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Concerned about my (teacher) wife

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Spouseofateacher, Nov 20, 2018.

  1. Spouseofateacher

    Spouseofateacher New commenter

    Good evening

    From doing a little bit of research on the current levels of teacher stress, I've stumbled onto the TES community section. It's as bad as I feared, alas.

    My wife has been teaching in primary for around five years. Her school has, on paper and by the criteria of the current government, become 'Outstanding', having been in 'Special Measures'. This was accomplished in a relatively short time frame - although I get the impression a move to academy status was timed in a tactful way, in delaying an inspection. Anyway, I digress.

    There seems to have developed a culture in which the staff are micro-managed to a level that's made most uncomfortable, and more than a few genuinely anxious. I'm told that book scrutinies and learning walks are the favourites of late.

    As my wife is working part time, she was told by SLT that she was not entitled to any PPA time, and she could just 'get stuff done before the kids arrived'. Having raised this issue, PPA time was dutifully added to her timetable.

    She was approached by a member of SLT in the corridor, and asked in a particularly demeaning way about the whereabouts of a particular piece of planning (for lessons to be delivered next week). As she has only this week been given back her PPA time, she'd forgotten to complete this particular planning. Having being out of the planning-loop since September, she'd simply failed to remember. The way she was spoken to made her cry. This member of staff then called her back into a meeting (this time with another member of SLT), to repeat the very same information. Many more tears were shed.

    My post isn't wholly about the above, however. Part of the reason she forgot is largely due to anxiety/depression. Given that her part time hours are not as taxing as a full time teacher, it's more the 'toxic' culture that has enveloped the school that has made her not only lose confidence in the classroom, but having trouble sleeping, become evermore forgetful, lives in fear of the next learning walk/book scrutiny/1984-esque-leadership-method, list goes on. I've noticed the gradual decline in her mental health, but my 'motivational speeches' of digging deep and getting on with it have reached their use-by-date.

    The sad thing is, she loves teaching. She'd like nothing more than having her professional credentials respected, and a level of autonomy in how lessons are planned & delivered. This school appears to plan in teams, so some teachers will plan lessons they'll never teach - and this has to be submitted a week before the lesson so that the actual teacher delivering the lesson can check it.

    She'll be seeing a GP this week, so I'm hopeful that she can be given advice from a professional.

    Like many here, I could probably write a book on the nature of what teachers are going through, so I shan't take up anymore of your time.
  2. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    @Spouseofateacher - she is fortunate indeed to have you. Imagine how the poor souls without interested/informer Other Halves go on (I speak from the experience of having had one)
    Bullying is rife in education and it isn't coming from the kids..... your wife seems to be on the receiving end now.... could it be her being part time doesn't now suit them?
  3. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

  4. drek

    drek Star commenter

    Sounds like they are not keeping up with the dfe's latest recommendations.
    By the time they do I really hope your wife has not been exposed to the toxic environment long enough to develop any chronic conditions.
    Perhaps if you've been watching 'school' on tv and see how adults are arriving to work in a constant state of heightened anxiety and mental and physical stress?
    I've worked in three or four schools all similar in their treatment of colleagues.
    The only person bright eyed and bushy tailed, is the HR/PA person!
    Probably the only person whose job is safe.......?
    And who never has to deal directly with hoards of students with mental health issues and special needs on a daily basis whilst being told they can never do enough........or always considered on the brink of incapability.
  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Short of relocating to 1981 (when you could get on with your work as an autonomous professional and teach as you saw fit to suit the pupils in your care) I see no answer other than:

    Self-certify when it all gets too much
    Progress from that to a fit note from the GP when the well has run dry
    Try to change schools
    Join a union and insist on working to contract and accept that you'll be as popular as a swarm of wasps at a toddlers' tea-party
    Explore other careers

    She's already gone part-time so that was a good step but it hasn't really worked.

