ELTtoo

About us

#ELTtoo: working to build safer work environments for everyone.
#ELTtoo is a movement of educators who want the voices of people that have been harassed, bullied and intimidated to be heard, no matter who they are or where they are.
Our mission is to work with people to raise awareness of these issues and provide support, guidance and appropriate training so that all our work environments are harassment- and bullying-free.

#ELTtoo is a call for real change in ELT for all genders worldwide.

What are we doing?

  • Raising awareness of the serious issue of abuse, harassment and bullying
  • Sharing personal stories
  • Sharing information about sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying: what it is, and actions you can take if you are a victim of abuse
  • Actively supporting the idea of a safe, fair and comfortable workplace for all
  • Working together with professional bodies and organisations to share and provide clear guidelines and support for ELT professionals

What are we being careful to NOT do?

  • If any individuals feel bad about any of their past actions and as a result of this campaign decide to re-evaluate their own code of ethics and change their future actions, that is great news. HOWEVER, we are not here to name and shame.  We want to look forward not back, to help build a better future for educators.

No more silence. No more ignoring. No more tolerance of harassment, abuse or discrimination.

An open letter to all ELT professionals

Dear fellow ELTers

We are writing on the behalf of teachers, academic managers, teacher trainers, materials writers, researchers and other professionals who work in ELT. The recent #metoo campaign brought to light just how prevalent sexual harassment and bullying is in our profession. Many people came forward to tell what had happened and is still happening to them on a daily basis in their places of work and at public events. Your stories have been heard and we thank you for sharing them so openly and bravely. 

The serious problem with harassment and bullying in our profession needs to be addressed openly and honestly. 

People need to feel confident that if they are subjected to any kind of abuse, they will be listened to and appropriate action will be taken by employers, fellow professionals and teaching associations. 

There must be clear policies and procedures in place that allow them to report incidents so they can be followed up and dealt with. 

We want people to be held accountable for their behaviours and by doing so, make our profession a safe and equitable place for everyone.

Unfortunately, we have allowed harassment to go on too long, making excuses for the perpetrators or thinking that if we ignore it, it may just improve or go away. Harassment happens because perpetrators never face consequences, often because we think that, because nothing has ever happened in the past, nothing will happen if we say something when things have been reported. We may feel too afraid and intimidated by a perpetrator with a status in the industry able to influence our employment prospects. 

We want this to change. We want to tell your stories through our voice so that we can make ELT a safer place for all.

Yours Sincerely,

Varinder Unlu, and the ever increasing supporters of this movement from all genders.

For more information

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To share your personal story

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To write to us

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I was delighted to be offered a senior post at a very well-known language school.  I was 30 years into my career in ELT and a published author. I knew I’d been up against strong competition to get the job as the school in question had a good reputation and the salary on offer was generous for our profession.  Almost from the beginning, I realised there was a strange atmosphere at the school but it took me quite a while to work out what it was because it was quite complex.  My boss was a bully.

My boss was a bully

He’d been in the school a long time and had had a negative impact on the culture.  To be fair, I don’t think he realised what he was doing, and even had a nice side to him when talking about non-work matters.  What I mean by that is that bullying had become normalised.  He was a control freak.  He would act out conversations I should have with the staff I was managing: ‘You say this and then they will say that and then you can say so and so’.    I’d run my own school before so this was patronising and baffling to me. After appointing me, he seemed to have absolutely no faith in me.Soon he started to criticise me when things were not done his way.  He made me cry on two separate occasions after shouting at me for things which were not wrong, just different from what he would do.  On one occasion, he brought in the ‘big guns’- his boss-and I felt totally ganged up on.

This school had a toxic culture.  It was not limited to one or two individuals. I learnt soon after I started that my post had been created in order to force out my predecessor. As a result of this totally unnecessary restructure, another manager had been demoted and his salary cut.  I felt bad about this as I was paid more than this manager who had been there for a long time. My colleagues were very critical of my predecessor but others in the organisation hinted that all was not as it seemed and that she had been badly treated.

I found it extremely difficult to work with my immediate colleagues.  The person I was supposed to work most closely with, who I’ll call Ms X, seemed to dislike and distrust me from the moment I arrived.  I tried to be friendly and helpful, but she didn’t want to help me.  She refused to teach me certain tasks and then complained that I didn’t do them!  I soon realised I was victim of a whispering campaign.  In the period between my predecessor leaving and me joining (about 4 months), a teacher, Ms X2, had been seconded into the office and she and Ms X had become joined at the hip.  When I came in, they had already decided they would make things difficult for me.  This took many forms.  One was keeping hold of tasks that should have been passed onto me to make it look like I was not doing much.  Another was by openly saying things like ‘let’s go to the pub after work’ or ‘check out my holiday pics on Facebook’, without ever inviting me to join them.  No-one added me on Facebook, while constantly referring to things they’d posted in my presence.

During the summer, work took me out of the office a lot.  The whispering campaign intensified, with the word going around that I was ‘never there’ and ‘not doing my job’.  They knew very well that I was out at other centres, but it was the perfect excuse to blame things on me.  With my bullying boss, and passive aggressive colleagues, I was desperately unhappy.  There were nice people too, but my office mates tried to turn them against me.  Things came to a head when the SMT decided to do a ‘staff survey’.  It was ‘anonymous’ but no-one had really thought things through and many staff members- myself included- got to see the results.  To my horror, there were many negative comments about me, some of them really personal.  Someone told me that they knew the worst, most hurtful comments came from Ms X2 and the other nasty ones from her friends.  Most of them had no direct contact with me, but just took her word for it.  Although the senior managers said they wouldn’t take any notice of the comments, I knew the intention had been to damage my reputation and ultimately, get rid of me.

