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Teaching and loneliness?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by VerboseMime, Mar 11, 2019.

  1. VerboseMime

    VerboseMime New commenter

    For the last four years I have worked full time as a teacher and I always really liked my job and the people I work with and we all shared a Humanities Office space together where we would work between lessons and talk about how the day was going and joke about difficult students and lessons. Last year we were moved out of this block into a new space where we didn't have an office just our own individual classrooms also many of the closest friends I had at the school left.

    I have become a father over the last year and I have started working only 3 days a week to support my partner and spend time with my baby (Which I know is a privileged position to be in). But I have been feeling increasingly lonely and isolated. When I am in school I feel as though I am constantly catching up with myself and most days I don't get time to chat with anyone and my only human interaction is with students in my lessons and the friends I do have at school have kind of moved on to other groups without me. When I get home my partner and I are trying to keep our heads above water raising our newborn and that adds its strain but also means we are not spending time together.

    I know I should go into the staffroom but it has typically been the home to the staffroom vampires who dwell over and over on the problems of the school which I can find quite draining.

    We are the first of our group to have a baby and many of our friends live far away. We have joined NCT groups but primarily the women meet up and chat but men work full time and don't talk much.

    I know I am so lucky in so many ways and I am in no way in the same boat as single mothers or fathers trying to make ends meet.

    But I am just feeling increasingly unhappy and I was wondering if anyone had any tips for combating loneliness in teaching especially when working part time?
    annascience2012 likes this.
  2. Foux da fa fa

    Foux da fa fa New commenter

    Have you tried chatting to TAs? I find that some of our TAs feel alone but have nowhere to hide and have to sit in the staff room. They often are over the moon with teachers who chat at lunch with them and seem much less cliqué.
  3. mrswallow

    mrswallow Occasional commenter

    Congratulations on the birth of your child. It's probably the most rewarding, exhilarating and terrifying experience you can have. It can be a massive challenge and it is quite isolating at times.From what you have said, it sounds like you are finding your current work situation far from ideal.

    It's not just you who will go through the isolation and exhaustion of new parenting (one of the many things they don't warn you about in ante-natal classes..) and the changes to your work sound quite challenging as well. We're mostly social creatures, so being isolated and alone can be extremely disruptive to our well being. However, you are not alone in being feeling alone.

    I was in a slightly different situation to you when our eldest was born, but is was comparable (ish). We'd recently moved to NZ away from family and friends. We'd shifted from a small, supportive rural high school to a PRU type establishment in a town, where there was a TA and a lead teacher and me. I didn't have a great deal in common with either of them. So, I think I know how you are feeling at the moment.

    Advice wise- if you can find a hobby/ group for an hour or three a week then join a club or society. For example- Cubs and Scouts are always on the look out for leaders. Running clubs have all sorts of group runs. The local allotments may have a space. These are examples- you will probably have something in mind. Less formally- is there a local board games cafe you could join? These are all outside of work, and you may feel selfish taking time out from your partner and new-born, but everyone needs a bit of time for them in life. You are better served being mildly selfish for a couple of hours a week in a regular pattern than risking your metal health by being isolated. Parkrun (tm) really, really isn't my bag, but lots of people enjoy it- it's an hour or so on a Saturday morning.

    You and your partner are a team- and from the way you have written your post, it sounds like you are a pretty strong team. My partner does more for my mental well being than any other single thing. Keep communicating.

    Work is tricky, and unless you change where you work and move schools, there isn't much you can do. You will find new work friends over time, and things will settle down. You'll recognise a kindred spirit in a meeting, or there will be a alternative staff room type arrangement where the 'cool kids' hang out. Possibly not. There will not doubt be a social club that organises stuff occasionally. Personally, I like to be included on the invite list, but often choose not to go. Stuff will come up.

    Good luck, and keep going. It gets easier.
  4. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    The birth of a child is mentally overwhelming - so many new experiences, so many things that you have to get right. There are lots of "mums and tots" groups but fewer where you meet many fathers.
    School is what it is. Maybe the staff room feels full of vampires - but not all of them are actually vampires. Look for the quieter ones. Maybe there's someone else lurking in their classroom who also needs a coffee buddy, maybe you need to sit next to different people in staff meetings to find them.
    Mrs P and I were lucky. we both sing in a choir - when our daugter was born, a couple of friends turned up and told us to go to choir together while they looked after the baby. You both need a spot of time together focusing on each other. Maybe you also need a spot of indiividual time doing whatever you do.
  5. livingstone83

    livingstone83 Occasional commenter

    First of all, congratulations on the newborn. What a wonderful experience it must be to work PT and spend more time with your family.

    I know what you mean about loneliness. I got a job in my placement school and stayed there for 8 years. It was a really tough school, not without its problems but we had our own science office and the staff were great.
    We ended up having to stay in the building longer than most because we'd chat through shared PPA time. Visited the pub across the road most Friday's.... it was great.

    Then I relocated to the South.

    Worked in a school with no science office and I didn't really have much in common with the rest of the Science Dept.
    The loneliness was striking.

    I'm a pretty outgoing sort of bloke, so I walked into the admin office where 5 of the most wonderful ladies worked and started chatting with them. Lunchtimes I found out where the LSA's used to hang out and spent that time with them.
    I also started posting on this forum for the first time - 7 years after joining.
    It managed to keep me sane for a short while, but after 6 months I'd had enough.
    Ended up changing schools, the isolation from the department being one of the main reasons.

    So, in terms of advice - find the admin office. It's guaranteed there'll be no moaning about marking, losing PPA time and all the other things that dominate staff room discussion.

    Find the LSA's. Again, they won't moan about marking. In fact, in my experience, they're the ones that don't constantly talk about the job during break/lunchtimes.

