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Why Are Teachers dying ? – a teacher’s rant

I went to a school for a day supply the other day and what I saw described the misery that teachers are in at the moment. No wonder teachers are leaving the profession in droves or are suffering from stress related ailments resulting in long term absences from work and not returning to work. Senior leaders of schools are getting more overworked and there is no semblance of work life balance anymore.

The so-called successful schools that are rated as outstanding by the watchdog – ofsted – what does data, both qualitative and quantitative reveal about the stakeholder’s condition health wise? – The teachers and leaders in the school, even the students and the parents? These category of stakeholders (teachers, school leaders, support workers) live the school, breathe the school, think the school, dream the school and eventually die.

The death here is similar to the one described by Seamus Heaney in his poem – ‘The Death of a Naturalist.’

Teachers have died countless deaths.

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Their initial love for the profession has died. They are now merely surviving. Their passion for the profession has died. Their enthusiasm has died. Now, they are looking for the nearest exit routes.

Those who are still hanging in there and managing to exude a smile daily, keeping the front-line battle going, at what cost?

Family life is almost non-existent for them. Relationships have broken down due to work life imbalance. They are stuck with work and marking scripts nonstop. They are up and about planning, marking and inputting data into a system to generate reports that we all know does not really add much value to students, except to prove to the watchdog with the big hammer that they are doing enough to churn out data to show the trajectory. The more data you can churn out, the better you are judged.

A trip around majority of the state schools in England will reveal how many people call in sick daily, how many people are off work due to long term illness related to work. Some go on maternity leave and never return. Some get abused emotionally and physically by students and have to live that trauma for the rest of their lives. The number of children from homes that are disadvantaged are enormous. Special needs are overwhelming and parental delinquency is on the increase.

Like the saying goes, when two elephants fight, the grass suffers.

There are tons of students who are from well brought up homes who have been corrupted by students who come from homes that have not been successful in creating boundaries. Tons of students want to achieve, want to attain, want to do well, want to excel, but they have been patterned to think a certain way, to act a certain way in order to be termed as successful. They have to sit in a room with thirty other kids and write and listen and do group work to meet some outcomes that does not make sense to them.

No child is ever consulted before he or she is brought forth to this world, however as soon as that child is conceived, that child deserves the structure and support to bring out the best in that child. This is where we have failed as a society. Broken homes, disadvantaged homes, pressure of keeping up with utilities and social life style. Pressure of getting into relationships that the dividends have not been palatable. The conditions have been created such that, to survive is almost a chore that is cruel. Children consequently suffer. They are packaged off to schools and the schools have to be the big brother, watching over every little move of that child.

The teacher is overloaded and overburdened. Class sizes are full capacity without the necessary infrastructure to support that class size.

We may not admit it, but the system is a failed one. Politicians are playing games with education. Like we used to say when we first started learning programming – garbage in = garbage out (GIGO).

What bothers me the most is why we are ignoring what research is showing?

Perhaps the greatest challenge of the education system is to align the curriculum with real life needs. In business analysis we call these requirements.

A student sits and prepares for exams that will lasts for 2 and a half hours and in real life he will never meet such a situation. He will be using computers to work and automate processes. Are we really preparing them for 21st century? Research shows that one of the key employability skills for the 21st century is people’s skills, yet our education system is not paying particular attention to this. Self awareness, emotional intelligence, flexibility and adaptability, reflectiveness, life long learning, willingness to learn, etc, are all the essentials for the 21st century work placement, yet, our curriculum as excellent as it may sound does not give room to connect with these key employability skills. Why? Because we have to bring the progress residual to zero. We have to show that the students are on track to having grade 9 to 5 in the GCSE course or EBac.

The education system needs to be tracked and overhauled.

Nothing has changed. So much paper work goes into new initiatives and agenda that does not really add value. At the end of the day, the child who is looking up to the state for guidance fails drastically and lives an unfulfilled life.

I went to a school recently to do a day supply and there weren’t board wipers to wipe the board. Basic supply was an issue. The head of faculty did not even know that the staff member was absent. No cover work was set and the poor fella had to run helter skelter to set cover work. It brought to question straight away about support. Couldn’t they have planned for cover work in advance or had a cover work bank, that they can pull from in the case of emergency situation like this?

A staff who was on duty, asked a student to get out of the corridor, since they were not allowed in the building during break at lunch times and the child bluntly refused to leave the building. The teacher had insisted that the student left the building and the student would not budge. The teacher tapped the student on the shoulder and asked him to move and the student turned around and said “don’t touch me, don’t touch me.”

There was no help available…the child went and grabbed a stick and started hitting the drums and xylophone in the music department. Since the entrance to this department was also a fire exit, it could not be locked. As this teacher was dealing with this student, other students crept into the building and it was mayhem. The teacher was exhausted and he was teaching the next period. Hence my question – At what cost?

There was no visibility of a senior leader, there was no visibility of a middle leader, someone with a presence of authority that carried weight. Poor teacher was left to deal with the situation alone. There should have been two or three persons on duty in this part of the school, but the school was grossly understaffed. The teacher would then go into the next lesson tired, emotionally drained and exhausted. Would you be surprised when he calls in sick the next day? Not at all!

At what cost? At what cost – to remain in the profession, to be successful in the profession.

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6 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful insight into teaching in the modern day, there’s many frustrating moments of a teacher yet the most important person. This well is running out and nobody seems to notice..

  2. A great insight into the problems of teachers and teaching profession all over the world.The situation is more profound in Nigeria where there is infrastructural decay and overcrowding in the classrooms in public schools. .The number one profession is fast becoming a nightmare to teachers, no thanks to the politicians and greedy civil servants…

  3. I read this and I took a deep breath.

    Do Teachers have to go through this?

    Why all the stress?

    What can we do to make the passion and love for teaching come alive again so that they won’t call in sick?

    We need a good encouraging and supportive system in place for Teachers.

    Teachers are really trying to bring up great leaders of tomorrow.

    Great piece. Great write up. Well Done.

    • Thanks Awele. This is quite sad. That is the biggest question? When we have people at the helm of affairs who do not have a clue about education, when we have people administering education who do not have the love of the profession at heart, when we have budget issues, when we have politics all interfering with the integrity of the profession, these issues will always crop up…that is why the question, at what cost?

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