The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression

December 17, 2013

It’s been a bit of a tough term for me. Nothing new, pretty much the sort of thing I was writing about years ago (for instance here and here), although that in itself is a sign there has been no Govian revolution in schools. I’ve pretty much extracted myself from my difficulties now, but I noticed that some of the people I was discussing those difficulties with were in even worse situations and, where they were discussing them on Twitter, they were finding lots of people in similar situations. It seemed like many teachers I knew simply weren’t coping. This led to me make the following Tweet:

Screenshot 2013-12-16 at 19.18.37

As you can see, it immediately got a large number of retweets, causing me to reflect some more on the extent to which people end up being made ill by teaching in the system as it currently is. I asked for people to share their experiences and here are some of the comments I got about people’s own experiences and what they’ve seen happen to colleagues. (Minor changes have been made in some cases in order to ensure anonymity and for clarity). You probably won’t want to read this if you are somebody who is contemplating becoming a teacher.


To sum up, I have been teaching for 10 years now in mainstream and BESD. Last year has been awful. Wanted to quit; couldn’t cope; cried all the time at home; worked ridiculous hours to keep up; didn’t sleep. Also, I’ve put on nearly 3 stone through poor diet, eating on the run and comfort eating and look about 50 (I’m 31). I went to the doctors because I was ill a lot and, once I’d explained symptoms, he medicated me for work-related anxiety.

Months passed and there was no change really so I went back. Now I take mild antidepressants too on top of anxiety meds. Generally it’s helped and I can cope better but I definitely had to get out of my current school as it is going to the dogs. So short-staffed it is silly; no PPA; always on duty; no time to get anything done. 13 hour days most days.

So I’m starting a new job after Xmas; hoping to get some balance back…


A colleague of mine was employed at my school last year as a head of department. They struggled quite a bit under the boot of SLT, and didn’t do too well in observations. They got 3s and 4s in all of them last year. Their results weren’t great either, so in an attempt to get shot of this teacher, SLT put more and more and more pressure on them until they collapsed in school with stress and were signed off for a month. They came back to find out that someone had been employed in their place while they were absent (only on a ‘temporary’ contract, of course) meaning that they were left with no lessons to teach and fewer responsibilities. SLT tried to cover it up by saying that it was so they didn’t have to work too much too soon, but they also told the this teacher that one of the reasons they didn’t want them to teach was because there had been parental complaints about them during their absence. This teacher suffers from manic depression and has only just mustered the courage to come back in, but now feels as if they are being pushed out the back door. Our school doesn’t have any union reps so this teacher feels pretty helpless. I’ve told them to get in touch with their union and they are considering doing so, but lacks confidence for obvious reasons


I’ve been on anti-depressants for just over a year. Initial prescription was for depression and anxiety. The school based factors have been:

  1. Working in a Category 4 school is a intensely pressured. There are more negative than positive conversations with leaders and managers which is always making me think: “What have I done wrong this time?”;
  2. Getting a grade 3 lesson observation in Ofsted and Performance Management observation in the same year. I  eventually got a 2 but lesson observations now fill me with huge anxiety;
  3. Not being allowed onto the next point on the pay scale (despite my own yr 11 classes results being better than HoD and fulfilling all performance management targets and then some);
  4. Negative inter-departmental politics;
  5. Constant monitoring of work eg. book trawls, learning walks, planner reviews etc.;
  6. Bullying by a colleague;
  7. Verbal abuse from pupils becoming an everyday occurrence;
  8. A timetable and marking load I can’t actually manage;
  9. Pay freeze, making life more difficult financially.
  10. No work/life balance for entire time I’ve been teaching.

These are the ones I can think of off of the top of my head.


This involves colleagues and not me.

Within my department one member has relinquished their TLR after just 4 months due to stress, another member of staff has relinquished their pastoral role after nearly suffering a complete breakdown and our department has experienced record sickness this year.

These incidents involving stress have historic origins. There has been a relentless request to achieve an outstanding Ofsted. Over the past 2 years, in the build up to Ofsted, a number of senior members of staff were ‘eased out’ whilst a team of AST were brought in. This was done in a number of ways and not all were pleasant. In our department it was decided by SLT that we needed a new HoD despite years of continued improvement and leading the college in results. Three new members of staff were hired and within weeks were engaged in weekly meeting with SLT to feedback on the department and HoD. The HoD was placed on competency after a few weeks, and remained in this category for a further month until they were able to prove that the claims against them were spurious at best.

Shortly after this, an ‘Oftsed consultant’ was brought in and the entire school was rated a 4. They pointed to data and claimed that our department was a 3 and could only ever be a 3. My HoD was not permitted to see the data they were using. The consultant was brought in to review the department and rated the HoD a 3, no advice on how to improve was given. When Ofsted eventually arrived later in the year they selected our department as the best performing in the school and the reason why the school scored a 2 overall (our dept was a 1 according to data). By this time my HOD had agreed to leave. All new members of staff joining the department this year had been told in advance that we were a falling faculty (even after Ofsted had named us in their report as the best in the school and the reason for its success).

More than one member of the AST team left with no jobs lined up because of the stress of working in a college with very few systems and a culture of fear. This year the same culture of fear exists but this time the focus is on another department. The same consultant has been brought in to ‘help’ that department. Within the last two weeks the newly appointed HoD was found collapsed in their office on the day the ‘consultant’ was due in. Everyone in that department is well aware of what fate awaits the HoD, the previous HoD was eased out last year.

I would say the biggest cause of stress is pressure to chase results and a complete lack of systems from SLT. There is now the expectation that we should offer twilight intervention and eventually weekend intervention.


