Share your troubles online and cheer up

3rd August 2001 at 01:00
Teachers who feel at breaking point and over-burdened by the demands of school need no longer suffer alone.

A new website called WASTE (welfare action for surviving teachers and ex-teachers) points the way to practical help and offers a platform from which to let off steam.

WASTE describes itself as "a grass-roots initiative inspired by the needs of teachers who have felt isolated in their personal and professional struggles". The co-founders are a former middle-school teacher Pete Davies and Dr Richard House, a Steiner Waldorf teacher and counsellor, both of whom are based in Norwich.

The website has a resources section listing self-help groups and a networking page which enables people to make personal contacts.

It also lists academic articles about teacher stress, and has a viewpoint page where teachers mull over the strains of school life.

Mr Davies knows all about the strains of teaching. He taught for 25 years and loved most of his time in the classroom. However, the former chief inspector Chris Woodhead's Office for Standards in Education regime drove him out.

"If the site makes just one person feel better then we have done a job," he said.

But although aimed towards teachers at the end of their tether, Mr Davies is anxious it should not convey unmitigated gloom.

"We don't want it to be depressing all the time," he said. "We hope it will have some humour. We are also keen for practical advice from people who have been through a crisis and can share with others how they coped."

For Mr Davies, a key indicator of his own trauma was losing a sense of humour.

"Many teachers have no life outside school," he said. "It may sound like heresy but education isn't meant to be taken that seriously."

WASTE website: www.wasteedu.org

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