Violence against teachers comes in so many forms, every single one of them completely unacceptable.
After looking into the research (which you can read about in next weeks article) I reached out through my teaching networks and asked for actual teachers to tell me their stories.
They are nothing short of horrible.
The fact that any teacher has to go through this sort of abuse is ridiculous. We are educators, and we are not trained for or should expect to deal with violence.
Read the stories from only a handful of actual teachers below. There are literally millions more like these, some leagues worse and some not as bad, every one of them awful.
All of the stories shared here have had names and details removed to protect the identities of all involved.
It’s not just the students, and it’s not just physical…
I wrote about my own incident of physical intimidation here. While no physical violence was used, I still felt like I had been slapped in the face. Especially when the senior leadership didn’t back me up as well as I’d hoped and expected.
Fortunately, personally, the worst I have dealt with is verbally abusive adolescent males. I have had one boy in particular whose aggression was quite concerning and who would stand in close proximity, which combined with his taller stature relative to me was quite daunting in combination with the verbal aggression.
I met a second year maths teacher last year at my school. He and his wife had just made the tough decision to pay back his teaching scholarship that required him to take a mandatory teaching role at a DET allocated school. The school he was assigned to was an all boys school in Western Sydney. He described the experience as involving very little teaching and predominantly classroom management. He described dealing with several violent outbreaks in his classroom. He had been threatened personally and had several lock-downs in his experience – none of which were drills. These events and the stress entailed prompted him and his wife to find out how to pay back the scholarship and move away from this particular school.
Whilst pregnant I had 2 incidents. One where I removed a student from my classroom for repeated misbehaviour and he called me a ‘slut’ on the way out.
Another where I was teaching a Yr 8 class and the boys were tipping metal cabinets and rough housing, wrestling etc, knowing I couldn’t intervene (I was 33 weeks at the time).
Another student drew a graphic diagram of how one gets pregnant and stuck it to my whiteboard, crawled out the window and went to harass other classes etc.
I then started my maternity leave early as the class left me shaken, and way too stressed.
I advise an after school club. This is my first year teaching as well. I had a student who was failing her classes so I was reaching out to the parent to tell them that their daughter was not eligible to compete in a regional competition for forestry that weekend. The parent was irate. Told me I sucked at my job and that I should just quit. He said he was going to rally other parents and go to the principal to get me fired. It was all verbal harassment. I make it seem small but it was about a full page and a half of insults.
And they wonder why so many teachers are leaving the profession and so many don’t wish to enter it.
Administration pretty much sided with the parent. I’m constantly having to prove myself to parents and admin because I’m young but how else are teachers supposed to get their feet wet and experience.
I had a parent repeatedly tell me he was a boxer and he would sort me out and all the parents and students who were involved in an incident with his daughter. He then came to school was verbally abusive and threatening, leaned across the desk and got right up in my face – his wife pulled him back. He then did the same to the principal.
Several days later I was alone and a mother barged into my office and locked the door and stood in front of it blocking any escape. These were temporary offices and had no security. She proceeded to threaten and verbally abuse me. No one knew she was there and no one could see us. I was alone in the office as all other executive were at a school function. I repeatedly told her I had to go to teach a class and when the bell rang she silently opened the door and left.
The following day there was a violent incident between two students, one of whom had a difficult parent. The stress from the two previous incidents lead me to go on stress leave – my psych said it was adjustment disorder due to vicarious trauma.
There does not have to be physical violence for it to be considered violent.
Unfortunately, all too often it is physical violence…
I was a regular casual at one school. It was last period on a lower level year 8 class, English. The students in this class had crossed the boundaries many times for many different teachers. This particular period, I was verbally abused, before a group of girls started to throw food and drinks at me, whilst threatening me. Some of the stuff that was thrown hit me.
One of the students went to grab the ht, who came down to investigate. That person told those involved that they could sit outside the room and rest for the rest of the period.
As for me I was told to suck it up princess because I should know how to manage the behaviour of the students better. Last day I ever worked at that school, it wasn’t the first time I had experienced verbal and physical abuse in that school, but it was surely the last.
Had a student punch a wall in anger because of something he thought I said, which was not what I said at all. He punched the wall a good week after the conversation and misunderstanding occurred, so he was seething for ages.
