There has been a lot of publicity about stress in the teaching profession and the lack of work/life balance. Standards in schools keep being raised which adds pressure on the teachers to keep up with these.
Have the expectations of teachers always been the same?
When I was at school the classroom was a relaxed and fun environment and the teachers seem to enjoy what they were doing. So why is there so much pressure on teaching staff now when years ago children got everything they needed out of education?
Let me share with you about a teacher I recently coached, Tracy*. Tracy had a number of issues to be resolved. She was working extremely long hours during the week starting at 7.30am setting up her classroom and leaving school at 6pm after attending a meeting. When she arrived home she would prepare for classes from 8pm until late into the evening. Weekends were taken up preparing and planning for her lessons. Tracy rarely had a lunch break as being on the school site she was asked to deal with issues and was constantly interrupted by other staff for support. Feedback on a teaching observation by Ofsted had been extremely brutal which caused her to lack in confidence. This affected her so badly that she suffered with anxiety from the moment she was told about an observation. Her stress had caused her psoriasis to flare up. Tracy not only taught in class she also had a management responsibility which she struggled with, as she was expected to have the knowledge and skill to do this. Tracy had very little time to spend with her family and they no longer went on weekends away or holidays. The one thing that Tracy had was her passion for teaching the children it was a job she had always wanted to do. Tracy was at breaking point and was thinking she needed to find a new career.
After working intensively with Tracy for 3 months her world is completely different. Tracy is calmer, positive, confident and no longer feels anxious about her observations. She has developed skills in managing staff and how to be more assertive in communicaton. She also developed strategies to help her manage her time but through implementing these changed other people’s behaviour. Tracy now has family time and her first holiday in a long time. Tracy is still a teacher and enjoys her work now. Teaching had always been her passion, her dream job.
Sometimes when we are stressed we can’t quite get things into perspective as there are more negatives than positives. By exploring this you can see more clearly what is happening and adapt yourself to be able to deal with the situation.
Long term stress is not good for anyone and the education system needs to look at why there is an expectation for teachers to work such long hours and set such high standards that creates pressure. The body’s responses to stress is fight or flight unfortunately some teachers are choosing flight as they leave the profession.
Do teachers not deserve to be valued for the good work that they do in educating our future generation?
*the name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.