    Finding another job to suit your working pattern and simultaneously giving you the opportunity to chat with a well-balanced department might be quite difficult.
    annascience2012 likes this.
  6. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    It's hard work isn't it. Don't give up on the NCT groups. Later in the year could you and your wife suggest a family meet up - a picnic that definitely includes fathers, or could you send round a message to the dads for a drink on a Friday night, or a curry night. It doesn't have to be a wild night, just a bit sociable. It takes ages to build new networks and takes effort but don't give up. Could you have one or two of the couples round for lunch with their little ones - very low key - soup and sandwiches. There's the baby's birthday on its way - make it clear that dads are invited to the party. These people may not ever become close friends but it would make you feel like a member of the human race again.
  7. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    Try other pre-school groups, too - see what's on in your area on the days you're not working. Even if your baby isn't ready to participate much yet, some groups are as much for the parents to get out of the house as for the children! They can be a good chance to meet other parents. The one I run has always had at least one regular dad attending. It can be a bit intimidating for dads, because they are often the only one, but be brave and get chatting, and you'll usually be made welcome. It can also be harder for them to join in nursery rhymes, because they're the only one singing an octave lower, but nobody will mind if you just do the actions. If you're the first dad in a group, at least the next one to come along won't find they're alone! Sometimes the "activity" groups (tumbletots, messy play) are easier than the general toddler groups, because there's something specific for you to be doing, and conversation can arise out of that.
    Curae likes this.
  8. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    As I read it, you have, in the past, had friendly relationships with people you work with. Can you perhaps try to re-link with them? On a day when you work, Thursday or Friday is always a good one to chose, bring in cake and a pint of milk and invite your department to your room after school for half an hour.
    Lunch time is usually too busy to do this, but half an hour is possible.
    You sound like a lovely person, I'm sure things will sort themselves.
    annascience2012, Curae and jarndyce like this.
  9. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    What wonderful advice you give.
  10. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    Having a child and children does significantly change your life. You sound like a marvellous, dad and partner and I am overjoyed that as a man you have decided to give up ft work.
    I think it's important to accept this change. Friendships whilst important doI change esp if your previous contemporaries are single /have no children. Get involve in some type of sporting activity eg gym with a creche... you'll be surprised how quickly you will meet like minded dads. Google search for dad parent groups they do exist. If they don't create one eg set an evening where dad's can meet say and hour or two down the pub ... no more though
    However don't feel anxious about not bei g in the limelight for a while Its actually OK to be busy bringing up a child You will find a suitable friendship group when you are least looking for it. And when you have the second child ... and present baby is toddler you would have built up a set of acquaintances via sleepovers bday parties and a whole heap of other celebrations.

    Good luck with your lovely baby and enjoy it . They grow up so fast .. enjoy.
    Special baby hugs ((((() ))))))
  11. Curae

    Curae Star commenter

    Lovely ideas !

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    I suppose the main thing I would suggest is try to find other teachers in the school who also have young families and spend time with them.

    They don't need to be in your department. And don't be afraid to tell people that you are finding the isolation which comes with the job a bit of a strain. Its surprising just how supportive some people can.... oh hang on, no it's not - we're teachers. Its in our nature to be supportive. So just chat to different people
    Curae likes this.
  13. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    Yes allotments are really good. For everything. Many sites have long waiting lists but if you can somehow find someone to share with...
  14. scienceteachasghost

    scienceteachasghost Lead commenter

    I think this is a brutal wake up call that you are in the 'familying off' stage of friendships. The halcyon days of Uni friendships, then the 20 somethings and single and friends at work (it is possible at school, one I worked in had a great social scene, the main organiser left and it all just collapsed) judder to a halt once you are a mother/father.

    I don't have kids myself (and remember there are single people far lonelier than you with a partner and kid) but get you are deficient in the 'friendship' side of human interaction. Find other couples with young kids? Don't leave an otherwise good job just for friendships, schools where there is a broad cohesive social scene are in a definite minority these days (and lets face it, you can't easily go clubbing with a baby at home anyway) - most schools have a bit of a collapsed white dwarves set of mutually exclusive cliques and many satt who have no real 'friends' at work.

    Meetup.com is a way for anyone wanting to broaden their social network to do just that, while groups in small towns can be generally older people, larget towns and cities will have very diverse and young groups.
    Curae likes this.
  15. mrswallow

    mrswallow Occasional commenter

    Couple* more thoughts- and again these may not suit your situation or you may not think they would work. Is it possible for your partner to visit you at lunchtime with the baby? Seeing sat there in the staff-room with the both of them will open a lot of conversations. Babies can be great ice-breakers. People will also remember you have a child and will ask after them and your partner.

    We used to invite a couple from school over to dinner once or so a term. They were great, as they would come over, not be too phased by all the child stuff, and after the kids were in bed, we'd saty up playing 'Hearts' or some board game. It was nice, as the game gave us a focus, rather than 'shop talk'. MrsSwallow and I also have a number of two player games. They make a nice change from internet surfing/ **** telly watching/ vegging out...

    I used to try and take the eldest out for a walk as often as possible to give MrsSwallow a break, and just pushing a pram around a local park gave me quite a few social interactions. Not on a big and meaningful scale perhaps, but enough.

    We now have three children (9, 6 and 3.. ) and what with Cubs, Keas, swimming lessons, primary school and kindergarten MrsSwallow and the kids have quite a wide social life. I'm comfortable with the amount of connections I have. There are times when it does feel like the only people I have spoken to in weeks are ones I work with or ones I live with, but it doesn't bother me too much. There's stuff I could opt into if I wanted. I occasionally do a triathlon or similar and they can be quite sociable. It does get easier, and as things go on you will develop new connections. You will also pick up on the old connections as more people in your peer groups start families etc. Life changes, but the real friendships change with it.

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