I have been a secondary teacher for 20 years.  Normally I get along with work, teach my lessons pretty well in my usual manner of avuncular-yet-purposeful, but in 2013 the continual pressures and the dictats handed down by Gove (eroding my pay; adding more to my workload and making me pay more for my pension) plus the general day-to-day led me to have doubts about my performance.

In February 2013 I suffered a bout of flu – not manflu, the full-blown feel crappy stuff. While I was feeling run-down I made the foolish move of thinking about things – and then I imploded.  I hated the thought of going back into the classroom, wanted to sit at home looking at four walls and didn’t interact much with anyone.  I never went back to my school.

I was lucky that my local authority occupational health department and my headteacher were supportive and knew that I needed time to get my head straight and decide what my next move was.  I was on antidepressants and sundry other medication for my blood pressure.  I came mighty close to leaving the profession, thinking that anything that earned any kind of money, even being a milkman (then I realised there are very few of those left) was better than being in the classroom.

And so in September I was unemployed, living on £73 per week as opposed to £36k pa – this has not helped my financial situation, but I came to the realisation that that was not important. What was important was my happiness, me being able to face the world again. In late October I got a supply gig – to be honest I was dreading it but it was wonderful to be back in the classroom, and luckily felt as if I had never left.  In a week’s time I will be unemployed again just before Christmas, but there are more important things in life than money.


I’ve been in teaching for nearly 10 years now. As a Maths teacher I’ve seen sweeping changes in curriculum, standards, accountability and scrutiny (i.e. increased forms of the latter two). Becoming a head of department should have been a proud step up, finally having chance to shape my department and make a real difference in the way the subject is taught in my school.

8 years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, however one of the noticeable facets of my condition at the time that teaching was a release for me – I was good at it, I enjoyed it and I got great rewards from it. Basically, it held me together whilst the rest of my life was collapsing around me. It’s amazing that I look back at those times in my career with pride, because these days, all the love and life in my job has been sucked out.

I don’t shape my curriculum, it’s dictated by the government. I’m not allowed to be creative with my team or in lessons, because I have to deliver results – by teaching to the exam, in other words. I can’t continue with my policy of ‘happy people = great workers’ because one or two ‘requires improvement’ lessons from my staff are followed up by ‘support plans’ (informal capability) by SLT. My lessons – well planned, full of content and context – are destroyed because students demand entertainment rather than learning – a result of school policy that lessons should be ‘fun’. Oh and to top it off every other word spoken by SLT is OFSTED.

My integrity, authenticity and hope are questioned every day. It is no longer the world outside of my job that is the source of my depression, it IS my job that is the source. And after all of this, stress is a given. I’m fatter, balder and greyer than I’ve ever been.


There is a whole story behind my absence including, workplace bullying, disability discrimination, a line manager breaking union rules, unrealistic timescales and workloads and  lack of autonomy that has triggered a change in my mental health condition.

I’ve worked with mental health issues all my life and the workplace  can make or break it. This time it’s broken it. I’m trying to repair it, but I’ve been off for a significant amount of time with no end in sight.


I left the teaching profession in August 2011. I had been off sick with stress at first since the Easter holidays, which then very quickly became a crippling bout of depression. Ultimately, I decided not to go back in to teaching at all. The turn around in my mental health when I had eventually made the decision in August to never return to that particular school was remarkable. When I decided not to risk my health any further by not teaching at all, I made a full recovery within 3 months.

This all came about from a redundancy at a school that I loved in Aug 2010. I was head of department at a good school, delivering outstanding lessons and achieving 80% pass rates at KS4, and somehow the head had decided that it was to become a part time post. Mainly because everyone else in my department was a head of year and they couldn’t possibly do their jobs part time. I was devastated. And not even able to receive remuneration for it because I was offered the part time post. I was forced to find another full time job.

I interviewed for a post in the next local authority and got it. It wouldn’t have been my first choice and I knew the school wasn’t good (it was in my home town). The department was in disarray and all 5 teachers in it were judged to be delivering lessons of a grade 3 and 4. I knew I had my work cut out.

When I started in the September I was then told that I would have a consultant working ‘with me’. A man of considerable expertise who asked me to deliver on paperwork on a weekly basis to prove I was moving the department forward. Which is fine. But, I was also having to set up BTEC courses, train staff in delivery and set up the bureaucratic nightmare that is managing such a qualification. While also dealing with 6 timetabled groups for 3 teaching spaces; behaviour management difficulties of my staff – who seemed to have no idea of how to inspire children to learn and instead barked orders (a trait across the school that was largely ignored by SLT); assessing and improving T and L; and doing all the normal things that you expect as HoD – SEF, Action plans, monitoring data and working on strategies, implementing the new curriculum etc.

My work-life balance was non existent. I expected this though and was prepared to put in the man hours to get it right. But I wanted to take my team forward with me. I was directed by the head to tell 2 members of my staff that I thought they were incompetent. They weren’t, they just needed support. I was told by my consultant that he’d been asked by the head to get rid of deadwood from the department by grading them as a 4 in lesson observations. I approached the head and was told it was going to happen anyway. He then, 2 weeks later, announced a restructuring and that there would be redundancies in our department, as well as others. Whatever good will I had from my team quickly became every man for himself. But we carried on and did our best and managed to still congregate in the pub at 5 on a Friday for a while.

