What keeps me awake at night - Ceasing to care is the only way to survive

29th November 2013 at 00:00

I'm failing. Six weeks ago, I took up my second post (in my second challenging inner-city school) and every day has been a battle.

Behaviour is so rough that some students have made no progress in anything other than paper-plane construction. The ensuing phone calls home eat into my evening to the extent that my planning has become rushed and repetitive. I am in my teaching nightmare and, realistically, I'm stuck here until the end of the year, unless I want to recount the awful experience in all future job interviews.

I am trying to make things better. In between going to cry in the disabled toilet, I am seeking advice. Aside from the stock suggestions of calling for department support (already doing it) and simply walking out (dreaming of it), two peers have independently offered a more unusual approach: just stop caring.

After four years of offering my heart and soul to this profession, I have taken this advice, and I love it.

To be clear, this is not the same as "stop working". I will, of course, plan and teach lessons, mark books, set homework, track progress and attend meetings, along with everything else that makes up my 60-hour week.

But now, when I put my marking down at 9pm, I won't squander my 60 minutes of free time before bed desperately scanning educational forums. I won't bore friends with the creative-writing triumphs of children they will never meet. I won't waste my wages on pens, Post-its and cognitive psychology books. And I will not lie awake tortured by the sadistic comments of certain students.

Instead I will... what? It's tough now to imagine how a life, a mind, is filled without the ever-expanding anxiety of school inspections, exam results and the perfect mini-plenary. But from now on, I will clock in, clock out and switch off.

I can see the potential problem here: isn't trying not to care like trying not to think of a pink elephant? Perhaps. But at this end of my tether, it's stunning in its simplicity. And if it gets me to the summer without a breakdown or a trip to the jobcentre, it's worth the effort.

The writer is a teacher in London

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?

Subscribe

To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers

Comments

Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
 
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today