Last Sunday I wrote a post about the stress of teaching, and how it was affecting me. It received some interesting responses, both in the comments and on Twitter. The Twitter consensus seemed to be that most teachers feel that way at times. There are moments when the stress builds, it all becomes too much and the smallest thing will break you.
But this tweet made me think:
I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of teachers. We often hear about teachers burning out and the high attrition rate, especially in the first few years of teaching. The stress and workload demands drive many from the profession.
But even though I DO feel stressed and have days like lasts Friday where it all just seems too much, I’m not seriously entertaining the idea of leaving.
This is why I stay:
1. Teaching is Rewarding
I love that moment when a child’s eye’s light up because they’ve learned something – the excitement and appreciation that they show. Learning is a joyful experience and it’s incredibly satisfying to be a part of a student’s journey. I also find that I am continually learning. Even after 20 years, I’m still being challenged and inspired to find new ways of doing things. It’s never boring.
2. Teaching allows me to be creative and to vary my days
No two days are ever the same, and as a primary school teacher, I get to teach all the subjects. I teach art, music, HSIE, mathematics, writing, public speaking, dance, drama. I am a person who craves variety and primary school teaching allows me plenty of that. The process of designing units of work and planning lessons is also highly creative and I enjoy coming up with new and engaging ways to teach. I enjoy the challenge of having students with special behaviour or learning needs. I like to think outside the box and find the key to reaching students for whom traditional teaching approaches don’t seem to work.
3. I love my students
I am blessed to work at a school with a very positive culture. The students from K-6 enjoy coming to school and most greet me enthusiastically whenever they see me either in class or in the playground. They are keen to learn and appreciative of our efforts. They are nice kids and working with them is a joyful experience.
3. I have great colleagues
I am also blessed to work with a team of very committed and enthusiastic educators. There is none of the cynicism that abounds in some workplaces. My colleagues care about their work and, like me, are continually learning. We support each other through collaborative planning and teamwork and share the load. We recognise that not everyone has strengths in every area and help each other out. A teacher who is talented in music will take that subject for another teacher, who in turn might teach PE for a teacher who has difficulty in that area. When people are sick, run down or going through difficult times, my colleagues are quick to help out, shouldering some of their responsibilities at time until that person is able to cope once again.
4. I have a great principal
The principal I work for is committed to making good educational decisions. She is not swayed by political interests, or the pressure to produce higher and higher results in standardised tests. Instead, she allows the specific learning needs of our students to determine our directions for school improvement. She listens to staff and consults with us. She acknowledges our hard work. If there is a period of time where I am overloaded, as I have been lately, she will find ways to release me from face to face teaching so that I can catch up, and will be flexible with deadlines wherever possible.
I realise that I am lucky. Not all schools have this positive culture. In fact, this article by Dan Haesler explains that many new teachers leave the profession because of the lack of support from their colleagues.
I am fortunate because, even when I feel stressed and demoralised, I work in a supportive environment. That’s what keeps me going.
It’s the culture of the school that makes the difference.