'I found myself sinking under the monster of accountability and monitoring engulfing UK schools - it nearly pushed me over the edge'

8th January 2017 at 18:02
Accountability system
Too many teachers are in the position I used to be in: they love teaching, but because of the pressures placed upon them feel as if they are failures

Earlier this year, I lost hope – I felt like there was no way out. Even though I was surrounded by the students I taught, it was as if I was alone.

Every minute, I could hear my heart pounding faster and the walls pressing in on me. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated experience but the end of a struggle that had been brewing for months.

Every day, I was feeling less human and more like a robot, just trying to keep going. In the end, I couldn’t withstand the extra pressure and left.

What was the cause of this? The toxic environment that seems to be engulfing ever more schools in England - one that nearly pushed me over the edge.

It wasn’t always like this. I had successfully finished my first year of teaching and was now ready to start the next chapter in my career.

I was looking forward to the challenge of working with a new class and watching them grow throughout the year, collaborating with new colleagues and taking on extra responsibility and ownership.

It started well and I felt that I was teaching better than I ever had before. However this didn’t last long, and soon my confidence and enthusiasm was overcome with fear and dread.

Book scrutinies, learning walks, progress meetings. I soon found myself sinking under this monster of accountability and monitoring.

As the months went on, I soon found I didn’t have the energy to function. The tasks that I had to complete were piling up and even though I knew they needed completing, I couldn’t muster the willpower to do it.

The fear of the scrunity and judgements was crippling - I even began dreading standing in front of class, feeling like an imposter and ill-suited to teach the children.

What was worse, was that I was closing in on myself and I began to shut myself off from my friends and family. I knew I needed help but I didn’t have the courage to say anything, feeling that I would be labelled a failure, I kept quiet.

When I did admit to not coping and wanting to leave, I was faced with accusations of not thinking of the children and not putting their needs first.

From that point on, I sank further into darkness. What was I going to do? I felt like I let everybody down; I was not putting the children’s need first.

In the end, I couldn’t take it anymore and left.

Thankfully, even though I had shut myself off from my friends and family, they knew I needed help and were able to offer me the support I so desperately needed. Ever so slowly, I started to become the person I used to be, the sinking feeling began to relent and I was able to laugh and smile. I felt human again.

I am now in a much happier place. After a great deal of thought, I decided to stay in the teaching profession that I once loved so much, but knew I had to escape this country in order to continue working as a teacher.

I knew that it was never the children who made me feel rock bottom but the systems that have been built around schools in England.

Now, I look forward to teaching, but now I have a life in which I am able to socialise and be human, where my every move at work isn't under constant scrunity or based on data.

I have built strong friendships and feel a valued member of my new school community. More importantly, I know that I am able to ask for help and support.

Unfortunately, I know now there are many people in the position I used to be in. People who love teaching, but because of the pressures placed upon them feel as if they are failures.

In this current climate of rigorous accountability and being “outstanding”, we are losing track of the reason why we became teachers.

This constant pursuit of better attainment and improved progress is placing too much burden on teachers and students. By aiming for perfection, we are in fact steering ourselves further way from our goals.

What I realised last year is that we need to reflect upon what is achievable as a profession. Maybe being “good” is “good” enough.

It is absurd to think that people are reaching breaking point in a profession that is supposed to be about encouraging young people to grow as individuals.

I had hoped that my experience was rare, but I know that is far from the truth. 

The writer wishes to remain anonymous.

 

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