Another threw his laptop when I objected to his language, “c—t”, and asked him to leave the room.
A very tall year 8 man stood over me when I was managing his behaviour after lying on the floor in a science lab.
Had a year 12 student slam his fist hard on the desk when I asked him to stop playing on his laptop and work instead.
I will say that the first two incidents I described… those boys had some pretty significant issues between home life, and severe language disorders, so I guess they didn’t have the tools to express in any other way.
The other two boys, well, one was from a war torn culture and a refugee. The other, his parents going through a divorce. That being said, their welfare was addressed – mine was never. I just got on with it. No one ever checked if I was ok or felt comfortable with those students after the incidents. In actual fact the student from the war torn culture cried racism and I had to go to mediation with him.
A teacher friend of mine was assaulted twice in one week during week 8 this term. The first time was when a student in yr10 threw a chair and it hit the teacher in the head. The student was not sent home straight away and proceeded to instigate and be the aggressor in 2 fights throughout the day. This incident happened around 10am and the student was still at school at the end of the day. They were given a 15 day suspension.
The second incident was a yr7 student who punched the teacher in the back and sides approximately 20 times after the teacher confiscated his basketball because he would not go to class and he swore at the teacher. That student got 4 days suspension.
I was once on supply at a primary school in Camberwell. A small boy, can’t have been older than 6 or 7, was misbehaving and his LSA was having trouble controlling him.
She was gentle and kind with him and asking him to stay still in his chair and copy the letters but he wasn’t listening.
He then started spitting at her at which point I tried to intervene. I approached him side on and said his name firmly a few times to get his attention and said ‘can you stop spitting at X thank you’ he then took his recently sharpened pencil and stabbed me. Through my jacket.
There was another LSA in the room looking after some of the other misbehaving students and as soon as she saw it she rushed out to get the head teacher.
The boy was taken out of lessons and they asked me if I was OK and I got on with it.
It was my first day on supply there and I never returned. Most of the pencil stayed in the blazer. It was more of a shock than anything.
I worked in a charter school, teaching 2nd grade, when I had my first baby. Upon returning from maternity leave (unpaid, FMLA) they had decided to keep my sub full time in my class, but had a spot to fill in fifth grade. It was November and I was this fifth grade class’s third teacher so far. I was called a “fat ugly bitch” by one student daily.
Another, who was taller than me (I’m 4’10”) enjoyed standing over me in attempts to intimidate me.
It culminated in a student charging at me with an upturned chair, legs toward me, and pinning me against a wall. He was not suspended. I quit a week later.
I currently work in a title one school, teaching first grade. While 38 weeks pregnant with my second baby, a student rammed into my stomach with his shoulder out of anger.
Teachers need hazard pay.
I have worked at 3 schools since coming to London a year ago. When I was in Australia and China I found that I was treated with more respect than I have been here by both agencies and schools. When I came over my agency kept trying to get me to interview for one school I didn’t like the sound of them and went with another school. I didn’t realise they were pushing because the school had a huge problem.
The school I chose was in east London in Hackney. The area was rough but generally the kids were alright. The staff were supportive but leadership was never helpful. They encouraged teachers and T.A.s to yell at the students and refused to help if a parent would corner you before school or after school because they were annoyed with something.
When I left that school I took the first school offered.
I was shown around and they explained they were Outstanding. They didn’t take me into classrooms and took me around to all the teachers and compared this school to my previous school. I took the school because they offered a pay increase . When I got there we were told on training days that we could not take sick days, that it was in the area of the lowest 10% in London and that over 70% of the kids are believed to in poverty.
None of this was told to me in the interview. In the interview I was told they were below level, I did not expect half of my year 3s to be in reception level and the rest at year 2. Yet I was made to teach them year 3.
On my second day I had 2 tables and a bookshelf thrown at me by one child. He did this because I have the person next to him a longer pencil.
He was removed and brought back in 5 minutes later while I was still cleaning up the classroom by the executive head (who had interviewed me). She made a declaration to the class saying that this child had written a letter to the mayor of London saying he is going to be the future mayor one day and that if we (looked directly at me) all have to do what we can to make sure his dream comes true and that he needs to be the mayor of London.
He was not made to apologise or anything. Instead as a class we had to say sorry for upsetting him.
