Thursday, 1 September 2016

Why I don't want to go back to school

With less than a week to go until the return to school commences, I'm feeling somewhat miserable. With 6 years of teaching under my belt, I've become more aware of the true nature of the teaching profession and what it entails, so this year I'm feeling more cynical than ever.

If I'm being honest, as each fresh, academic year approaches, I'm usually feeling optimistic, bubbling with new ideas, classroom seating plans, creative classroom management strategies, but this year, I'm not. All too often my ideas are wrung to dry as they are dried out by the true hardship and slog of being a teacher in a stifling and bureaucratic education system and this truth appears to have taken an exhaustive toll on me.

I worry that if I'm feeling like this now, how will I get through the next year? I thought that smart working and savvy time planning could save me as I ploughed my way into the academic year 2015-2016, but this apparently wasn't the case. The psychological impact of being a teacher in the modern day is very real and very raw as we juggle the need to please our managers, the children and perhaps, our most difficult judges: the parents. I have no new time management strategies as I make my way into the academic year 2016-2017, I have no innovative classroom management techniques to save my sanity, I just have the knowledge and experience of the last 6 years to teach me to be kinder to myself and to continue to follow through with honest, good intentions.

These are the reasons I really don't want to go back to school:

I really don't want to go back to school because I'm worried about myself or my daughter being ill, resulting in my absence from work.
Unfortunately and very ironically, in the teaching profession teachers can be very unforgiving of other teachers, not all, but some. We all know how difficult it is to make the decision that you need to be absent from work, but teachers have to face the consequences when they return, whilst other teachers often have to pick up the slack by covering the lessons. The unbelievable guilt is all consuming, but when a teacher makes the decision that they need to be absent, it shouldn't be taken lightly, as they're sitting at home with a sick bucket next to them or smothered in poorly child emailing in lessons plans for cover lessons to be taught in their absence. These lessons often need to be planned in on top of whatever lessons they had planned to teach that day, therefore the process is time consuming and dreadfully difficult when dealing with bodily fluids and sick children.

Last year saw me take several days off work to be with my sick daughter, which were steeped in guilt on my part, whilst having to take a fortnight of absence for myself after I was diagnosed with an inner ear infection. When you walk into the staffroom on returning from a spell of absence whether it be for yourself or your child, you can't help noticing the staff who fail to ask if you or your child is feeling any better and you feel like shit and even more guilty for being ill. Whilst if it was your child who was ill, you feel guilty for feeling guilty. All in all, you just feel shit. I know I can't control illness and I know that the probability of me needing to take more absence from work this academic year is fairly likely.

Hardly something to look forward to.

I really don't want to go back to school in case I need the toilet.
One of the really shitty things (pardon the pun) about teaching is not being able to use the toilet when you need to. This is a particular problem when you suffer from conditions like IBS, IBD or cystitis.
As teachers, we are considered to owe a duty of care to our students and unfortunately, this often means that we are unable to leave the classroom unattended when answering to very normal calls of nature. We are also encouraged to educate the children to use their break times to go to the toilet and it is therefore difficult to expect them to do this if we can't! On the other hand, our breaks are often not breaks at all and we find it difficult to escape form our classrooms to get to the bathroom when children come knocking at your door to ask questions during break times.

For me, this issue creates huge anxiety. Especially as I suffer from a very aggravating bowel condition, but many would argue that aggravating, isn't debilitating and therefore I have no reason not to be able to do my job.
I have had to run out of my classroom to go to the toilet on numerous occasions and I do not feel guilty about it, however it makes me fearful; this brings me on to my next reason.

I really don't want to go back to school because teaching is unforgiving of anxiety.
Education doesn't care how much sleep you've had, what's going on at home, how you're feeling, how busy you are, or how anxious you feel about any of these things, because children still need teaching and that becomes the priority. Rightly so that the teaching of children ought to be the priority of education (others may argue differently) but nobody allows for how the teacher may be feeling or coping under the buckling cloud that teaching creates. Some days, I'm anxious. Some days, I have a mountain to climb and I wonder how I'm going to manage it all, when random, unpredicted challenges get thrown in on top and my anxiety kicks in.

It's not only education and the demands of teaching that are unforgiving of anxiety or fear in a teacher, but the children themselves who often can't pick up on a teacher's tension or let's face it, who often don't listen to instructions and chuck in a load of unnecessary questions on top of the workload.

