You People And Your Problems: ‘My Fellow Teachers Bullied Me For Being A Lesbian!’
Here at HappyNiceTimePeople, we’re not afraid to be servicey. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your advice questions on any topic. Now on to a question from a woman who was bullied at work by her coworkers. Here’s the catch: her workplace was a school, where bullying is supposed to be a real no-no. The plot thickens!
I’m a lesbian, and I’ve been out for years. I used to be a teacher, but I quit my last teaching job because of bullying and harassment from other teachers. They constantly cracked jokes about my being gay, and sometimes even levied outright criticism of my “lifestyle.” They did everything from making fun of me in the hallways to laughing at me in the teachers lounge. It sucked. Getting my union rep involved seemed useless, since teachers are punished for any kind of whistleblowing. Now I’m a freelance writer, and I REALLY want to write a tell-all book to get back at those jerks. Should I do it?
I’m so sorry you were the victim of harassment and bullying. That really, really sucks, and I’m glad you got out of that toxic environment. As a former public school teacher, I completely understand your preference in not informing the union rep. Often times, “the union rep” is just as corrupt, bigoted or shitty as any of the other teachers. Teachers have a tendency to be cliquish, emotionally immature, and manipulative. Think I’m making broad statements? Well, I am. I’m also correct. (Go work in a public high school for a year and let me know what you think at the end of that year, dear reader.)
I quit teaching not because of the kids or the work, but because of the prospect of a lifetime spent navigating the shitty little soap operas concocted by teachers and administrators. No, thank you. My hat is off to great teachers who truly serve the children’s best interests. I’ve met a few in my day. But I completely empathize with anyone who leaves the teaching profession due to stress. It’s really quite a tough gig.
That said, Sappho, I don’t think a tell-all book is the best possible idea for you. I’m of the opinion that writing for vengeance is always a mistake. I’ve done it, and I just ended up hurting other people and myself. There are ways to write about your experience, not for revenge, but for illumination. You must change identifying details of the individuals involved, of course — that’s the most basic guideline I can give you. But beyond that, there are other elements to consider.
Ask yourself, “If I take away revenge as a motivating factor, why else would I tell this story? Who might it help? Who might it entertain? Is there a narrative arc to this story beyond my complaints about my treatment?” A laundry list of annoyances does not a good book make. Read memoirs by other teachers and other lesbians and other lesbian teachers and other humans in general. Keep a mental or actual log of the things that work, things you like, things that make you go “Mmm” and “Oh, my!” and “HAHAHAHAHAH.” Then attempt to infuse your own writing with the kind of insight you admire.
As a fellow writer, I know you must have to work your ass off to make a living. As a fellow former teacher, I know it’s a hell of a lot better than working inside a school! I salute you and wish you well on your journey.