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Workload and work/life balance advice

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by pudley1, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. pudley1

    pudley1 New commenter

    Hi all
    I haven't posted before here but have seen some helpful comments and wonder if you can help me to work out which steps to take next.
    I have been teaching in an independent day school and am in my 9th year here; 12 in the profession in total. Three years ago I became HoD. It hasn't been easy with some very difficult colleagues that I've managed in that time. Fortunately I now have an excellent number 2 who herself has previously been a HoD. She is fantastic.

    However the stress of those years have taken a toll and i struggle with anxiety and sometimes depression. At busy times I just can't sustain the hours needed to keep up and then feel like it's a waiting game to see if I'm found out for not managing to mark that set of books, or not having worksheets printed off, or not having G&T activities planned etc. I have had CBT and mindfulness coaching over the last two years at times as well.
    My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant since Jan 2015. In that time we have had two miscarriages; one harder than the other. Despite all of this I have not taken an extended amount of time off and have managed to keep going.

    However as initiatives start to come in for next year and the pressures of new GCSE and U6/A level courses continue, I'm struggling to see why I'm putting myself through all of this for what amounts to £10 a day after tax. Today I went to the Head and asked about possibly stepping down from HoD which he was open to. However I would lose the maternity pay I would have accrued which will make a big difference if I do get pregnant (perhaps over the summer for example as both previous times I was on holiday when we conceived).

    In our chat I tried to explain that it's not just because I can get anxious that I can't cope with the demands of the job. But new initiatives (which they refuse to understand take time). build up and the culture of scrutiny and checking makes life very stressful for anyone who feels worried about how they are coping.

    I left thinking the boss has absolutely no idea what the sum total of all the small parts of this job are like. He made me feel like it is my own fault for wanting to do the job properly i.e. following (not that closely I might add) the policies which we are being judged against. At one stage he quoted an example of me being too conscientious which is from 5 years ago. I really did not feel listened to in the slightest.

    I now feel like being stubborn and saying I won't hand in my notice from HoD, will continue to stay in post until I get pregnant and if I end up being signed off for a greater amount of time in the meantime then that's their problem not mine. That's very unlike me as usually I would try really hard to look after others.

    I wonder if anyone else can see any ways through this which aren't quite as extreme as handing in my notice or planning to go on long term sick. The manager directly above me is great but he has limited abilities to effect change as he too is struggling to have his voice heard.

    Sorry this is such a long post
  2. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Goodness, I empathise with the head not really understanding the bits of the job. My Head hasn't taught in...well, decades, and the constant 'exciting' new initiatives that take hours and hours and hours to plan, and then are abandoned six months later, add enormously to the massive stresses of normal teaching and HoD duties. Believe me, I'm right with you.
    I think you need to consider your own health and wellbeing in this situation. You are suffering from anxiety and depression. Miscarriage is in itself stressful and heartbreaking, and those feelings will only be deepened through your anxiety at work. You say you want to step down from your HoD role to lessen your stress but don't want to miss out on maternity pay, which I understand but I think you're looking at this the wrong way round. Stress at work will only put you under more anxiety during a pregnancy (I've been there) especially if you are already worried about the pregnancy which is completely natural after having suffered a miscarriage. Equally, it's harder to conceive when you're really stressed - which may be why holidays are your most fertile time.
    You have two alternatives. One is to continue with your HoD role and try to lessen your stress. This is very hard given the realities of the job at the moment with the new exams coming in and the accountability and everything else. Consider how you will feel if you continue as HoD for another year (if it takes a few months to get pregnant and then the duration of the pregnancy): is it realistic for you to be under that pressure and be pregnant at the same time? The other alternative is to step down. How would that feel emotionally? Mentally? Would you be disappointed at having given it up, or relieved? Would the financial impact be massive to the extent that your daily life would suffer, or would you manage?
    You need to think about your health here rather than your finances if that is at all possible. For me, it isn't. I had a bad breakdown earlier this year but as the sole earner in the family I have had to return to a job and role that I despise just to pay the rent and feed the children. But if it is possible, consider the advantages and disadvantages both ways - as HoD and as a normal class teacher.
    Good luck with TTC and in the future.
  3. hasslethehog

    hasslethehog New commenter

    Pippa, now is the time to look after yourself. It sounds like you spend a lot of your time making sure everyone else is ok, which is a wonderful quality, but remember yourself. School will cope, whatever happens - sick leave, maternity leave, stepping down as HoD - and your priority must remain your own best interests.
  4. pudley1

    pudley1 New commenter

    Thank you both very much.
    A bit of time reflecting after the meeting and your very helpful responses have really helped me to see that just as you say - I need to look after myself and the whole point of asking to step down is because I need to redress my work life balance, despite the slight (yet manageable) pay reduction.
    It's hard to step away from something but I think the benefits I will gain in doing less, and mainly having less to worry about/less responsibility will far outstrip the pay reduction.
    Fingers crossed the reduction in stress & worry will help in terms of health and family planning in the future also.
  5. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    how many years have you before you expect to retire?
    Does that leave time to step down for a bit and then step back up at some time in the future?
    From your comments, about babies and so forth you probably have about 30 years to go?
    So you have just a few years in which to step back up if you must!

    oh and yu might just remember what it was you enjoyed about teaching in the first place!
  6. pudley1

    pudley1 New commenter

    I'm currently 34 so on the basis of current retirement age where I live (not mainland UK) and the forced changes to my contract which have recently been imposed (not by the school but by the over arching body who deal with the pension) and on which our unions are seeking legal advice... and if I'm still in teaching... then I have 33 years still to go. So I could indeed step back up again, if I haven't left teaching to become a gardener!
  7. pudley1

    pudley1 New commenter

    Just to say I went for it and handed in my letter last week to step aside from the HoD role. I feel so much better - it is like a weight has been lifted. Thanks for your really helpful advice, it really helped to have some completely independent input.
  8. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Glad it's helped! Well done for being brave. It might feel a bit odd at first but hopefully the reduced stress will pay off in terms of your health.

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