I was then told my line manager was changing because the previous VP had gone in the first wave of redundancies at Christmas. I wasn’t too dissatisfied as he was more of an old school visionary when it came to my subject. However, the first thing the new executive principal said to me in our first meeting was that she didn’t think that I knew what I was doing and didn’t like what I was doing. I asked her to explain. She didn’t. But told me to re-do my SEF and action plan over the weekend. I was extremely stressed by this particularly since my consultant hadn’t a problem with either. I, nevertheless. did it and emailed it over having barely slept or eaten all weekend. During our next meeting she said she hadn’t had time to read it but wanted to talk about levels at KS3. We had a discussion, I talked about progress being made or not made by certain groups with her being fully aware of standards of teaching or teaching space issues being a problem. I asked for guidance on this, what did she think would help to improve things faster than was happening now, as 3 of my staff were on support plans to improve their teaching. She told me I had to give up my free lessons to teach those groups and where possible, team teach (double up my groups). I said I didn’t think that would be manageable. I was instructed to do it. Another meeting came and went with more criticism, now of my own teaching which was now suffering as a result of the extra workload.

Easter arrived and I sat at home for the two weeks marking and verifying hundreds of BTEC folders (every child in KS4 did the course). For 4 days I went in to school to do revision sessions for the GCSE groups. And then did the usual planning. My soul very close to destroyed at this point. No energy and no enjoyment to be had. I had repeatedly had my professionalism questioned and in short, had been told I was useless. My job was no longer about standing in front of children and enjoying the experience of teaching and learning. And I was bloody good at it! I was outstanding! In two terms that had been annihilated.

The first day back came, I felt sick at the thought of going in. By this point I was barely sleeping at night and had become quite withdrawn around friends and family, but I didn’t notice it. As I checked my email, I had one from the head telling me he would be observing me second lesson that day. This was the final straw. The one that broke the camel’s back so to speak. It wasn’t that I thought that I couldn’t teach the group well. I just could not bare the thought of him telling me anything that would be any way critical afterwards. My fragile self-esteem just would not take it. I did what I never did usually. I burst in to tears. And I sobbed for an hour. I got myself together to teach and shakily made my way through the day. At 4pm, I loaded all of my personal belongings in to my car and walked away.

For months, I was a wreck. I cried. I slept odd hours. I drowned in self-pity. Desperate to try and figure out where it all went wrong. I doubted myself in every aspect of my life. I could no longer even face being around some of my closest friends. Because all I was in life, in my head, was a teacher. And I was no longer that, not one I could be proud of anyway. So I was nothing. And I had been made to feel like that by someone else.

It took some serious counselling and self-reflection to have the guts to walk away from it all. But it is undoubtedly the best decision I ever made. I have a life back, a great job and I’m back to being me.


It started with an assault. It was quite a bad one, bruising and feeling rather shaken. The pupil had a history of aggressive behaviour and the rest. I reported it, as well as to the police. That was the start. The whole SMT machinery turned on me. I was given a dressing down and from that point on it all started to go wrong. I had been teaching for over 7 years, I think. No NQT, I was an ex-serviceman, confident and assertive. From the day the SMT betrayed my trust all of that evaporated. I became withdrawn and apathetic. I removed all the personal touches in my room.

More assaults followed. Once pupils sense you have been “breached” they home in. A pupil grabbed my wrist to prevent me from closing down a PC in an IT lesson. I raised my voice and the response was instant: “You shouldn’t have touched me!” she screamed. I knew I would get no back up from SMT. I was right. I reported it and had to fight to get the pupil removed. The poor behaviour which was the usual in the school became utterly unmanageable. The Headteacher had stated in no uncertain terms that I should seek employment elsewhere. There was no backup, the ambitious year 11 Head of Year eager to avoid exclusions to feather his own nest. I fell further, becoming more and more stressed. More issues followed, culminating in a hostile observation which triggered my visit to the doctors (on the advice of an assistant head teacher). From the start of the new September year I felt like I was living in a glass box. I was unable to interact with my young children. I would just sit on the sofa, usually covered in a blanket. I was so cold. In the mornings I was sick, I used to cycle into school, or run. That stopped. I drove to work and as soon as I could I left. Ironically I still had an excellent attendance record. My results were still very high (over 90%). I was dead on the inside.

A few days after the hostile observation, after the headteacher personally giving me feedback but just before the follow up observation I arranged to clear my reputation, I went to doctors. I broke down and cried. I cried, I sobbed, I felt ashamed and weak. I felt defeated, used and betrayed. It felt like the end.

I wasn’t. The Local Authority went through the motions. Their occupational therapist found that I was not depressed; my doctor disagreed. I was diagnosed with workplace stress. I never returned to secondary teaching. Over a year on I am now retraining into a better career – the law. I feel much better, more relaxed, happier, freer.

I still harbour immense resentment for those that call themselves “SMT”. They ignored all the warning signs that were evident as to my condition. They chose to punish than support. I am sure I am not alone in finding this.

My advice to those thinking of teaching – don’t. It’s not worth your sanity. If you thought I was alone in the school I was not. I was the third staff member in less than 3 years to leave through stress. A head of department for one of the core subjects was even keeping a log of workload, instructions from SMT and such to cover themselves if they were “strung out”. Not a nice career, not nice people. I fear for my children’s future with such unfeeling careerist monsters in charge for schools.


If anyone reading this is experiencing stress and depression themselves, you should be aware of the Teacher Support Network which runs a hotline and offers practical advice. If it is your working conditions that are making you ill, or if you want help with ensuring that you are supported at work having being diagnosed with stress or depression, I would recommend contacting your union.



  1. For more of this kind of thing, skim through the comment thread of this post Why do some many teachers leave teaching? http://www.learningspy.co.uk/education/why-do-so-many-teachers-leave-teaching/ It’s had 80+ comments and most of them do not make cheerful reading.