    I would advise her not to suck it up but to get militant. But that's my advice to everyone. No digging deep. No just getting on with it. Speaking out. I am planning for lessons I shall never deliver? To kids whom I don't know? Remind me to ask for a doctor next time who doesn't know me or my symptoms or the progress of my condition and get her to sort my issues. Yes, genius idea.
  6. thekillers1

    thekillers1 Lead commenter

    Best advice provided.
  7. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    There are an awful lot of divorced teachers out there. How many divorces were caused by their career choices? Quite a lot I would imagine.
    It's time to move on. Maybe to another school. Maybe to another career. Whatever, it's time to move on. There are plenty of education related jobs out there - museums, charities, training, admin jobs. Can she afford to take a career break in order to get her head in order?
    Good Luck. :)
  8. skellig1182

    skellig1182 Senior commenter

    I think your lovely wife should find another job. Not all schools are toxic. I’d go mad if anyone mentioned my ppa entitlement. I can’t stand micro management. I think I’m leaving teaching after my maternity. I’ve worked in a few schools and some are better than others but most are highly pressured places. I’ve had a successful year, praised, outstanding lesson observations meaning I don’t have to go through improvement plans which I’m always terrified of. However, I can’t take the atmosphere, constant learning walks, cluster meetings, lunch time meetings, duplication of data, smt and slts constant mistakes and us having to fix them through extra time and commitment. I’m not a number or slave. We are not trusted to do anything anymore, just puppets. Too many cooks in the kitchen constantly. I’m a human being and deserve a life too. I haven’t considered part time yet and don’t know if it would make a difference. Like your wife, it’s not about the long hours and days. It’s the toxic environment that never leaves you, not at the weekend, holidays or even during your sleep. xx
  9. BioEm

    BioEm Occasional commenter

    Lots of good advice here, so thought I'd throw my 2p in too.

    I was lucky enough to have a supportive partner like you. My husband could see what teaching was doing to me, how damaging it had become, and bravely told me so when, once again, I came home in tears after another horrendous day. I couldn't see how stressed and ill I was, but he could, and I really feel like that conversation we had - the one that gently suggested that I might have to leave teaching and that maybe it was time to look at our finances and see what we could do to suport such a transition - was if not life-saving certainly marriage and mental health saving.

    Have you spoken to your wife about this? When you're in the mire of teaching you get used to sh**y situations and a shed load of stress pretty easily. You think it's normal, you may even think you're just being weak. Especially if you have a less than supportive SLT or line manager. She may well be thinking that this is just 'how life is' now - I know that's how I felt. At 38 I thought it was normal to cry almost every day, hate my job, be questioned all the time, to not sleep well, be depressed, anxious, fretting, to be micromanaged and bullied. To have no energy, no time for anything, to not want to do much at all. I had basically resigned myself to a life of misery because I thought I had no option. I was a teacher. This is what being a teacher entailed. I'd done it for 16 years and had no other option that wouldn't throw my life into poverty and chaos. And then my husband spoke up and it was like a switch was flicked in my brain. I could change things. I could get out if I wanted to. So can your wife.

    Don't get me wrong, I loved teaching for the first 10 years or so of my career. I was good at it ('Outstanding' according to the OFSTED and SLT whose opinions I had little truck in), great exam results, great student relationships, all that jazz. But it changed so much in the last 6 years that the job I once adored became unrecognisable. Perhaps I could have tried another place of work, but I got to the end of my rope and needed to get out. For my sanity, for my health.

    I'm now working at a local university doing outreach and admissions and I love my life. I left teaching at the end of the last academic year and haven't looked back. Sadly I did develop a stress-related chronic illness that I'll always have but the way my life is now allows me to manage it with little to no ill effects on my life or wellbeing. My managers are amazing. I don't take any work home. Yes, I earn less than I used to and have less holidays but that is nothing compared to feeling human and happy again. I'm finally getting old self back, one I didn't even realise that I had lost.

    So speak to your wife. Or speak to her again if you already have touched on your worries for her. Show her this thread, explain your concerns and chat it out with her. She doesn't have to leave teaching if she loves it, as others have suggested she could move schools or try other things, but it may not even be an option to her right now so it would be good to make her realise that things can change. It's a scary leap but it is possible.

    Also if she's crying a lot a trip to the GP is certainly worth it too.

    Good luck.
  10. thekillers1

    thekillers1 Lead commenter

    The Tory Party has a hand in this!
  11. lynneseptember

    lynneseptember Senior commenter

    The labour government weren't entirely blameless, either! All governments want to put their ten pennorth in and disrupt the education system. They're the same with the NHS and other public services. MP's being involved in areas they rarely have previous experience of - how many have/had previously worked in education, the NHS, social services, police, etc? (Particularly at the grass roots level - you know, the level dealing with all the nitty gritty), but all of a sudden, they are experts in the department they have been handed to mess with, and can do the job a lot better than those who have actually been trained to do it.
    phlogiston, Ezzie and agathamorse like this.
  12. Spouseofateacher

    Spouseofateacher New commenter

    Many thanks for your ever so supportive replies, they mean more than you can know.