I really don't want to go back to school because the workload affects my mental health.
The workload is the workload regardless of how much sleep we've had or how stressed out we are, we can't give ourselves an easier day if we're struggling because the children we teach may have other ideas! We can't hide away or bury our head in the sand on the days we're not coping because the same amount of lessons need teaching and the same deadlines remain.

No matter how much I try to plan and prepare, sometimes stuff happens and we can't prepare for it, that's life. But this has huge consequences for my mental health and sometimes, nervous exhaustion kicks in.

I really don't want to go back to school because I have a huge workload and nowhere to work.
Being a part-time teacher means that we often don't get a classroom to call our own; I understand that this is sometimes the unfortunate nature of the job, however nobody then suggests where exactly we are supposed to do our work. With no desk space to call our own, the "frees" we get to catch up on our data crunching, lesson planning, marking and admin are left feeling somewhat uncertain. Where exactly do we go to complete our work when we're not teaching?

I really don't want to go back to school because it drains me.
Forget the physical workload (which is bad enough!) it's the constant repetitive questions, the persistent noise, the low level disruptive behaviour in need of regular challenging and the consequent way it sucks up my mood and my mind. It's this. The way I forget children's names because I'm listening to one child explain something to me whilst another is asking questions, whilst another is out of his seat for the third time and I've spoken to him twice before and I'm trying to catch his eye, whist taking the register and delivering the starter. It's this.

I really, really don't want to go back to school on Monday.

12 comments:

  1. Wow. This is me! The only difference is that I'm not a mum, and I'm part-time. Like you, this is the first year I feel dread about going back next week. In the past, I've felt more able to get my head down and get on with it. However, this year I feel I can't con myself into thinking I can do it. I really like the way you've described how "All too often my ideas are wrung to dry as they are dried out by the true hardship and slog of being a teacher in a stifling and bureaucratic education system and this truth appears to have taken an exhaustive toll on me." THis, to me, is exactly where I am at. I really, really want to enjoy teaching. I really, really want this to be a long-term career for me, but I have no work-life balance, I have been in therapy for depression and anxiety this year, and I don't see how it can get better. I'm considering moving to another school (my current school is split-sites, chaotic and I feel very unsupportive there due to a bully of a HoD), but I know that in reality every school has issues an the grass ain't necessarily greener. I'd love to go part-time, but can't afford it. I'm even considering private schools, but that's not what I went into education for.
    Oh dear!
    Sorry to barf all this negativity, but what you said really resonated with me. I suppose it was a relief for me to find someone else who feels the same.
    I really hope that you find it easy to get back into next week, and that your concerns were unwarranted. Chin up!
    Good luck!

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    1. THat should read unsupported, not unsupportive...!

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    2. Hope your first week back has gone ok, Lizzabee! We're certainly not the only ones struggling in the profession, I'm glad my blog helped you realise you're not alone!
      I'm currently writing another blog at the moment, "10 things I like about my Job!" Determined to find some positives.

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  2. Hi, as a parent I just want to say how important good teaches are and I'm so sorry you feel like this. I feel there is way too much beaurocracy and government interference in teaching, instigated by ministers who themselves have often never taught! Ridiculous situation. I have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers, I've phoned teachers by accident only to find them stuck at school and answering the phone at 7:30pm. My son's Spanish teacher emailed me recently because she was concerned about his progress. I looked at the time the email was sent: it was 12:34 am!

    I think it is a terrible situation that good teachers who love children are almost pushed into leaving the profession because they cannot do what they love and simply teach children. I have to say I am old enough to remember the days before an imposed National Curriculum and SATs and remember my teachers being very affectionate and enjoying their jobs. About 20 years ago I bumped into an old primary school teacher who recognised me instantly (taught me when I was 6) she lamented what was happening to the teaching profession and the effect it was having on children, who are being failed by all this; frequently being taught to test, wìth even play being frequently sttuctured. She told me she was retiring in 4 years and couldn't wait.

    Rambling on. Just really want to say thank you for the time, effort and committment and sacrifice you make everyday for our children. Perhaps change to an associated profession that still focuses on children?
    Best wishes.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words. It's very rare that teachers hear praise and its lovely when it comes from the parents as they can be the worst critics. If children were at the centre of education, there wouldn't be so much upheaval and change I feel.

