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Mental Health

Discussion in 'NQTs and new teachers' started by Limbo83, Nov 22, 2015.

  1. Limbo83

    Limbo83 New commenter

    Out of 30 people on my training course last year at least 5 of us are now experiencing some sort of mental health problem. 3 months into our NQT year! I find this both staggering and disgusting. On the other end of the spectrum, a very experienced and well respected teacher I know is also suffering from depression. I know he won't be the only one. Suppose I was just wondering if people think this situation will change or if higher rates of mental illness are just expected as a norm in this profession.
     
    missrturner likes this.
  2. indusant

    indusant Senior commenter

    Teaching in and of itself is stressful enough but it has been made unnecessarily stressful due to the impossible demands that are placed on teachers. Some of my closest relatives are teachers and I've been to lots of schools on supply. Lots of teachers (myself included at one point) are stressed day in, day out. I think really it's because many schools operate on fear. SLts want control so they place unrealistic demands on teachers. The immense workload leads to people who are tired. Tired people are more likely to be stressed and resentful, but they keep going because they are conscientious. People are stressed because any slip up could see them out of the job. Of course, tired and weary people are likely to make mistakes and people can turn on each other to save themselves. People are scared and vulnerable. This leads to a lot of politics and 'cloak and dagger' tactics. No one is to be trusted which leads to a toxic atmosphere in many schools.

    This great profession is losing its worth for many because of the impact it can have on mental health and quality of life. Others are being forced out simply because they have become too expensive. After training and a few years in the job I decided to leave, because the job affects your sense of well being so much. If you are around toxic people long enough you can become one of them. I didn't like who I was becoming so chose to get out. It's a system that is reinforced by Ofsted and the like but it is self imploding now. The education system has become the ouroboros, the snake devouring its own tail.

    The situation needs to change because teachers are leaving in droves. The levels of stress in teaching should not be the norm anywhere. It's not healthy. Healthy, happy and relaxed people make the best teachers. Trust needs to be given to teachers to do their jobs without the need to collect 'evidence'. Pointless admin tasks need to go. Endless scrutiny and Ofsted needs to go. Teachers need the space to do their jobs, then go home to enjoy their families. Then teachers can be happier, relaxed and ready to deal with those who really matter in the job - the pupils. Just my humble opinion.
     
  3. bethanevans23

    bethanevans23 New commenter

    I finished at my school on Friday, my NQT year and I didn't even make it to Christmas. My school were lovely about it and really supportive but ultimately they can't change the overall expectations set upon us by those people in Westminster who know nothing about the profession at all. Such a shame. Looking to return to TA work. I have been on anti-depressants and anxiety medication for the past month or so and know at least three other NQTs who are in the same boat as me. When I went to the Drs he said that a lot of teachers experience this which I think it horrendous.

    I completely agree with Indusant - teaching needs to be about the children. No endless scrutiny, paperwork, data etc. I have gone from loving teaching during my PGCE to hating it within half a term and now don't really know what to do with my life!

    Something definitely needs to change.
     
  4. bettinaboo

    bettinaboo New commenter

    I really hope you don't mind me replying but I experienced something really bad in my first 8 weeks of training with SCITT/Schools direct. I am a career changer who gave up a career in retail management to become a secondary school English teacher. I went back to university to get my degree, spent numerous days in numerous schools gaining experience before I made my application to schools direct. I was successful in all my interviews and was offered a salaried position at a school that I had been to many times and had grown exceptionally fond of. However, now please bare in mind that apart from my experience days I had never taught by myself in a classroom before, I was given a full 14 lesson timetable from day one. These classes were my responsibility and from the very first day back after the summer I was their teacher. I had a dedicated mentor but she taught in a completely different classroom from me and at the same time so I had absolutely no one supervising me. My lesson plans were never checked and I was only observed twice a week. It seemed to me that because they saw I could handle a classroom full of students and I had no bad behaviour issues I was obviously doing a good job. I wasn't. I was completely out of my depth. Starting work at 7am and not finishing until 6, then working until midnight at home and over the weekends as well. I had to teach myself pretty much everything and familiarise myself with the schools policies, SOW's etc etc because all the poor teachers were run ragged and so stressed because of the demands from SLT. In my first 7 weeks alone 5 teachers gave notice to finish in December. I had a meeting with my SCITT leaders who said that this should not be happening. For the first half term at least I should be with a mentor all the time. I should never have been allowed to be a teacher from day one. I might like to add that the HOD gave me two of his year 10 classes to teach as well. He believed that after watching me for 5 minutes that I was more than capable. I was not capable and found teaching KS4 a little bit daunting. Again, I was informed that this should not be happening. Anyway I am aware that I am going on just a little bit so to cut a long story short, my lead school could not offer me the training that was required. They had broken their contract and were pulled out of the scheme. There was nowhere else for me to go so now I am jobless. If im honest that is actually ok because the job really is not what I thought it was going to be. My SCITT lost 5 trainees in the first 7 weeks because of similar issues. I loved teaching the kids, I grew attached to my students and I miss them all very much, but the focus for SLT seems to be figures and percentages and being the best and not these little people who depend on us to give them the very best start in life. My SCITT have admitted that I was probably just being used as a teacher in that school because there was a massive shortage of teachers. I want to reapply for next year but am wary to enter a profession that seems to be crashing and destroying the people in it :(
     
