What keeps me awake at night

21st February 2014 at 00:00
My calm demeanour isn't a sign that I don't care

The ability to stay calm in a stressful situation is a positive attribute in most professions. However, as a teacher, I have found that because I don't get stressed I am viewed with a suspicion that I don't really care about what I do.

In a previous teaching post, my calm demeanour would further antagonise my already highly stressed school leader, who realised that I wasn't losing sleep over deadlines or inspections. She felt that she had to double-check my work because I didn't get uptight or complain to her about workload. And a number of years ago, I was told that I had been turned down for a job because I was "too relaxed" at interview.

I don't suffer from the Sunday night blues, unlike most of my teacher friends. But this isn't a sign of indifference, just recognition that worrying is simply a waste of energy. Like Premier League football managers criticised by fans for lacking passion because they don't leap from the subs' bench every two minutes to shout at their players, I end up feeling judged on the impression I give rather than the results my students get or my classroom management.

My accountant brother has the same disposition as me but, in his profession, keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs is seen as a bonus.

Teachers suffering from high blood pressure and migraines as they worry about the many uncontrollable situations they face daily in the classroom can't be healthy. And it seems clear to me that how you feel does have a bearing on how well children learn in your class. A stressed teacher dealing with a stressful incident may be pouring oil on to the fire as they transmit their tension to the situation.

I am not advocating a "care less, work better" approach, and I do feel sympathy for those who can't turn off from the job. But I also feel that, in teaching, we are quick to surmise that others are not working as hard as we are. All I ask is for colleagues not to judge my surface calm as a sign of indifference, but instead to see it as an indication of a different character type.

Gordon Cairns is an English and forest school teacher in Glasgow, Scotland.

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

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