The Darkest Term Revisited: Teacher Stress and Depression Part 1December 14, 2015
The 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 those people to see how they were getting on, although I never got round to publishing their responses. I’ve also contacted them again this week. This post contains one of the accounts from the original post and any updates.
Original Account: December 2013
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.
Update: December 2014
Well, I thought I would try to get a full-time teaching job, but no-one seemed to want to employ a teacher at the top of the pay scale.
So I have left teaching. I now work as a customer services operator for an online retailer, I write novels and screenplays in my spare time, I have taken a 70% pay cut, but I have no stress, love my work and am in a new relationship.
Sure, I miss teaching, but at least now I won’t drop dead in the classroom.
Update: December 2015
I am like an old yo-yo in terms of the job. I am back in the classroom at the moment as a supply teacher. I missed interacting with children and felt I needed to see how I got on. I am ever hopeful that I will get a permanent post soon.
The worries and stress are sometimes still there, but I have developed a personal resolve – I may be back as a teacher, but I refuse to do things that I know I cannot – I won’t let this job kill me – there is much much more to live for. I still intend to stick around long enough to be a burden to my daughters.
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.