    My wife was able to get an appointment with a GP today, and has been declared unfit to work for a month, pending a review when the new term begins.

    The doctor said more and more of her cases involve teachers these days, alas. The doctor mentioned that she has many friends who are/were teachers, and her personal advice was to use this month for thought gathering and career decisions.

    I'm sure that time away from the root cause of this anxiety and depression will be 100% worth it, and provide a much needed positive uplift in self-esteem.

    Thanks again for your replies.
  13. baxterbasics

    baxterbasics Senior commenter

    Sorry your wife is going through this.
    You are obviously aware that this is a national issue, in fact a national scandal. Since none of us have the political might to change anything, all we can do is to pro-actively make sensible choices to protect ourselves from stress.

    Some people have offered a few suggestions above, so I hope it will be useful to summarise those suggestions and add some ideas of my own

    1. Change school - but realistically, you could be swapping very little, as the micro-management has become the norm in state schools. Some are worse than others. Many are intolerable for most sentient beings. Personally, I don't need that sort of **** in my life (see my solution below).
    2. The independent education sector - seems to have not bought into the stress nonsense to such a degree.
    3. Supply teaching - this is my choice. If I find a decent school, I hope they will take me on.
    4. Special and SEN education - different skills needed. Very often far less marking and intense scrutiny. I have worked in behavioural units for EBD. A different kind of stress, but in my experience, not as soul destroying as learning walks etc etc. Learning walks do happen in these places, but there is less of the condescending attitude, as the kids will not think twice about telling the HT to F-off.
    5. A related job - as has been suggested, in higher education in some capacity, or museum education, etc.
    6. Tutoring - if you are a maths specialist, you can possibly make this a career in the right sort of geographical area.
    7. Teaching abroad- most other countries have not messed things up as gloriously for teachers as the UK.
    7. Different career entirely - my brother is retraining to be a counsellor.

    Good luck.
    It's pitiful to think that this is nearly all politically driven and totally avoidable
    Lara mfl 05 and agathamorse like this.
  14. becky70

    becky70 Occasional commenter

    Mr 70 would empathise with you, as he has seen me at some very low points! Your wife may need to be signed off work as it sounds like it's affecting her health. Long term, she may need to move schools or even change career. In any case, it's wonderful that she has you to support her. She needs to recover her health, whatever that takes, and then she can work on her next step work wise.
    I've had two episodes of WRS but am fit and well now. Things will get better.
    Lara mfl 05 and agathamorse like this.
  15. hollytom

    hollytom New commenter

    I have been in a similar position micro managed and working part time. In my experience part time working doesn’t lessen the problem it just means you get left out the loop.
    My solution is to leave teaching life is too short to put up with this rubbish. I applied for a job outside teaching and I have been successful so it can be done. It’s good that you are supporting her but it’s hard for families I think to understand. I am sad to leave teaching but it’s best for my health and my family life. I really believe that teaching is toxic.
  16. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    Unfortunately your part time teaching wife made the mistake of standing up for her part time legal rights, as did I. This will not have pleased the bullies and put a target on her back, it did with me. I would say try another school, but sadly I suspect things won't be much different. I got out/was forced out and have a new career. You know things are bad in teaching, but never quite how bad until you work in a different career.
  17. eamonne1

    eamonne1 New commenter

    sign off sick. get out now. it’s not going to get better anytime soon.
    Missbubbleblue and install like this.
  18. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    It's all been said but it makes my blood boil "just do what needs doing before you start hate this fish market attitude from SLT. How dare they. Maybe a reminder if how to treat people respectfully We have had to remind certain individuals at my school of this . It's often the a things are said that's hurtful .
  19. Jesmond12

    Jesmond12 Star commenter

    I think that this post from another thread just about sums up the absurdity of what your wife has gone through.
    It could only happen in Education
    Lara mfl 05 and agathamorse like this.
  20. tenpast7

    tenpast7 Occasional commenter

    To Spouseofateacher

    Hopefully your wife will leave Teaching and rediscover life.

    I just wish that all this misery created by Government and carried out by SLT muppets, Ofsted and other non-contributors could be shoved up their collective AR**holes.
    lardylegs and agathamorse like this.

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