Teacher Struggling….

Does anyone know? I don’t think so. I am pretty sure I keep up that convincing smile and practiced joviality throughout the day. If I do feel particularly overburdened, there is a small office no one goes; where I pretend to be doing some last minute marking at lunchtime. It’s easier in there because sometimes gets too tiring to retain vigilance about my outer appearance.

I don’t want anyone to know that I am finding it difficult, that this job is beating me down, that the criticism I get from my managers is squeezing the life out of me, that the low exam results my class appear to be heading for this summer is a permanent dull heavy fog over my life. I don’t want anyone to be aware that I can’t sleep after 4 or 5 in the morning because as soon as a sliver of consciousness slips into my head, a thought of the work I have to do that day piggy-backs in with it. After that instant, my mind has to pick and poke at the thought and Bang! I am awake for the day.
If my peers knew, a distance would develop between us. Casual friendships would become stilted. Conversations and eye contact would be avoided in the staff room or passing in the corridor. You wouldn’t really want to ask “How are you?” because you wouldn’t know what to do with my response.
If my managers knew then they would have a permanent personality weakness to hold against me in their minds. Sure, it wouldn’t be written down like that…. Certainly, the school adheres to a policy of mainintaing a work-life balance that ensures teachers’ lives do not become flooded  thoughts of their job. Definitely, they would want to support me. But, under all that, unwritten to avoid accusations of discrimination and blotting the copy on their “Caring school ethos underpinned by Christian values”, SLT would see me as a weak link, one they would need to look to replace. If I cannot cope with the bar at the level it is, how am I going to keep up when it gets raised again (as it does every year) in September? No, if I have to have a day off to protect my mind from the surrounding, ever encroaching pressures of work, I would tell them I had been sick or had a small fever or something. I wouldn’t admit to being mentally ill, even in this minor way. That would be the end of my career in their eyes.
I know that it isn’t other people’s fault though. I know the only way to really solve this is not pills from my GP or for my peers and managers to change their attitude. I know that the answer lies within me. I know I have the potential to help heal myself. I know that the effort and skills need to come from me. I am sorry I am lying to you all. But at the moment I don’t really know what my next step should be. Maybe I will get a moment when my mind is clearer and I can see a possible solution. But not soon I fear; I do not  yet have the courage to take that first step.
So for the while, I will keep on pretending, masking and hiding; I will find refuge in chocolate and wine, until I find the inner courage to say this out loud.
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4 thoughts on “Teacher Struggling….

  1. You are not alone. So many of us are struggling at the moment. What does one do? Look elsewhere? Will it be the same everywhere? Do SLT merely pass on pressure from their ‘superiors’ (therefore being similar in every school) or are there leadership teams who don’t pile on the pressure, appear to make nonsensical decisions or have knee-jerk reactions?

    I don’t know. A colleague confided in me today that as an NQT I’m still almost ‘untouchable’ which actually worried me as soon I won’t be an NQT and even the accountability on a lowly classroom teacher with no extra responsibility seems terrifying. My department is a mess in terms of structure – one is going part time in sept, 3 are desperate to leave, the HoD is permanently bemoaning the kids’ attitude, or the way SLT are doing things, and muddying the name of the subject by his general behaviour, leaving myself and my fellow NQT, and a member of SLT. I don’t know who to trust, or who to listen to… Sorry for the rant but just so you know you are NOT alone – but please do take a few days with ‘a stomach bug’.

    • Thank you for your reply. I have an understanding partner who supports me. I am sorry to hear you have difficulties too. As an NQT make the most of your extra time before the end of the year by looking into well run departments in your school. Meantime, if I can help…….

  2. You can’t go on like this. See your GP; you may not need medication but you definitely need to talk this through with someone. Your union should have a counsellor, you pay them enough, take advantage. Don’t feel alone there are hundreds of people here who understand your predicament, there is a way out, you just can’t see it for the trees. Happy to give any support I can.
    Lorna

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