After all the bullshit that’s happened over the last couple of weeks I went looking for positives as I was seriously questioning how I felt about being a teacher (something I have NEVER done before, and I’ve worked with some of the most dangerous and troubled kids in the country)
The Antidote for the bullshit turned out to be the kids! Yesterday, one of my current year 11s asked for extra revision sessions (from my bottom set ‘couldn’t behave so was put in my class’ class) and whilst we were going through some work after school, one of last year’s year 11s came back to thank me in person. Thinking on it, I realised how many other kids have said thank you to me this week on the way out of my classroom and it’s more than you’d expect. Some even thanked me for helping them with homework during detentions. I’ve had unsolicited apologies for not doing homework, kids coming in to redo work to get better scores and kids so desperate to do well that they’ve cried. One of my year 11s even spent his lunch money on a geometry kit for his maths mock this morning.
I don’t teach parents or the SLT or politicians, or inspectors – I teach my kids and it’s their rating that really matters.
There’s no question that teaching is a stressful job on all levels – physically, mentally and emotionally. It takes a great deal of strength on all areas to function as a teacher in the modern British education system, between the ridiculous work load, the cultural of disrespect to learning and the constant barrage of people telling you that you’re wrong or bad at your job it’s a wonder any of us survive at all. Add to that a mental health condition and you’re potentially talking disaster… or so you might think.
I’ve been a clinical depressive longer than I’ve been a teacher and in my 8 year career have had more time off because of car accidents than I have as a direct result of my depression. I turn into a nervous wreck around performance management time, more so than most and during the last inspection forgot how to sign my own initials simply because of the stress I was under. So why did I go into a high stress profession? Surely, it can’t be good for me, and surely it’s not good for the kids? Well, actually that’s bollocks. You see, Miss doesn’t get depressed. I generally don’t suffer from symptoms at school – on the drive there and back yes – but not in my class room. I suffer way more during the holidays than I do during term time.
I was born to teach, I love the kids and my job and I think I do it well. If i suffered from migraines we wouldn’t even be having this conversation – and what is depression if not another kind of severe head pain? Would the teaching profession be better off without me? I don’t think so. I doubt it would be better off without all the other teachers who struggle with mental health issues either.
If you read the education news you’ll find that the education system fails just about everybody – the latest 2 groups being the ‘invisible’ rural poor and ‘gifted and talented’ pupils. Are we giving anyone a good deal? I get really frustrated with these blanket statements about teachers and the education system that seem to continually paint the whole profession as incompetent, uncaring, lazy and unprofessional. I do the best I can for the kids I have, but I’m not magic and I’m entitled to time off from thinking about work. If the government want to look into anything, how about they start investigating why society no longer values the education system, and why so many people see fit to kick the free schooling they get in the teeth – I think they might find it’s to do with the fact that culture/the media scorns education – the ‘I never did good at school and it aint done me no harm’ attitude, and the value placed on non-academic talents as opposed to serious occupations. The media teaches young people to value the wrong things (in general) – making the job of teachers harder and harder – make school cool and raise national expectations instead of slagging off teachers and watch our children blossom.