My first day back was yesterday and for the first time in a long time I had an anxiety attack. I was laying in bed the night before and I just started to panic, overthinking every single thing. My heart was racing, I could hardly breath and I felt closterphobic in my own body. I was up until at least 3 am worrying leaving less than 3 hours sleep. I went to work the next day, a training day, saw my friends and had a laugh about how rediculous it was to get an anxiety attack over coming back. But, as I spoke to them almost all of them said they had had a similar thing happen. I couldn't believe it, could that be real? Do that many of us really have that bad a reaction to returning to school?
The guardian did a study in March of nearly 4,500 teachers, 75% of which said that teaching was having a serious impact on their mental health. The study also talks about teachers leaving, with 43% saying they were planning on leaving within 5 years.
I found countless blogs and tweets with plenty of anecdotal evidence of this, but you have one right here! I was so depressed I decided I had to take a break from my career to sort myself out, I've only been out of university 2 years! Ofcourse I can't blame all my issues on teaching but it's a contributing factor.
If we are going to be forced into longer days and new curricula, focused only on data, then teachers are going to suffer, but more importantly this will impact on the students. Do we really want to churn out robots who can only regurgitate what we've told them, not think for themselves?
I don't know where the education system will be in a year let alone 5 or 10 but honestly, this level of stress and anxiety cannot and will not be maintained by the current workforce. We already have a serious shortage of staff, our school has numerous long term supply, many of whom they acknowledge are not great, but whom we need. When I interviewed for my job I was the only interviewee. None of this is surprising when you think of how a teachers life is portrayed: long hours, naughty kids, poor pay and a government that doesn't care.
I personally don't work that many hours, mainly because I refuse to, but also because NQT timetables are lighter, this year I fear things may change and I'm not sure I'll be able to handle things if they do. I love the kids, it's the reason most of us go into teaching, the majority of them are lovely and even those who act up are usually good kids at heart, but there are classes where I know they have just put all the kids who play up together in a lower set, which is far from fair on the lower ability students who generally care. I teach this group first thing tomorrow morning and I honestly have already cried over it. Does that mean I won't turn up tomorrow, optimistic as hell to try and get these students an education, absolutely not, they deserve for me to walk in and treat them as if I have no idea who they are, which is exactly what I'll do, but it will take every bit of energy to do it and I have 3 other new classes afterward. Which brings me to the pay. I don't mind telling you I earn around £25000 soon to be £28000, personally I think that's pretty good, but I am a math teacher so I did the math :
Assuming I only work 8:30-3:30
That's 7 hours a day or 35 hours a week, we teach 39 weeks a year, so 1365 hours a year.
25000/1365=£18.32 per hour
Now can anyone tell me a single teacher that works these hours? Even i get in at 7:15 and leave around 4 and I'm one of the earliest to leave!
The same survey I mentioned earlier found over 75% of teachers work between 49 and 65 hours a week £10.41-£7.85 an hour.
And that is a joke. Really. Our profession has become a punchline.
So what can we do? Go to the doctor get signed off sick? Maybe. For some that should be the answer, for now at least, while they get better. Go private? Where the students are better behaved, there's more pay, more control over curricula. Again a valid option, but not easy to get into, those jobs are highly sought after. Quit, find another career? I couldn't, but plenty can and will.
I guess I chose to take a break and wait it out, see if the grass is greener on the other side of the world or if our grass can be brought back from the brink of ruin.
Id love to know if anyone else has had similar problems, comment or message me on twitter.