  2. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  3. My blog isn’t exactly widely read or anything but, of all the posts on it, the one about teachers leaving the profession in the first five years is overwhelmingly the most viewed (with mossy views coming as a result of equally depressing search terms)

  4. Reblogged this on Primary Blogging.

  5. I had to stop reading this, it was just so depressing . Wrong choice of word. Sad very sad. And so appalling for those who are suffering .

  6. It’s 5 years since I left teaching. There’s a part of me that wonders about a return. Thank you for reminding why I shouldn’t. Thankfully, I never developed depression, although this may well be because I realised what an unhealthy experience my working life as a teacher had become and got the hell out.

    As with many of your correspondents, it was SMT that clinched it by demonstrating they didn’t have the capability or intention to support staff. Working in the other world I encounter all kinds of crap management/senior management. But I’m yet to encounter any that do the amount of damage that teaching leaders do.

  7. […] presence of outrage and despair – some virtual, but quite a lot on the street and some in the classroom as well. It would be tempting to thus conclude that the situation is worse than we thought; that in […]

  8. It continues to appal me that people are expected to work under conditions like this. I’ve said it before – there must be some sort of human rights issue here, some issue of employment rights. How many jobs are there where, if it was causing serious ill-health, people would be expected to just get on with it?

  9. I try, as a headteacher, to shield my staff as much as possible from the stuff that cascades down from DfE and Ofsted. They are a really dedicated team of teachers and support staff, and although they’re pretty good at moaning (teacher characteristic!), their hearts are in the right place and they are really in it for the kids. Gove and Ofsted don’t understand this kind of dedication – they’re only interested in skewed political data and results, which are – to my mind – the emperor’s new clothes. The last 3 years have been the most difficult ever in my 10 years as a head (and I have worked in a school in a category before this one!)… not because of behaviour of kids, but because of behaviour of Gove, Wilshaw and their motives. I am convinced that the current system is designed to create and perpetuate an underclass, and put off children from poorer backgrounds from pursuing education. I will continue to make a stand against this, and support my staff, but blimey, it’s getting harder by the day!

    • Thank you head teacher for helping ease ‘shit rolls down’ .. as long as there are more heads like you, it may get better when we get rid of Gove!

  10. I really sympathise with anyone in the position of getting 3s and 4s in observations. School SLTs need to realise that teaching/learning either improves whole-school or not at all. A good lesson is a team effort, with progress relying on the learning skills of the pupils as much as the teaching skills of the teacher. ONE teacher cannot produce an outstanding lesson, it has to be ALL teachers producing routinely good lessons, so that ALL pupils acquire the skills to be outstanding learners in EVERY lesson across the school. WE MUST STOP LETTING SCHOOL LEADERSHIP DIVIDE AND CONQUER TEACHERS.

  11. […] the day I taught my final class this blog post by edublogger and teacher Old Andrew came out. There was a lot in there very familiar, not just to myself but to the lives of teachers […]

  12. […] last few weeks. I’m sure that many teachers across the country were feeling the strains of the longest, darkest, most depressing term of the year, and I would like to think that the eager, smiling faces they spend most of their days with made it […]

  13. […] seems that there are many people working in our schools feeling pretty miserable. It appears to me that such attritional conditions have become all too common place due to school […]

  14. […] recounting some awful stories about the state of teachers’ mental health, for example this post by Andrew Old, and this article in The Guardian. And I am not unfamiliar with the pressures, myself […]

    • I’m a teacher in the United States and our problems are incredibly similar. After 18 successful years of teaching (including years teaching at the university level and as a teacher trainer), I recently took a leave for depression and anxiety.
      My psychologist remarked that I would be shocked at the number of teachers she sees that have problems fueled by teacher stressors.
      A friend who is a MD shared that about 1/3 of the patients he sees every day are teachers presenting with depression and anxiety related symptoms.

      The field is being directed by the government; local and state. Few changes are good for the students. All changes have left teachers focusing on teaching for student results on poorly written tests, tests that require little critical thinking and problem-solving, tests that are more an assessment of vocabulary than content, and new tests with sweeping curricular changes that take effect quicker than curriculum can be written or teachers can be trained.

      Students aren’t being required to think, but rather to just know the information. There are no longer local diploma options for special education students who are unable to pass the rigorous state exams.

      More is being put on our plates. The responsibility has been taken off the students and put on the teachers.

      I wonder what you think…

  15. […] Christmas, the teacher blogger Andrew Old courageously opened a conversation about teacher stress, anxiety and depression. The responses from teachers should cause all of us who ask more of schools to pause. Whilst many […]

  16. I left primary teaching in Leicester in 2007 and Now work in adult education. My last head would not listen to my concerns of overload and I ended up telling the Ofsted inspector to go forth even though the idiot gave me a 1. the head wasn’t entirely unsupportive but the daily grind ended up with me having a breakdown. I did some stupid stuff but I realised it was down to the impact of teaching on me. I was deemed inspirational but the idiots who visited school from Ofsted made me realise what useless morons they could be. Get out of school teaching if you can – it just isn’t worth your health!!

  17. Reblogged this on My 'teaching' Blog.

  18. It isn’t really about the observation, but it is the way one is talked to as if they cannot teach after teaching many years… the teaching industry has put 100% on the teachers shoulders. Instead of supporting, the observations are very cold and leaves room for criticism instead of supporting language. Practicing strategies and learning strategies is co-joined with the observation which assumes that because strategies did not go so well during that particular lesson, the teacher is marked on an annual observation, that she/he is not applying strategies, therefore overall, he/she is not an effective teacher. The teachers mental self-esteem is being wittled away. I am sorry, I have been a teacher for a while, and I have never seen a PERFECT teacher. We all have talents and specialties that lie in different areas, but together, we make a school. The different personalities,learning styles, etc.usually mesh together for a cohesive learning experience and we mesh with student learning styles. I once felt I was an accomplished teacher, and it is unfair for me to feel that I am not based on an observation where anxiety is at an all time high for both teacher and students.

