Secret Teacher: I feel stuck in a profession that’s making me ill

Feb 3, 2018 by

I should be prioritising my pupils. Instead, I have become desperately stressed chasing marking and assessment deadlines

It’s 7am on a Friday morning just after Christmas, and I’m returning to school following three days of sick leave off work.

I’d been to see the GP before the holidays, who confirmed I was suffering from stress. I was reluctant to go to the doctor, but my family and colleagues had commented that I wasn’t myself. My GP suggested I rest over the break and return for another appointment after Christmas to see if things had improved. Unfortunately, that was unlikely to happen.

My GCSE students had recently sat their mock exams, leaving me with more than 170 papers to mark. Each paper takes around an hour, meaning I didn’t have much of a Christmas break. Instead of spending time with my family, I was trapped in my office, correcting the same spelling mistakes and spliced commas on each and every paper, the pain in my back building as I sat hunched over the desk for five, six, seven hours at a time. It seemed as though the end would never come.

I felt ill, overworked, and powerless to change my situation. I stopped doing the things I loved: watching my local football team at the weekends, seeing my close friends in the evenings, and doing regular exercise to keep myself fit. It was clear that I’d been consumed. The deadline came, and I still hadn’t completed the papers. I had to make my apologies to the school leadership. “I won’t be able to get these done,” I confessed, ashamed. I knew my colleagues from other departments had completed theirs on time.

But I was also angry. The volume of work I had, due to my subject, was much larger. Even within my department, I’d been allocated more work than other staff because I teach more kids. And despite raising my concerns about getting everything done in time before the holidays, I’d simply been told, unsympathetically, to do my best. The response to my tardiness was similar, even weeks later: “Well, you need to get them done. I’ll give you an extra week.”

It was something that looked like compromise, albeit still undoable. The week passed. Despite putting in 20 hours of work over the weekend, on top of all of the usual jobs teachers are expected to do, I was still nowhere near reaching the revised deadline.

Source: Secret Teacher: I feel stuck in a profession that’s making me ill | Teacher Network | The Guardian

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