Those unforgettable days in education

27th October 2000 at 01:00
Jo Plesniak, teacher, Burdett Coutts Primary school, London Borough of Westminster. "During my fifth year at the school I became key stage 2 co-ordinator. We had an inspection impending and it filtered through to us that the authority was worried we would fail (we actually passed well). On top of this, I had a very difficult class and the junior department had loads of problems; my job seemed to include sorting out lots of personality clashes.

Things went from bad to worse and culminated in me going off sick, suffering from anxiety and stress. I'd been teaching for nine years and had never had more than a couple of days off. Now I was off for five months and it really knocked my confidence. I was very depressed and low and very frightened I might never teach again.

Gradually I came to reassess my situation. I looked at all the responsibilities I'd taken on and I realised that I'd let all the fun go out of teaching. I decided I idn't want to do management anymore; what I wanted was to be in the classroom, to be with the kids. It's such a satisfying experience seeing a child make leaps forward.

When I came back part-time, after a great deal of help from family and friends, I was just a classroom teacher. It's a very positive step. It's not to say that I won't ever take on management responsibilities, but that's not right for me at this time.

Now all my enthusiasm has come back. I had lost sight of the fact that I have this gift; it's a wonderful gift, but it had got lost under the weight of extra stuff teachers have to take on. I still, of course, have to do all the paper work, but I've prioritised and the school has restructured, and learnt, I think, from what happened to me.

It's so common for teachers to be off due to stress and anxiety that perhaps we sometimes need to take a step back and ask ourselves: 'What am I doing this for?'


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