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.

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