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  4. Hi,
    I have been teaching for 10 years+ now and in that time I have fluctuated between feeling that I will never even get to retirement to days where I think I really love the job (this has always been as a result of the children). It's natural to feel stressed in a job that changes every five minutes on the whims of new governments and minsters, educational advisors etc who have never taught, some have never even been in the state system.
    The only advice I can give is to be true to yourself, protect yourself. Make sure that you do switch off when you can (I'm cringing as I write this because I know how difficult it is). I have a friend who literally walked out of her classroom at the end of the day just at the end of the Easter term and left teaching altogether-she was a good teacher and it is a crying shame that she felt that she couldn't continue to teach because of increased pressure from an incompetent leader and lack of support when she was clearly struggling with challenging behaviour from the children in her class.
    I have often thought about leaving-usually just after one of the half term holidays when I've spent most of the time working.
    I decided that in order to be able to continue to relinquish some of my responsibilities, this means that I am paid less but I have just had the best summer holiday in all the time I have been teaching- I have done some work and went into school to sort the classroom out etc, but I have also had more time to switch off. One important thing that I have learned through bitter experience is don't ever become a subject leader- you are expected to be an expert but your opinions are not listened to, if you are fortunate enough to receive a TLR payment, when you calculate the amount of additional hours that you do it is not worth the money.
    Try to remind yourself of the reasons why you entered the teaching profession in the first place.
    With regards to other members of staff who don't even ask how you are when you have been ill-don't waste your time even thinking about them-people like that exist in every work place and they are only out for themselves. Stick with the people who you respect and who respect you-they're usually the ones who will make you a cuppa or the ones who you have to avoid looking at (for fear of regressing to being fifteen and giggling) in staff meetings when the Head says something ridiculous about well being and age related expectations in the same breath.
    Try to stick it out if you can but don't beat yourself up if you decide that for your own well being you need to leave teaching-you will have gained masses of experience which can be used in loads of other jobs. If you are younger than 30 you are looking at another 35+ years doing a job that could be detrimental to your well being-is it worth it?
    Sorry this was a bit rambling, I just wrote things as I thought of them. I have been where you are and it's not a good place to be. I hope some of it helped-even if it only helps you to realise that you are not the only stressed teacher out there. There are lots of excellent teachers leaving the profession- usually for very good reasonsx

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    1. Thanks for your response Linda. 30-35 more years of teaching... Yikes! When you put it like that, it's a very daunting prospect. Hopefully I won't be teaching long enough to find out if it improves over that time, as I think at present, it's quite difficult to get by day to day.

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  5. My sister left teaching this year for the exact same reasons as yourself. She has taken a job that pays a lot less and that has nothing to do with education and she loves it!! She said she felt sick to the stomach every day before she went in, and that her holidays consisted of working and worrying about how long she had left off, and the count down to the true horror of teaching. Life is too short to be unhappy. Even as a part time teacher, you shouldn't have to put up with being unhappy and going to work dreading every minute. My sister is one of the strongest people I know, and for the most part you would never have known she was so unhappy, but she is loving life and work at the minute, and says working now doesn't even fell like work. Well worth the pay cut for your health and minds sake if you ask me!!

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    1. I'm glad to hear a story about someone who has left teaching and is relieved to have done so. I think it's the holidays that keep teachers teaching, but like you say, other jobs aren't quite as challenging so I can imagine the relief she must feel. Personally, I don't think that the short relief of a holiday is worth the long gruelling days of the rest of the time.

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  6. I'm sorry you feel like that. I've been teaching for 16 years and I still love it. I've already been into school five days in the last two weeks to get my classroom ready. I'm teaching 3.5 days a week and the other 1.5 are my PPA and management time (I'm a senior teacher and SENCo). As you can imagine, in those last 16 years I've experienced two different National Curriculi as well as the National Literacy Strategy, the National Numeracy Strategy, the Primary Framework for Maths and English, Letters and Sounds, the phonics screening check, numerous changes to end of KS1 and KS2 assessment, endless tweaks to the EYFS, baseline assessment changes, Every Child Matters - and probably a dozen other initiatives that I can no longer remember!

    I wonder if some of the differences between your experiences and mine are that I work in primary schools. Also, although 4 of the 5 schools I've worked in have been great, there was one bad egg. Maybe you are in the right job but the wrong school?

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  7. Thanks for your response, it's nice to hear from a teacher who still loves their job. I do think that teaching environment plays a huge part and the environment I'm currently in is certainly very negative at present. Hope you can continue to love your job :)

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