Just because I stay calm, doesn't mean I don't care

22nd May 2016 at 11:29
When keep calm and carry on backfires

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 demeanor would further antagonize my already highly stressed principal who realized that I wasn't losing sleep over deadlines or assessments. 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 the 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 coaches who get criticized by fans for lacking passion just because they don't leap from the 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.

If I were an accountant you'd like me

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 criticize 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.

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