Mental health and teaching

A guest post from mummy teacher blog

I want to make it clear that before I became a teacher I was thoroughly vetted and checked for any mental health issues that would affect my role.

I insisted on this personally. I saw psychologists and doctors, opened up my medical records, filled in numerous questionnaires and mental health check sheets.

I did this to ensure I could do the role and also to check my mental health history would not pose any issues for the pupils that I would teach.

The private doctors, psychologists and counsellors all declared that I was fit. Yes I had a disability, but I could do the role that I had dreamed of doing since a child. I could be a teacher.

Yet, here I am 4 1/2 years later, struggling again with my mental health. Am I just too broken? Were the professionals wrong? Sadly for the teaching profession they were not.

Mental health issues and teaching is becoming an endemic condition.

In 2015 the charity Education Support Partnership (ESP), conducted research which clearly shows that 8 out 10 teachers suffer with some sort of mental health issue within their career. That’s a huge number!

As a teacher who has been there, I can only put my thoughts across from my experiences, but workload is a huge factor which few would disagree with.

Teaching on average 30 pupils in each class, with 6 or 7 classes on your timetable = average 210 pupils. That’s 210 pupils to differentiate for; 210 books and assessments to mark; 210 pupils to encourage to learn, often when, as hormonal teenagers, they don’t want to. This leads to you try to build relationships with 210 parents and carers.

All this is on top of additional duties, extra-curricular sessions you provide to encourage pupils, meetings, data entry, CPD…the list goes on.

On top of this is the scrutiny that is now standard in the profession.

Teachers chose to train to become specialists in their subject, yet schools often don’t trust the very teachers they employ. Learning walks, frequent observations, evidence of lesson planning, book checks…These checks will often not be looking for evidence of positive teaching moments or successes, but to look for flaws or inconsistencies that Senior Leaders feel is not ‘Outstanding’.

Classes could be performing and showing excellence in all areas. Yet a teacher can still be made to feel like a failure, if he/she hadn’t managed to mark the exercise books at the time of the unannounced observation.

This links to the PRP (Performance related pay) which gives leadership the right to withhold pay rises if they feel that the teacher has not met the school’s criteria.

So those exercise books you didn’t mark just cost you your pay rise on your already restricted salary.

So teachers work longer hours, try to perfect every move they make, as though they are playing a part in a great symphony. Sleep is less important than work, social time becomes non existent, and eventually, if they are not very careful, they become swallowed whole by the role.

So why do people teach? That’s a question that is often raised, especially at present where the profession is suffering from a greatest ever shortage of new teachers and almost 25% of teachers leave without the first 3 years.

I am a teacher because I love to help pupils learn. I thrive on building relationships and helping develop pupils into well rounded, successful people. I have seen this happen already in the 4 years I’ve been teaching. These pupils are our future and their importance is crucial (now more than ever in the current Brexit, Trump world). I am immensely proud to be part of that.

However, teachers need more support, especially in relation to mental health issues. School leaders need to realise and recognise the importance of their staff. Not to penalise and bully them, or to use them as pawn pieces in budgetary game of chess.

They need to trust their staff.

I for one, fiercely believe that I will now always be an advocate for mental health support within education. I am a teacher and I have suffered. I’m going to use my voice to try to help remove the stigma and alongside others, hopefully improve the future of education for teachers and ultimately our pupils too.

Education Support Partnership – https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/

 

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog and is republished here with their kind permission.

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