This behaviour from him continued for a month. He would throw a table, chair, pencil, jacket, at me. He would scream horrible things at me and call me names, he would hit, kick, scratch me. And he would assault other students as well. One child offered him a seat next to her and he slammed her head down onto the table and repeatedly kicked and hit me in the back as I laid over her and he tried to get to her. He king hit a girl in the playground because she smiled at him. He kicked a boy in the bum to see what I would do. He even fractured another girls shoulder when I took a day off because the teacher answered another question before his.
It was only when he assaulted me so bad I yelled at the head teacher did they say he was a child psychopath.
Because it had gotten so bad, their full time therapy teacher (for children of rape, assault and who had seen horrible things at home) had to work permanently with him. Between her and leadership they wanted him to be so bad for the PRU observer to get him for 3 days that they planned for him to kick off in the classroom. When they approached me about it I agreed but said I want management to be on handed to protect me because he will be worse with someone watching. When the other teacher left he threw a pencil at me. When I ignored it he threw my laptop at me. They didn’t enter. They watched but didn’t enter. Then he grabbed me by the back of my jumper and threw me into the whiteboard. I had to take my heels off to support myself as he held onto my jumper and had one foot on my back while the other tried to knock me down by hitting the back of my legs. The T.A had to leave to get them. By this stage the head teacher refused to enter because it wasn’t safe for her and the T.A had to remove him. She never came and saw me but he was made to go home. He never had to apologise and from then on they hired someone permanent for him.
When I approached the head teacher about it she told me that the plan to deliberately leave him was not real it was in my head and that they had never agreed to watch and make sure I’m okay. She said it says a lot about who I am as a teacher if she has to watch me for safety reasons. She also said she refused to go into the classroom because I have to understand that as a parent if she is hurt it is a lot more serious and that I would be a horrible person if I hope for someone else to be harmed.
I told her that I had been seriously hurt to the point I had to teach from a chair and that she may be a mother but if I was permanently harmed I would have to go back to my country to sort it out and it is not cruel to want someone to help me if I’m being assaulted in front of my class. She told me it wasn’t support. I had to take the next day off from pain and anxiety over the situation.
I wrote a formal incident form. When I handed it in I was called to a meeting later that day with the head teacher and executive head. They called me out of class and got my T.A. to cover. When I walked in, before I sat down, I was asked if the form was a joke. I said no. They replied saying that it was not that serious, I need to become more resilient to survive in London, and that what happens in the classroom is a common thing.
I told them I did not feel safe and I do not feel comfortable after agreements get ignored, I get labelled a liar and told to get over it when I’m physically assaulted with no consequences for the child who did it. They ignored me and went through the form, and again asked me if I thought it was a joke. I again said no. The executive head asked did I think I was going to die, I said ‘no but’ and she cut me off asking me again if I thought I was going to die. Again I said ‘no but’ She said no buts… yes or no. I said it’s not that simple. She told me it’s a joke to fill this in it isn’t even the correct form, and ripped it up. I then said that I don’t feel comfortable with this conversation and that I believe I need to go away and have a think about my future with this school.
The next day they called me into another meeting and said that they believe this school isn’t the right fit for me and that I’m not a strong enough person, with a weak mind, but they are willing to shape me into the potential that I have because they know I can be great. They blamed the child’s behaviour on me and said the class must have liked you and then got to know you, explains why they hate me. I said I felt they were testing me because they would see children assault each other and returned to the classroom after getting iPad time in the office, no apology needed, or work to catch up on. They told me that the classes behaviour falls on the teacher, not the leadership team, and that they are Outstanding, not the teachers, as rated by OFSTED (before I came).
In that meeting I handed them my notice and they told me it was pathetic the way I’m acting and they do not hope the best for me because I’m abandoning the children and are self centred in my strive for only myself.
I went and spoke to the previous teacher about it because I was upset. She explained that they weren’t allowed to tell me or my teaching partner, but that child that had assaulted me had abused the teacher that started with him. He had hit and beaten him up and tried to push him through the window. The teacher then threatened to leave if he could not leave the whole classroom and have another because not only was this child difficult but I had 4 other physically abusive kids, 12 low ability kids, and 3 others who were verbally abusive.
