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Teaching with anxiety/depression

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by Pianist82, Sep 13, 2013.

  1. Hi all,

    This is the first time I've been on the TES site since it changed, so I hope I post this properly.

    I started a primary PGDE course 2 weeks ago. All was going well, enjoyed uni and learning again (9 years since I graduated), meeting new people etc. Then last Sunday I had a complete panic at the thought of going into school. I have been working with kids for 8 years in various roles - teaching assistant, nursery practitioner, playworker, amd briefly, teaching. I did the Graduate Teacher Programme in England several years ago, completed it, but left my NQT year after a term due to anxiety/depression problems (these have been prevalent throughout my life and I get support).

    After panicking on Sunday, I went into school on Monday and had a full blown panic attack. There weren't any kids there, barely any staff (it was early) and the head was very understanding, but unfortunately "fight or flight" took hold and I made my excuses and left. I contacted the uni, telling them I wanted to leave the course and they sent me a form to do so, adding that if I wanted to speak to them in person, I could. So, after several days of beating myself up and feeling like a complete failure, I spoke to the director and depute of the course. Unfortunately, I was looking and feeling a mess, so didn't present myself well. They told me that, as it was more my emotional state than an aspect of the course I was struggling with, there was very little they could do. They said it wasn't their decision to make, but teaching probably wasn't for me, and recommended a visit to the careers service. This is my thrid attempt at teaching and I know that on a good day, I can do it and have been told I can do it very well. The problem is, I have low self-esteem and little self-belief.

    I know that, ultimately, the decision is mine to make, but I just wondered if any of you had experienced similar problems, and how you dealt with them?

    Depression and anxiety recur. I wish I didn't have either of them, but I do. I just have to work out the best course of action. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. I don't have any experience of this but honestly teaching is a tough job. There is no shame in finding it is not for you. There are lots of wonderful aspects to the job but so much that can knock you back - even if you don't suffer from anxiety and depression. I would think that something less stressful might be a better option. I don't know though. I don't understand why you are completing this course when you have already done your GTP? Sorry if I am being thick.

    There are always LSA jobs going around here. Less money but maybe less stress and more suitable for you?
  3. Hi gorgybaby,

    Thanks for your reply. The GTP isn't recognised in Scotland unless you have plenty of teaching experience to back it up, hence doing PGDE. I spoke to a fantastic student support adviser today who has emailed the course director and told me how they can support me. I'm back on it and determined!! :D
  4. IndigoandViolet

    IndigoandViolet New commenter

    Hi Pianist,

    Glad to hear you're being supported and feeling positive again. I'm sure if you are determined to do it you can complete the course.

    I know many teachers suffer from mental health problems and they make it work, but I wanted to add my experience. I left teaching after two years, having worked out that while I could manage it and do it well, it made me ill and miserable. I felt like such a failure leaving, but I've now got a new job working with young people but not in the classroom which I love and which I can do whilst remaining healthy and happy.

    Don't feel that being a teacher is the be all and end all - you can have a successful and fulfilling career doing other things (I get paid more now too :)). When I have a wobble at current work I log on hear to remind myself why I left teaching and do you know what - it was the best bloody thing I've done.

    Only you can decide what's right for you.

  5. This is probably too late - 2 years later!

    I suffered exactly what you said and debating whether to carry on with my course. I carried on because there is nothing I wanted more than to teach. It was a rough ride as anxiety never really goes away but I eventually made it. I've done a year of supply to help my confidence and anxious thoughts that i'm not good enough. On days that I teach, just before I go into school is the worst and I feel sick and scared. I have to push myself to go in and "just get on with the day" as it's my job. When the children come into class though, they are my main priority and I have no time to be worried or feel anxious about anything. You do kind of have to be tough with yourself and if it's the job you really want, you have to fight with every fibre of your being. I really struggled for 3 years to be a confident teacher and I have finally got there.

    With my anxiety the way it is, whatever my job is I would be terrified and feel sick either way. I get anxious before driving my car, before meeting new people, new schools, new pupils and new surroundings. The trick is to show that you are not scared or worried even though you might be freaking out inside. I have taught myself so many tricks to stop myself from having a panic attack or being too anxious. Even if it's just talking yourself through the day for 10 mins until you feel ok.

    You'll get there eventually. It's not easy but it is possible. If it's been 2 years since this post - how have you got on since?
  6. cole1978

    cole1978 New commenter

    I can relate to this. I have been teaching for eight years. However during my PGCE year I lost one fifth of my body weight due to stress!
  7. jonowen

    jonowen Occasional commenter


    Seems like there are more and more of us feeling this way, brave enough to admit it and strong enough to work through it! I'm near retirement and still feel wobbly after holidays, but deep breathing and being organised in advance seem to help. Just a rough draft of what my day's plan is (sometimes I can write more detail) does help me focus more on the pupils and less on my anxiety.

    In a similar kind of way, I didn't learn to drive until I was nearly 30 and was a very anxious driver for many, many years. Suddenly one day I realised I wasn't worrying about driving, just being a careful driver without the worry was wonderful! So it is practising NOT being anxious that is the key I think and remembering that all good teachers get nervous (the ones who say they don't are liars, poor teachers or a combination of both)

    Joni x
  8. Yes, what has been said above is true: teaching really IS a tough job - depends on the school you teach on, the class you have and the subject, but coming every day to school, stand in front of the group and be "the cool one", observed by 20 people who follow each your movement or word is really demanding.. and getting there ready every morning for another day is really A JOB! I admire all the teachers who do this job for decades, are OK with that and - what more - even are good teachers! But it´s definitely no shame to admit that there must be some more nice job for You in case You don´t feel comfortable teaching whole your life...

    "mistakes are the proof that we try!"

    I admire you, anyway!

  9. africa28

    africa28 New commenter


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