  19. My point is – keep training separate from observations. Teaching was always stressful, but having that principal support and the staff happy was rewarding. Observations put administrators back in the dark age when there was boss and employee. I thought it was leader and teacher. It’s a shame because of love my principal, just can’t handle observations. I want mine on the first day of school so that I can enjoy the rest.

  20. […] a collection of stories about teacher stress and depression and this has fuelled another one of my worries further – unsupportive […]

  21. I have just been observed by OFSTED again in my school in special measures. with no ratings now I’m not really sure where my lesson lies as the feedback was confusing and unhelpful, things that seemed to go down well with inspector who gave me an outstanding 6 months ago we’re not liked by this one, they picked one kid to go and speak to, the one who had done the least amount of work all lesson and didn’t seem to appreciate or understand the needs of the pupils in the group at all the pupils were humans to them, just numbers on a spreadsheet. It was so pressurised and nerves did get the better of me a couple of times I know I have taught better lessons but I know I have taught worse but the whole thing has left me exhausted and gutted. I can’t get it out of my head, i keep crying I feel I have let the school down and I am rubbish. I try so hard all of the time, work till almost midnight each evening and have no life outside of work at all but someone can come in and reach conclusions about me based on just twenty minutes of my twelve year and make me feel useless. It s not right. I hate education at the moment, it used to be a joy but now all I feel is immense pressure and stress and the thought of doing this for another 30 ish years till I can retire fills me with dread. The OFSTED system has to change they cannot keep putting teachers through the hell that it is, we are starting to crumble. It is so sad.

  22. Reading these posts has been very helpful. I have been out of work as a special ed teacher for 15 months now, having been falsely accused of calling students names in my last position, being bullied by two other teachers, a haphazard and careless administration (three of our principals quit within 5 years) and finally being laid off. These 15 months have been crucial for me. At my age, 63, single and self-supporting, I need to work, and am willing and able to work, but never ever at the mercy of 70 hour weeks, horrible administration and bullying. I was offered a long term sub position at a school district near my home, and I accepted it for this year. Being aware of the over burden of students (I learned I have 32 on my sped caseload), I will do my best to get in early and stay later (school is 8 min away), hopefully freeing up my weekends. Most important and as I have read here in this forum, is that I too have made a decision that I WILL WALK AWAY from this position if it proves to be too much or if my health begins to suffer because of it. Health and wellness, time with family and friends far far outweighs the stress of teaching today. So, I am starting this position next week with a “one day at a time” attitude and an attitude of “I’ll see; I’m not sure if I will stay here.” I am redoing my resume for a more generic job and will be on the lookout for a government job 9-5 if I can find it. Life is way to precious to risk health and disease…for what? In closing, a friend of mine reminded me yesterday that friends and family will remember the time I spent with them and their families…long after I’m gone…not “wow, she worked 70 hours a week as a teacher”….I am so grateful to be starting a job with this wisdom. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for Listening!

  23. I have been teaching for 7 years and the pressure and stress has increased as with each year. Last year I found it so difficult to cope with the high demands from senior management and inspectors, being observed constantly and under a huge amount of pressure. I found myself working 24-7 and making myself and my family miserable just to be called ‘good’. The children were losing out as I was less creative than I used to be and exhausted all of the time. This filled me with guilt! Enough was enough and I decided to give it all up- a difficult decision! I have been working in an office since and although I do miss the children and doing what I loved 9-3, I do not miss the stress, pressure and workload. I am treated so well now in my new job- I am appreciated. I am happy and relaxed and enjoying living my life with my family and friends! The best decision I ever made! I will always have so much respect and admiration for teachers- its tough! I hope things will change for the better in the profession and soon!

    • Hi Marie, please could I ask what your office job is? I left my teaching job due to stress, anxiety and no support from my colleagues. However I feel that I’m only qualified for teaching as my degree is in primary teaching.

      Thank you

      • Marie, I would also like to know what job you went into as I also feel after 16 years of teaching I am not qualified for anything else. I used to office temp many moons ago, but technology has moved on and I would need to re-train, I suspect and the wage would be, an optimistically, less than half what I earn now.

        Much of the above threads rang so many bells. I also went off on stress leave just before the summer after breaking down in tears in my friend’s office. This was the morning after feeling so bad the night before with nausea and chest pains I thought I was going to have to ring for an ambulance. I rang for a doctor’s appointment and cried on the bus from school the whole way there. When I reached the doctor’s my blood pressure was so high she wouldn’t even share it with me, (I’m usually normal), and after describing my pains from the night before, rushed me to the nurse next door, hooked my up to an ECG machine to make sure I hadn’t suffered a mild heart attack. I was given two weeks stress leave and spent a wonderful two weeks enjoying time with my own two neglected children.

        What led me to this place? I’m in my early 40s and already feel SMT, (and one in particular) has marked me out as too old and too expensive, so let’s get rid of her in any way possible, I know – we’ll say she is incompetent as a teacher. Never-mind that this definition will completely destroy any chance I have of getting another job. Or they will use it as a way to make me resign, agree to our terms or we’ll say you are incompetent. As part of the informal competency programme they put me on I tried to do everything that they asked in lesson observations – no good, always very, very negative. I also had the experience of the OFSTED consultant – personally I didn’t even trust that this wasn’t a mate of my nemesis in SMT, placed to make sure I received an unsatisfactory, particularly since only myself and one other colleague, whom they did lever out by this method, were the only ones who were observed by this consultant.

