Tag Archives: value

The difference a status can make…

I returned to the UK on Monday to read an article on the BBC news page again about why many teachers say they want to leave the profession. For those readers who have only known me since my art “phase” Jan 2017 onwards, I used to be a teacher.

Over a period from 1999 to 2016 I had about every three years a breakdown that disabled me completely. I would have to have time off work before returning. In this time I started to take antidepressants because my first solution increased exercise failed to have enough effect. The first break was only six weeks, the longest break about three and a half months. I always went back because teaching was my vocation, I could not see myself doing anything else.

In my last three posts additional pressures outside work significantly increased and I was struggling. Until in 2016 after a particularly painful period in my last school in London where I felt I had virtually been pushed out of the door, I moved to Dorset and to what either had to work or I would have to stop teaching. Several factors made the start of the new role have additional pressures that I could not cope with. They had given me a named person to talk with if feeling that I was struggling with my mental health, which I had been open about in my interview and application. I couldn’t admit to them or even to my family at the time, back in Essex, that I felt suicidal on a regular basis after about 5 weeks in. It all “blew up” after ten weeks in, the offers of help that came were too late and from the wrong people, I.e. not the ones who had been the primary causes of my stress in addition to my own thoughts.

I left and made the very sensible decision that I could no longer cope with the stresses of a job that in its purest form, I.e. teaching 11 to 16 year olds I still loved with a passion. It was the ridiculous obsession of measuring and reducing individual pupils to the status of “data” that I could have no part in.

So now a broken ex-teacher I had to restart a new life in a new place and an inability mentally to cope with full time work. Due to a combination of circumstances from January 2017 to April 2019 I felt like a person who had “failed” at the vocation I loved. I could accept feedback from ex- pupils and colleagues going back over 30 years, however I still couldn’t consider a full time role or what to do. I have rebuilt a new life, I am now an artist and have sold well considering my starting point. I have a summer seasonal part time post I love, but I was no longer bringing in a steady income. Savings and careful financial management has meant we have survived.

So how has my status changed? through 28 years of full time teaching we were always told how the teacher pension scheme was a good one to be in and to keep paying into. When I left teaching an ex colleague pointed out I could claim a reduced pension from 55 years. On Tuesday April 9 while on our first fortnight’s holiday away from home in 21 years my status changed. I am now a “retired teacher”, I will have a steady regular income, I will still work at my art and summer job because they help give me enjoyment and fulfilment. I do feel guilty that mention of such a luxury is not fair on many friends locally who are self-employed and don’t have that security ahead but I know I worked hard for this and now my status change means I can now leave ex / couldn’t hack it – teacher status is gone. I paid into a scheme for 28 years and now I have payback.

So really this is a self-indulgent post in many ways, but I think it offers something to others too. I see a teaching profession, not just in the UK but in many countries, where fellow professionals are put under so much pressure in the name of “performance” that the profession is haemorrhaging staff far too fast.

Every generation of children is currently being out under too much pressure. The result an education system that is flawed. With an increasing ageing population we need a good workforce to contribute taxes to run our countries. To achieve that we need to value the members of that workforce. So many years of the jokes about how many weeks holiday teachers get every year, but ask those same people why they are not teachers then and a very quick about face about how they couldn’t do that job.

If we want a healthy, happy and skilled workforce then we need to put less pressure on those individuals as they grow up and are educated. To achieve that we need a healthy, happy, skilled and valued workforce to pass on that education. Unfortunately I see a world full of words and good intentions but little change. I still follow some debate about education because it has always been important to me and always will I see fellow professionals open up about their mental health struggles as I did through this blog and on Twitter – but the support comes from those under pressure not those causing the pressure.

Please can the powers that be wake up and start a new process for change, it is time.

Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?

I’ve read, met and listened to Edutronic speak now on a number of occasions and am inspired by his drive and innovative ideas to develop his students. In that light I have chosen to contribute to #blogsync.

2013 marks my 25th year full time in my chosen profession of teaching. Always happy and fulfilled? No definitely not, yet I’m still here – how is that? To be honest I’m really not always sure how. My wife identifies that I love working with the pupils – surely all teachers do? No I fear that is not always the case.

So what have been the moments where I’ve considered departing from teaching?

There have been periods in my career like many colleagues where my life has been subsumed by work to the detriment of myself and others around me. Physical health has been neglected leading to years of steroid treatment for my asthma. Mental health has fluctuated and been balanced at times by exercise, talking therapies, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and through the use of anti- depressants. like Robert Crampton who writes in The Times, that input has become a constant that provides the cushioning when life threatens to bottom out.

Pressures have been multi faceted and have not just come from work, transitions,changes, have all affected me. But, outside school I have had my own pressures. These have combined on a number of occasions to make me question my competence, ability to change and whether I am cut out to perform in this demanding role. When others suggest I leave teaching however I fight tooth and nail to remain. It completes me, I get to learn new things most days, I challenge myself to keep up to date. The last two years have been strengthened by Twitter and the attendance at Teachmeets. I am one of the lucky few that have discovered this mass of keen and supportive people.

But enough of me, why train then leave?

Fellow PGCE students back in the 1980s left the profession after training – too much to take on. Burn out on a personal level. Lives subsumed and spat out if they could not adjust to the pace and demands of change. Support for new staff has always varied and it is having the freedom to seek support and often to admit weaknesses openly that many find very hard, or even safe to do so without being judged and condemned. They withdraw into themselves. Alcohol provides a nice crutch but one that can destroy as well.

The teachers life is multi – faceted, demands come in many forms from the marking, the behaviour of challenging individuals – staff and pupils. The demands of employers, parents, communities which overlap.

Our governmental support – woefully lacking for teachers – we are often accused of incompetence, not ambitious enough for our charges, too liberal…friends who criticise the holidays, yet where are these people when it comes to stepping up to do the job in this improved version? I’ve yet to meet them.

Why train and leave within five years? Because sadly the profession is a target to beat for many outside it and some within it. While that continues turnover shall remain high – is this the future we want for our pupils? Really??