Teacher tips for sticking with it through tough times

“I realised that I was in trouble when I was standing in front of class and I couldn't be sure that I wasn't going to cry."

Two teachers share tips on getting through the difficult times when they almost quit the profession.

Two teachers talk about getting through some tough times when they almost quit the profession.

Ryan Smith is a teacher at Stonelow Junior School in Derbyshire. He says: "When I first started as a teacher, there was an insane amount of paperwork. I thought about quitting - at one point it was a weekly thought."

But the school brought in changes to lighten teachers' workload and Ryan says: "It's made a positive difference and made me fall in love with teaching again."

One of the changes the school has implemented is teacher specialisation. "I know my subject like the back of my hand," says Ryan. "Instead of having seven different subjects' worth of books to do across the week, I've now got one or two. The amount of planning I have to do is massively reduced as well."

Teachers also spend time informally observing colleagues which helps them pick up best practice ideas and learning tips: "We can go, what a great idea - I'd never have thought about that before. I'm going to try that in my own classroom."

Since the changes have been implemented, Ryan says: "... my levels of anxiety and stress have massively diminished."

A keen independent traveller, Fearghal O'Nuallain is a London-based geography teacher who has also thought of quitting due to work stress: "Every time I was given a task I tried to do it even though I knew that it wasn't doable." And he says: "I realised that I was in trouble when I was standing in front of class and I couldn't be sure that I wasn't going to cry."

After quitting that job and some more expeditions abroad, Fearghall decided to give teaching another go but to change his perspective: "Teaching is different now for me. I'm very strict with my boundaries ... it's important to do these minor jobs we have to do that make up teaching, but if one or two of them get dropped then that is not the end of the world."

Both men share what they feel teachers need to maintain a good work-life balance. "The most important thing is that a school puts the mental health and wellbeing of its staff on an even level with the success of its children," says Ryan. While Fearghall says: "Speak up if you're not coping and look after yourself - you can't fill from an empty cup so you need to make sure that you're healthy and happy before you look after others."

If you’re a teacher in need of support, call Education Support's free and confidential 24/7 emotional support helpline on 08000 562 561.

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