        I was made to observe others bookmarking. This was particularly dispiriting as I had made a personal target for myself a year pervious to mark my books weekly. I was told, and this really hurts, that my marking was sparse. I was made to look at the HoD – less marking than me, other people in the school – less marking than me. I have now observed marking in other schools while I have been on the open evening round of secondary schools, all of whom were either good or outstanding schools, unlike the one I work for. Guess what – less marking than me. I put in every marking policy that they brought in, at the last count, at least five different things. It was getting to the point where I had written more than the pupils in their books. (If all this marking seems unrealistic, I teach support / intervention groups and maybe one full class, making the number of books I’m marking lower – how others in the English / humanities depts. were marking to their standards is beyond me.)

        After this sparse comment and the other comments relating to my lessons I began to feel that no matter what I did or put in place I would never receive anything above unsatisfactory. I have recently been to other schools on interviews where my teaching has been seen as great – even making it to the short, short list, when they nicely knock out some candidates after observing them teach. If this is the case, why in my own school am I seen as such a failure? The last comment my mentor said before my last observation was that this one really counted. As I already felt there was absolutely nothing I could do to please them, a few days later I cracked, leading to the doctor’s and stress leave. At least I didn’t have to face the observation.

        I am off school at the moment for another reason, however I am dreading going back. I want to hand my notice in, but worry about the future. Going on long-term supply is risky, but so is suffering ill health by staying or risking competency proceedings by those determined to get me out. Despite the knocks to self-confidence, it is the bullying that really gets me down. I’m not saying I’m the best teacher ever, but I damn well know I’m not a danger in the classroom, destroying the educational chances of young people, which is what incompetency implies.

        Anybody any advice – leave no matter what, even with no job to go to as yet or risk health and profession by staying on till Easter at least?


  24. Sinead it sounds really bad – you should leave now before you r sanity is taken. Although it seems scary it sounds like the punitive system at your workplace could make life very difficult and unhappy. You will get other work, somewhere better, even if it is not teaching or less pay it will be worth it to have your peace of mind back. I advise from having done the same thing – it is not easy but you won’t regret it. Good luck

  25. […] 10 months. The other blogpost, one that still seems to get around 100 hits a day even now, was The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression which was a series of anonymous accounts of teachers’ experiences of stress and depression. […]

  26. This article is on very good topic which states the stress and depression faced by the teachers. Everyone just taking about the students, no one know the actual situation of the teachers which are mentioned here.

  27. Take a look in the staffroom during briefing. Nearly all teachers are in their 20s as they are the only age group who can handle it. The rest are SLT that ‘teach’ 2-3 periods per week.

  28. I like your blogs, but I’d wish you’d spend 20 minutes formatting the blog to make it easier to read! This is an example of a blog that is much easier to read than yours …..


    It’s also a wordpress blog.


  29. You have no idea how much I needed to read this post. Thank you.

    • I’m in the process of preparing a follow up where I contact the original contributors and see how they are doing now.

  30. I taught High school math in the US for four years and found it very traumatizing. We were on 90 minute block schedule, New teachers generally are assigned all the lower end 9th graders. I didn’t know how to keep kids interested in staying on task and doing math. 2nd day of class and the noise was already unbearable. They wouldn’t quiet down. I improved over time, but was always stressed. stomach problems before work. I would sit in my chair just like in the movie “to sir with love” and dread going in to work. Mood swings were too frequent, It was like every other day I would tail spin in my moods from something the kids had said or done. Finally 4th year I was called in and told that all my classes were out of control and there were complaints etc. So I had to endure the agony of weekly interrogation meetings to see if I’d improved. I was having to take tranquilizers in the day just to cope by this time. Drinking every night. Four days before start of 5th year I was told I was to be formally evaluated again this year and that my class sizes were doubled from last year to near 35 per class for the lower end, I was to teach all lower end all day long. The other teachers were of course given more favorable positions at my expense. So I walked into the office and quit, the principal was surprised. He told me he wouldn’t give a recommend letter either. The teacher who took my place has an even worse assignment than I did. The education profession seems to be getting worse. So now I’m working in retail and management is so much more supportive, but the pay sucks.

  31. Thank you so much for this blog. I am myself currently in a maelstrom of stress, denial of control and feel I am being set up by management. I have been a FE teacher for 20 years and after a number of attempts to remove me from post by false accusation and attempted redundancy I am feel I am being mentally harangued out of the job. I am constantly tearful and feel empty and worthless. It is not nice but comforting to know I am not alone.

  32. It is absolutely scandalous the way you are being treated.
    I feel angry for you all.
    people need to get together and fight against this treatment.
    I started teaching in 1983 and I have seen it change.
    People are feathering their own nest and have no regard or loyalty towards their colleagues.
    I do supply teaching now- no stress, no planning or marking.
    I avoid long term supply, just do days here and there.
    Reasonable pay and no work at all at home.
    I do it because my health was suffering- anxiety and stress.
    Your health is the most important asset you have- look aftwr yourself- do not risk a breakdown.
    Leave if you have to- do what is best for you.
    You are too precious to yourself and your loved ones.
    Don’t let anyone take away your happiness and wellbeing
    Love to you all

