Stress in Teaching

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Extracts from Guardian blog: what the teachers say

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Teacher Sue (made up name!)

I have never posted a comment on any website before but reading this thread reminded me of my year as an NQT, 15 years ago. It was probably the unhappiest year of my life due to bullying from the head of English, who was strongly supported by the Head.

I loved my PGCE year and entered my career full of enthusiasm and creative ideas. These were soon stamped out by a head of English who regularly put me down in front of students, shouted at me and told me my lessons were unsatisfactory. The three times I was absent that year resulted in me being reprimanded by her and the Head and told the school "couldn't carry passengers" and that I should be aware of my lack of professionalism in taking time off. When I produced a doctor's note I was yelled at for "waving it around as if it was a magic ticket". When asked to produce some display work with a class, we had started work at the end of one lesson with the intention of finishing it off the next. The Head of English arrived in my classroom early the next morning, picked up one student's work and told me that the display work "just was not good enough" - even though it had barely been started.

I was also made, as the standard of my teaching was deemed unsatisfactory, to submit all of my lesson plans for the entire week first thing on a Monday morning, as well as detailed evaluations of the previous week's lessons. They would routinely be dismissed as poor. I was in tears after I got home pretty much every night and longed to leave and I felt like an absolute failure. My parents, who were both teachers themselves and had aIways encouraged me in my dream career, became so worried about me that they actually thought I should quit before I made myself ill. I tried to speak to the Head of English about how much stress I was under with all the monitoring etc but was just told, "If you can't handle stress, you're in the wrong profession." The two other young English teachers were very much in her thrall and made it clear that I was on my own.

That Easter holiday, I applied for another teaching job and got it!! I will never forget when the Head of English came back to observe her next lesson and gave me damning feedback, telling me I would probably fail my NQT year (in the days before you could officially fail anyway) the huge satisfaction I had in telling her I already had another job to go to in September anyway!

Fifteen years down the line now, with 3 years in mainstream and 12 in special schools, I love my job, I work with a great, inspiring and creative bunch of staff and can only shudder with horror about that 1st year. It still makes me feel angry that, because of one dreadful Head of English, I could easily have given up within my 1st year. The one positive thing is that it has really made me count my blessings at work ever since!!

Teacher Helen (made up name!) I have chosen red text for a bit I think is very well made!

I've been a teacher since 2005 and my experiences would make the stuff of a great novel, although people might find the truth to be a little far-fetched! After completing my English Lit degree, travelling and teaching TEFL, at the age of 25, I began what is known in Scotland as the 'alternative' route into teaching. This meant i needed to teach in a school for two years before i could be deemed 'a fully trained teacher'. I was employed by the school at a reduced rate although my head of dept. did not agree with the school's decision to appoint me.

Over the year that i worked 'under' her, she: threw a set of keys in my face, told me I'd be better off at home, told me to return to England as i had no respect for boundaries and referred to the black students as something unrepeatable. She had eyes of ice-fire, the air chilled when she entered a class room and she would regularly burst in upon my lessons and recline at the back of the room with her trade-mark frozen sneer- 'observing'.

Despite this, i found a love for teaching, so i returned to England to complete a PGCE as i realised that this woman would never pass me.Whilst training, I taught at three schools instead of the usual two. My first placement school was wonderful, close-knit yet not suffocating, the staff were creative, warm and inclusive and i got great reports. The second school i went to had a tiny English dept., presided over by yet another despot and a bullying side-kick. They told me my lessons were terrible and that I was useless. After getting the measure of them, four week into my placement, I told them i was leaving as i had promised myself never to tolerate bullying again. I then spent a few weeks on the phone ringing around other schools trying to arrange my own placement (my teacher training college washed their hands of me at this point and told me that I would probably have to accept that i'd failed my PGCE). However, I managed to get my third and final placement and passed with flying colours.

My NQT year was a success. The school was a rough, tough London comp. and their NQT provision was excellent. However, despite my success, i was very happy that my family circumstances meant that i emigrated to Australia in 2009. You see, during my NQT year i worked extremely hard to garner the approval from the management that i received but what tired me was the depression and stress of the older, more seasoned members of staff who were being circled by hawk-like senior management and were quite literally picked off one by one. The students at this school were raucous, rebellious, aggressive and there was a survival of the fittest playground culture that was chillingly mirrored by the staff-room culture. It seemed like anyone who was still a classroom teacher, over the age of 45 was deemed to be out of touch and incapable when actually what was happening was that kids' aggression was erupting in most classrooms and senior management were never there to support the staff in the aftermath of an aggressive incident. I handled the aggression by keeping a lid on it, just! I could feel it though, simmering every single day and it would only have been a matter of time before a disturbing, violent incident would have broken out between the kids in one of my lessons- had i not left for family reasons.

It was clear that aggression and fear were the ruling principles of that school. Violent perpetrators were treated leniently whilst staff with years of excellent service behind them were hounded as the ones responsible. It seemed so ignorant and myopic of this management to denigrate its own, experienced, wonderful teachers- for what is a teacher, if not someone who has lived, teaching young people how to live?

The problem as I see it, is that teachers in England are presided over by management teams comprised of transient, career managers. In other words, people whose sole aim is to leave the classroom and climb the pay-scale. Meanwhile the staff, the life-blood of the school and indeed the community of which the school is a central part, are all too often ignored by them or at worst treated like pawns in the management's wild and untutored experiments to 'meet targets', or 'increase learning'. These management expect to see all singing, dancing teachers when they enter classrooms with all students engaged on the task in hand. This is my style of teaching, but what the management need to understand is that the culture of a school comes from them and trickles down and out to the community.
If the management don't come from the area that the school is in, then they need to learn all the kids names and get to the know the parents- all of them. They need to get to know and love their staff for who they are and what they've got to offer. They left the classroom to climb the pay-scale. so they need to respect those stalwarts who are in it for the sheer love of teaching, attend fewer c
onferences and spend more time in corridors fostering respect.


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Reply ManuelHek
5:39 PM on September 30, 2017 
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