This is anonymous account written about my very best friend; she is a teacher.
For the sake of this article I’m going to refer to my wonderful friend as Helen.
I’m going to keep this short because there’s an abundance of long and detailed articles out there about the education crisis.
What I’m about to write, I’m sure, will resonate with so many others who have educators in their lives – as friends, family, partners or parents.
Helen is a talented, dedicated and passionate teacher. She has all the wonderful glow and spark of an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) despite having a number of years of experience under her belt. She is generous, courageous and selfless – qualities that I know are the “fundamentals” for so many teachers.
Since March she’s crumbled. I’ve seen her sunny disposition melt away. I’ve seen relentless positivity dissolve. She’s a shadow of her former self.
On the daily, we talk (via Zoom) about her day and without fail there are tears – always her’s because, for a once strong and optimistic professional, she just cannot hold it together.
She explains that the pressures of everyday school life are so intense she experiences crippling stress headaches, chest pains and stomach cramps. She explains that before 7am she has received a barrage of emails about seating plans, extra work required for students self-isolating, reminders to social distance and colleagues who are absent (for a variety of Covid-related reasons). She explains the intense pressure she feels about the burden of responsibility laid at her feet; making decisions about who qualifies as a “close contact” and what clinical ramifications this could have.
It’s all too much
Like so many of us, she hasn’t seen her loved ones for such a long time. But my friend Helen had the dilemma of dedicating herself to her profession – and the children she serves (our children) – and keeping her vulnerable family members safe. She choose our children.
As a friend looking on from the outside I can see that all of this is breaking her. Surely she cannot be alone? She must be typical of teachers across the nation who must be feeling these pressures and making these sacrifices?
Let’s make this clear – I’m not suggesting that teachers should get “special treatment”. What I’m suggesting is that nobody’s work should result in the mental ill health and/or risk to physical health.
Throughout this crisis teachers have been vilified and cruelly branded as “lazy” and “work-shy”, from what I can see nothing could be further from the truth. I see truly dedicated and compassionate professionals striving for better for the children they care for (our children), for their colleagues and for themselves.
So I end on these key messages:
Helen – I love you.
Teachers, TAs, Headteachers, and all school staff – I admire you.
Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson – I will never forgive you.