 

The reality was both Ms X2 and Ms X felt threatened by me. Ms X2 knew my arrival meant she would be back in the classroom.  I knew she was insecure.  I was much more qualified and experienced and yes, my arrival did mean she would not stay long in the office.  But I had been nice to her and everyone else and didn’t deserve what I went through. I had only been there a few months but I felt I had been found guilty without ever being given a fair trial.

My boss left and his successor was much nicer.  I confided in her about Ms X2 and she was appalled.  She wanted to give her a warning, but Ms X2 was very clever and hadn’t left any evidence.  I only lasted 8 months in this school because I felt constantly blamed, bullied and unsupported. The negative culture ran through the school from the top down.  When people in the school knew I was leaving, they said ‘take me with you’ and ‘you’re well out of here’.  So many staff members left around the same time as me, several with far worse experiences than me.  I told my boss to be careful in appointing someone else as the organisation doesn’t seem to welcome’ incomers’.  I predict that she won’t last very long for the same reason.  After leaving, I heard that Ms X2 had been rewarded for her nastiness by being sent back to the office job she wanted.  When behaviour like hers goes unchallenged, there is no prospect of change.

The stress of being at this school made my long-term health condition worse.  I left without a job to go to and am, at the time of writing, unemployed and worried about paying the rent next month.  My self-esteem is at an all-time low while the bullies are sitting pretty.

My boss was a bully

My name is X and I’m invisible. I don’t talk behind peoples’ backs, I don’t like drama. I like teaching. I didn’t really know what bullying was, at least not when I was a student. I knew it could happen at work, but I didn’t, and still don’t know, if that’s what really happened to me.
In my last school I witnessed a number of situations that involved someone in a higher hierarchy position bullying teachers. For years I kept quiet. I needed my job, I thought somehow it was all my fault. I thought that if I worked harder, if I was nicer and didn’t stand out, it would stop. It didn’t. It got worse. Two years ago I had to start therapy. Last year the doctor put me on antidepressants. Some months ago my health started to get worse and my body was screaming for help. I kept quiet, took more pills. I had (and still have) nightmares about the school. I went to bed and got up thinking about my DoS, I would have imaginary arguments with her while I was driving, letting out all that I couldn’t really say to her. I used to go to work anxious, not knowing whether she’d be in a good mood or not. What would she be complaining about that day. Some days I used to drive around, waiting until she had left and only then would I park and go to the school. I tried to meet her as little as I could. I didn’t want to hear her comments about other teachers. I did not want to hear her complain about her life, how much work she had, how incompetent everyone who worked at the school was. How she had blocked this and that teacher on Instagram because they had not invited her to a party or because they somehow threatened her authority. I didn’t want to hear the racist and homophobic jokes.
At some point I was forbidden to have ideas. Everything had to run through her. I had no autonomy whatsoever. She paid no attention to any of the work I did, but then would interfere with or sabotage it. Kept making me feel I was nothing. When someone praised my work she was quick to say it was no big deal and suggested I probably had had help or probably hadn’t done it myself. My health deteriorated and the doctor urged me to find another job. He increased my medication. I started having blood pressure problems. One day I went to a conference and decided to open up with a teacher I didn’t know very well, but for some reason I trusted her. I didn’t say much, but listened to her advice. I realized I was not alone. That my DoS wasn’t as powerful as she pretended to be. That day when I got home I realized I couldn’t go on like that. I decided to quit. I love teaching. I loved my projects and the team I worked with, but I felt isolated and didn’t talk to almost anyone. I was even afraid to go out for coffee with other teachers because I didn’t want them to get into trouble. I respect my director, but I didn’t think he would do anything. Who would believe me? I was just a teacher, she a DoS. She could excuse herself with management decisions. I had no witnesses. She knew what she was doing.
It sounds stupid and it sounds as if I’m a little thing too scared to do anything. I’m not. I’m a good person, I teach really difficult kids, like everyone I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in life, but never like this. After I decided to leave I realized other people at the school also felt like I did. She wasn’t just doing it to me, though I think I was the worst case. I started looking back and thought about the teachers who had left and had indicated it had been because of her. There were three. This had happened before. People started coming up to me, asking me not to leave and immediately understood why I was leaving, even though I never said a word. I tried to tell my director, but I couldn’t say everything. I didn’t mention the worst things that had happened. He said he greatly admired my ethics and would try to find out what was going on.
You probably think I’m an idiot and that that’s why she managed to do what she did. Perhaps. But we don’t all learn in the same way, do we? So why would you expect me to react as you would?
Thanks to #ELTtoo I found the courage to speak up. Most of the time I didn’t know what I was experiencing. I just thought it was an aggressive management style and that I had to put up with it. It’s impossible for me to tell you all the things that happened over the years.
If you are going through the same, please share your story. Contact the site. You are not alone. I found out there are more people like me, but there are also those who are willing to help, to give us a voice. In the end, I did quit. It was me or her and I didn’t believe she would be fired. Now I would have done things differently. I would have fought back.
Think about it, think about me. My name is X and I’m a teacher.

A misuse of power