay for food and medical care. To be able to pay rent.

To earn an income, allowing me to live independently.

So imagine my “surprise” when I start seeing glimmers of that in my new job.

In my former school, I found myself in a problematic situation with my previous manager: I was trying to leave the school and move into another similar institution. However, most people running such institutions happened to know each other, and my previous manager had made sure that I (along with some others) were unable to continue within the same industry in the immediate future and in a local context.

They wanted to destroy the careers of people who left them because they were abusive by using abusive techniques. Effectively, they wanted to use manipulative techniques that would uproot the lives of the people, forcing them to endure more stress through moving (often long distance).

Using the fear of ‘bad references’, they were able to keep people under their thumb and maintain the ‘status quo’. Teachers who voiced concerns for students (in terms of sexual harassment or special educational needs) were ostracised and made insecure. Despite trying to build a successful and safe educational environment, we were silenced and made to endure abuse.

The most common question among the half of us being abused was that of people who’d been gaslit: “Am I the crazy one?”

With that, the school lost half the staff (and almost all the staff who opened the school).

Currently, something one of my new colleagues said sticks in my mind:

When talking to someone who used to work here, she pointed out how often that she went to the Director and the Board to try to make them realise how badly things weren’t working. Really, what I learned was that you just shouldn’t rock the boat. At the end of the day the Head is the one writing your references.

I’m really struggling with this mentality.

What it tells me is that, even though it’s not a violent or overtly abusive environment, there is a culture of fear. People are willing to just say yes because they have to, protecting themselves from potential abuse.  The range of responses, even though so many people recognise that this school is like the Twilight Zone, create conflict and confusion; they create anxiety and frustration.

But at the same time, I’m tired of being scared of the consequences.

I feel like I’ve spent my whole career fearing some form of retribution simply for speaking out: Speaking out because all I want to do is to see that my colleagues are content. Speaking out because I want my students are safe, comfortable, and successful. Speaking out because I want to see that we are creating an inclusive and welcoming community that supports everyone as best it can.

And now that I’ve endured having a former manager try to ruin my career, I want to say that I feel less fear.

But I don’t. I’m still struggling with it, but I do not want to feel it anymore.

What I want is for those people — those who abuse everyone around them because they are so incredibly incompetent and insecure — to leave the field. They have no place there because they have nothing to offer.

Having gaps in your knowledge? It’s fine, but it’s only acceptable if you’re willing to acknowledge that you have them and learn from people who can help. That’s how we learn! That’s how we become better.

Being insecure for any reason? We all are, but we all don’t let that insecurity affect other people. We don’t harass people or threaten to harm them because of it; we try to work through it, to maybe share that insecurity with others, to do our best despite it.

But if you let your incompetence and insecurity harm people?

You have no place, especially in education.

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