  5. Limbo83

    Limbo83 New commenter

    Wow that's really bad. Sorry you have had such a difficult time. A similar thing happened to a couple of people on my SCITT but we were unsalaried and our course lead was able to find them alternative placements. I feel similar to you. The majority of kids are a joy to teach. The relentless pursuit of "accurate" data and all the other pointless paperwork is taking time away from planning decent lessons.
     
  6. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I know the OP posed a question and other colleagues have responded but I am not quite sure whether you can talk about ' mental illness ' in such a generalised way ? I do think you need to be strong to withstand everything that is expected of you and be enormously emotionally resistant to all the demands of the job which can be unsupportable. I do know for a fact that the trainees on the ITT course run by a local provider for whom I work are constantly reminded that teaching is demanding , the profession has changed unrecognisably and they need to be aware of this from the outset. I am sure there are countless bad practice stories out there. Folk having difficulty dealing with desperate situations does not equate to experiencing mental health issues though. Dangerous and naive to be so simplistic in my opinion obviously.
     
  7. Limbo83

    Limbo83 New commenter

    Depression and anxiety are mental health issues!
     
    monicabilongame and rachelcg like this.
  8. Landofla

    Landofla Established commenter

    I also find a lot of teachers drink wine in the evenings...

    I do think teachers should be more vocal / active about the excessive demands of the job.
     
  9. welshwizard

    welshwizard Established commenter Forum guide

    Are you all aware of the Teacher Support Network an independent charity that provides 24/7 helpline and online support/email
    0800 0562 561
    www.teachersupport.info
     
    rachelcg and Landofla like this.
  10. Bubbee

    Bubbee New commenter

    I'm not depressed (yet) but I am EXHAUSTED!!!
     
  11. mandala1

    mandala1 Occasional commenter

    I'm surprised it isn't higher than 5 in 30, to be honest.
     
    indusant likes this.
  12. englishteach101

    englishteach101 Occasional commenter

    I know a lot of teachers who have experienced major issues (myself included) with our health recently. There is a real problem in teaching which isn't close to being rectified at the moment and an increasing workload with no signs of slowing down. On the flip side of this I have a very good friend who works in finance who is on anti-depressants because of her heavy workload so it's difficult to assess whether it's working life in general which is expecting more of workers with no sign of respite rather than teaching specifically.

    It's a great profession, but tired and ill teachers cannot possibly teach to the top of their game. I have witnessed several teachers in the past few years have a period of illness-related absence to come back on the back foot and be expected to be functioning perfectly on day one back in the classroom. This unfortunately then usually ends up with this member of staff going off again and eventually leaving the school under a cloud of judgment from staff over their performance. There are very few people who are able to come back from this. Higher rates of depression and mental illness shouldn't however be a norm in any profession.

    Teaching is hard work but it should also be enjoyable work too. I'd say focus on the positives, but some days there just aren't any so you just have to get through those. I have found that in the years since my training (unless you change roles) the workload does get easier and I have got more able to manage it. Look to see what you can re-use rather than reinventing the wheel, share resources with others (the TES resources section is great!) and remember that not all teachers hate their jobs. I for one, now love mine and wouldn't go back to my life outside of the classroom for love nor money.
     
  13. Limbo83

    Limbo83 New commenter

    I'm currently having counselling and hope to get back to work soon. The feeling of being overwhelmed has really knocked my confidence. I'm working through my issues though.
     

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