They swapped half the class with the other teacher who I had only known as their only year 2 teacher. She said she had also had tables and chairs and that thrown at her, and that they also had told her it was her fault and that they believed her to be the worst teacher, yet they gave her literacy lead (not the money just the title).
Over the term that I stayed they continued to bully me: Not allowing me to take days off for meetings; Popping in and assessing me without permission; And when I took a day off to meet my new class cause they wouldn’t let me they let me go two days earlier. Then tried to call my new school to tell them not to hire me. The executive head told me I was the worst type of person and that she hoped I have an unsuccessful career because I left them.
They had 4 teachers interview for the job and all didn’t take it after having the class for half an hour. The teacher who took over was the year 6 teacher who had a mental breakdown, but they would not allow him to take leave, and instead gave him 4 days in the class and the original teacher who was meant to have them after me got them for a day. One teacher was allowed to leave after she suffered from a seizure due to stress and anxiety given from management. She was epileptic but hadn’t had a seizure in 10 years. She had to legally have a full time aid which they did not provide. They also refused to order a taxi or ambulance and refused to check up on her. My T.A was physically assaulted the previous year and was in hospital for 5 days with a fractured arm and leg from a different student. The business manager went on stress leave and suffered a stress attack (where you think your having a heart attack) instead of apologising management slandered her in an email for being weak and leaving staff to fend for themselves.
I spent most of my PPA time talking to other teachers who had been crying. Like the pregnant teacher who was forced to stay in the classroom when a kid came to school infected with something that could affect her baby and wasn’t sent home. And a T.A who was punched in the throat by a child. A teacher who was refused a sick day for an emergency extraction on her tooth after being punched in the cheek by another student.
As a rule teachers didn’t go out into the yard at play time. I did once and a kid hit me in the back of the head.
I could tell you more but I think you have enough in terms of violence. It was bad when it happened and I felt my life was over and I thought they could control me but now I’m at a great school. I just wish I could whistle blow them but I can only do it with my contacts and I don’t want them to know it was me.
The consequences are varied…
The following stories are all from one teacher who wanted to highlight how varied the consequences for violence are, even within the same school.
Incident: Year 7 student punching students in classroom during practical subject. Escalated to same student taking a knife and stabbing chopping boards whilst threatening to stab the ‘snitch’. Student then began waving knife around threatening students and a staff member. Whilst on the veranda with knife student was locked out of classroom – kept trying to get back in – lockdown initiated. Student stabbed knife into wall and walked off before being subdued by SBPO. Student threatened to return and burn down the buildings whilst being removed from grounds.
Consequence: suspension 20 days pending exclusion (student has had multiple suspensions before this point).
Incident: Student assaulted teacher and other students whilst they were breaking up a playground fight. Student deliberately spat saliva and blood into face of female teacher who stopped fight. Student is known to be a drug user and dealer and have hepatitis. Staff member denied immediate first aid (or any other than provided by herself) and had to continue teaching final period as despite being aware of situation, administration and HOD did not attempt to or offer to cover lesson.
Consequence: student who spat in face of staff member given detention. No follow up legally or via school administration. Teacher told she ‘should know better’. Teacher had to organise own testing for communicable diseases, took stress leave due to lack of support from school – retired on payout that had to be fought for.
Incident: Student in year 8 asked to sit back in chair and redirected to task. Teacher offered to assist with task. Student picked up desk and threw at teacher hitting whiteboard behind them as they moved to avoid desk. Considerable force used to throw desk, was deliberate and about 2 metres from staff member.
Consequence: sent home early to ‘calm down’. No further follow up from school.
Incident: Images of penises, notes of teacher’s home address and photographs of naked men and dildos placed on windscreen of staff member’s car. Student in point continued to make sexual comments during lessons and make sexual gestures towards female staff member. Directly aimed to make staff member uncomfortable and give reaction. Incidents reported.
Consequence: ‘boys will be boys’, not a school issue – teacher advised to seek employment elsewhere.
Incident: Student of considerable size told teacher to ‘f off’ whilst on playground duty, then followed up by punching staff member in left side and attempted to knock knees forward. No reason other than student was upset with another staff member.
Consequence: Teacher investigated for assault as had to restrain student. Student chose to leave of own choice.
Have you had your own experiences with violence while teaching? Share it in the comments below if you are comfortable, or send it via our contact form to have it included anonymously in this article.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.