  33. I am a 60 + Teacher at an academy, I worked as a lecturer at a Russells group University prior to coming into Secondary Teaching 14 years ago. My first 9 years at the school was a joy to work in under an inspiring Head Teacher, SLT and HOF with so much experience and excellent people skills . Colleagues worked in harmony and we supported each other throughout the school across departments and faculties. Staff were supported and treated with respect as professionals. This then changed when the HT, Deputies and my HOF retired (all by then 60+). The incoming HT and subsequent SLT have made life a misery for everyone but particularly for those of us over a certain age who as someone else has commented are expensive. Just prior to the new head coming I was promoted to HOD as were four other teachers to HOD of their Departments. Within 18 months I was forced to step down having been made to feel totally inferior by the HT. This also happened to the other 4. Why? Because the HT wanted to get in their friends and family. Since coming into Secondary Teaching I have been through 4 Ofsteds and numerous Lesson Observations and always had either Outstanding or Good with Outstanding. My last 3 observations have been either 3 or 4. So I was put on an improvement plan. I successfully completed that all except the Lesson Observation at the end when they decided I was still a 3. You can take any lesson, observe it and make it what you want as an observer. This year I had the best A level results in the school with all of my students gaining a C or above. Yet I am being told constantly that I am not fit for purpose. This is exactly what the HT did to several other teachers near to retirement and successfully pushed them out. The HT knows I am going in 2017 but still would like to get rid of me sooner. I am a field officer for my union, a GCSE and A level exam marker for an exam board. So I should be able to ‘cope’ with the pressure of SLT. It’s very difficult to stay positive when there is a conspiracy to get rid of you by the very people who should be supporting you if you are indeed in need of improvement. Very few Teachers claim to be perfect we all know that there are things we could do differently and better but the ‘support’ process is often degrading and punitive. The Government do nothing to help the process with unrealistic workload piling on the pressure. It is not the Bullying of students in schools these days that’s so much of a problem but of the systematic bullying of Teachers by the Government and the Senior Leaders. With so many really good Teachers being forced out I worry about the education of my own grandchildren and of our future generations.

  34. I am a supply teacher. I had taught, with great success, for many years in a primary school, I had gained respect as SENCo, TLR – which enabled me to both lead and support staff, I stepped up as DHT for a maternity leave, I was seconded to our LA as an advisory teacher to help raise standards in schools as part of the ‘Improving Schools Programme’ and basically I was a great teacher doing a great job. However, after my mum died, I was left with a partially sighted father so the demands of marking (sometimes) up to 90 books a day and spending countless hours devising good learning experiences (planning) drained me. My school’s results had plummeted and the LA were using heavy-handed tactics, which caused widespread stress and demoralised the staff completely. I was lucky that although I did indeed feel depressed by work and other stuff, I continued to do the job I loved, well but I knew that this level of pressure would eventually defeat me. I took the difficult decision to do supply. Well, what an eye-opener! I go into schools and (sometimes, not always) am treated with such contempt, it makes me want to scream. Staff talk down to me or worse don’t talk to me at all. In one school, the DH said to the secretary “Put HER in the meeting room”! I was 3 metres from him at the time. I’m sure this disparaging attitude to a visitor to their school is everything to do with the immense stress every teacher currently feels and maybe schools should be welcoming the supply teacher who is able to come in (and if like me) do a really good job.

    • Its infuriating that a supply teacher should receive the kind of treatment you’ve described . You should report such incidents to your supply agency and tell them you’d prefer not to work at that school – you may find that you’re not the only teacher on their books that has had bad experiences at the school in question.

      However, my experience has been totally different. I’m a primary teacher currently doing supply as I opted to have a break from having my own class just over a year ago. I’ve had Heads, teachers, parents, governors and vicars falling over themselves to welcome me and then thank me for my time, and I am being asked back to schools at which I have taught, to teach for longer periods. At first I didn’t understand it, I mean its great but…. I like to think I’m a good teacher, but I’m not, nor do I have any ambition to be, ‘outstanding’. Then recently I got it – they are DESPERATE. I undertake supply teaching in Primary schools in Kent and Sussex, and EVERY school I have taught at in the past year has at least one, sometimes as many as three, class teachers off sick with stress, anxiety or depression related illnesses. I’d estimate that at least 20-25% of primary teachers in Kent and Sussex are currently off sick or have recently quit their post because of such illnesses . I understand the need to respect colleagues privacy and confidentiality but the fact that it always seems to be being kept hush-hush by Senior Management seems little self-serving. 20-25% of teachers not working because of stress/depression? I don’t know why it isn’t being shouted from the rooftops!

      • Thanks. You’re right of course, many schools are desperate and I agree that SLTs are often unwilling to admit that stress is a valid reason for this. I heard the other day that the numbers affected by mental and neurological disorders will surge over the next 20 years – well I would say that within our profession that surge has already occurred. On a positive note, I do go into schools that welcome me and ask me back regularly and for them I pull out the stops to make my visit a worthwhile one for all concerned. BTW – giving feedback to my agency is like water off a duck’s back, as long as they make their cut, they really don’t give a darn about the views of the teachers they have on their books :(

        • I was a full time teacher for many years and I now do supply alongside Life Coaching ( I re-trained over 2 years in my own time as I knew I couldn’t sustain the intensity of full time teaching as I got older).  Now I come across many struggling and stressed teachers in both my roles : Generally speaking really good teachers who like me are becoming irritated and stressed by the demands of the job. The trouble is such teachers feel stuck, as if they have no choices. I would like to say if you really want to change your life you will find a way to do it. As a famous author one said, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Good luck. Re. Supply, I agree that schools are often ambivalent towards supply teachers and some expect you to be telepathic. Perhaps I’ve been a little luckier but overall my supply experience has been quite good. It works well for me now as a part time option. It becomes trickier as a full time choice because the Agencies want you to take a long term role and then you are back on the PPA and daily marking treadmill.

          • I have made a decision not to return to teaching. What is “supply and life coaching”?

            • “Supply” is what we call substitute teaching in the UK.

            • I am a fully qualified Life Coach with a teaching background. I also still do a bit of supply teaching. Life Coaching is the process of getting you from where you are now to where you want to be and a Life Coach is the facilitator of this. My role is a bit like that of a Mentor but I do not give advice or suggestion unless the client specifically requests it. What I do is enable you to explore the available options to reach your chosen goals. These are broken down into small, manageable chunks around which we formulate a series of timetabled Action Plans. My role is to support you in this process and to make you accountable. Life Coaching is a very exciting and powerful process with amazing results, if you are determined to commit to the process.

              Supply Teaching, as the previous respondent said, is basically covering for teachers who are absent through illness or other commitments like courses. Longer term positions are also available to cover long term sickness, maternity etc.

              If you’d like more information on either you can email me at: annbostock@rocketmail.com

  35. We constantly hear in the news how teachers are working 60, 70, even 80 hours plus per week just to keep their head above water. My request is “please don’t!” . We are not doing anyone any favours and in fact are guilty of contributing to the problem. If we all behave normally and sensibly by doing as good a job as we can in the hours we are paid then this vicious circle of abuse of teachers will have to stop. We have unions – we need, collectively, to get a grip on this!

  36. I stumbled across this looking in desperation about what to do about my head teacher…I have already decided to leave after my Union got involved. It seems to me that there is nowhere to go…who do I complain to? I have worked in the same school nine years, five of which have been hell, things steadily getting worse after the appointment of a new a headteacher. A new headteacher who was new to the job. Within six months I was off with stress….then I went back – big mistake, should’ve tried to leave then. I was hectored, pilloried, criticised about everything…the workload increased, my appearance and hair style were criticised, I was constantly reminded of the teacher standards with warnings about drinking in public ( I live in a village 10 mins from my school and sometimes went there for dinner and would see parents from school)… Everything about me was criticised, my marking, my record keeping, my speaking out in staff meetings… Relentless, undermining, intimidating and I told her so. I began to get ill again and the pressures stepped up a gear- I was reprimanded for throwing away too much paper in the recycling bin and it would be monitored so I ended up taking my class rubbish home! I can’t do it any more at my school and am awaiting a settlement negotiated by the union.

    But who can I tell? I told the head that I felt her manner aggressive and intimidating and I was scared of her – nothing changed. There are 3 of us and her…she didn’t choose me so my face doesn’t fit. She has reduced several of us to tears…but no one speaks out. My t.a.’s tell me that she treats me differently…but they can’t do anything and I don’t want to involve them as their posts might be made moe vulnerable.

    Can I write to the county HR department once I have l left? And the governors? I feel as though I have left under a cloud…but that this cloud was directed to rain on me and I want to deflect it away from me so that I can feel ‘dry’ again.

    This is such a difficult job yo do now and I cannot understand why some heads feel that it is acceptable to bully their staff.

    • Alison,
      In my opinion make peace with yourself and move on. Put it behind you and don’t waste your time and energy trying to seek revenge. They WILL get their comeuppance.

  37. […] most viewed post on this blog is one from two years ago entitled The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression in which people submitted their stories of stress and depression. Last year I contacted some of […]

  38. […] most viewed post on this blog is one from two years ago entitled The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression in which teachers shared their stories of stress and depression. Last year I contacted some of […]

  39. […] most viewed post on this blog is one from two years ago entitled The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression in which teachers shared their stories of stress and depression. Last year I contacted some of […]

  40. […] most viewed post on this blog is one from two years ago entitled The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression in which teachers shared their stories of stress and depression. Last year I contacted some of […]

  41. […] most viewed post on this blog is one from two years ago entitled The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression in which teachers shared their stories of stress and depression. Last year I contacted some of […]

  42. […] most viewed post on this blog is one from two years ago entitled The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression in which teachers shared their stories of stress and depression. Last year I contacted some of […]

  43. Reblogged this on Stephanie Poppins and commented:
    This is incredibly sad and worrying reading. The teaching profession is losing more brilliant people than ever and it has got to stop.

  44. This is my life now. 18 years teaching and one bully of a Headteacher has broken me with ridiculous workload, targets and stress and I have just resigned. I have two children aged 5 and 1, no idea how to support them but I need my family life back.

  45. Definitely agree that teachers should not work more than a 40 hour week. We do our pupils and ourselves and our colleagues no favours. As Jedhi says, we are contributing to the problem. I am a very stressed teacher who has been made to feel incompetent although I work very hard.

  46. I am a teacher who has taught for 7 years. A change in leadership saw a total shift from student and staff well being to data, data Naplan results. Unreasonable deadlines and relentless meetings caused great sadness and immense pressure and cliques of superior others. Teachers with no life apart from school thrived and those including me with perfecionist gene took all on board and lived no life apart from school. I developed an unreal expectation of myself and severely doubted myself. Serious anxiety and depression has developed and my confidence has been severely damaged. I am devastated that I am not able to perform in the caring holistic way I have always taught and I do not know what the future holds for me. I really do love my career, but because my health is so compromised, my family badly effected I am not the same wonderful person I should be.

  47. […] or dreams. I haven’t included discussion of mental health as that’s been covered in previous posts. Also most (but not all) of the people telling me about their paper cuts have been left out. As […]

  48. […] The Darkest Term: Teacher Stress and Depression […]

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