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"The word tired just doesn’t cut it": The reality of being a teacher in Australia right now.

“Teacher tiredness” is a term I first came across in Gabbie Stroud’s book ‘Teacher’, and as a teacher myself, wow did it resonate. 

It wasn’t until I saw the words printed in Stroud’s book, that I felt legitimised in the way I often come to feel during the year, particularly towards the end of term. 

The word tired just doesn’t cut it. I’ve been tired before. Everyone has. I’ve had a newborn who wakes several times during the night. I’ve had jobs that have involved long hours. I’ve had early starts and late finishes. But nothing quite compares to the tiredness I have experienced as a teacher.

Watch: A thank you to teachers, everywhere. Post continues below.


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Teacher tiredness is different. It’s on another level. It reaches every inch of your being because every inch of your being goes into your work.

The tiredness is a result, I think, of the layers of complexity to the job, which takes a mental, emotional and physical toll. The trifecta of tiredness, so to speak. 

Teaching, especially young children (maybe older children too, but I can’t speak to this experience as my teaching experience has only ever been with young children), is unique in what it requires of you. 

You need to be mentally present in order to plan and deliver the curriculum, you need to be physically fit in order to stay on your feet, move around and participate with the children, and you need to be emotionally available to the children who are still in the process of developing their own emotional regulation skills.

It’s all encompassing and totally consuming on every level.

Teacher tiredness really is no joke. I was speaking to a friend via text recently who is in her first year of teaching and she told me that the night before she had participated in a sleep study because her doctor thought she might have narcolepsy.

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NARCOLEPSY.

I’m not kidding.

She had gone to the doctor multiple times due to her lingering exhaustion and unfortunately my response to her telling me this was rather grim. 

“Oh sweetie, no. You just have teacher tiredness”. 

And unfortunately, it comes with the job.

On No Filter, Mia Freedman chats to Gabbie Stroud about what she really wants school parents to know. Post continues below.

Especially in those first few years of teaching when you're still finding your feet.  

I’m honestly not surprised by the number of teachers who leave the profession early in their careers. It takes a lot out of you and can often leave little energy in the tank for a social life. If you’re not careful, you can become a pretty absent family member and friend. 

But don’t you just work 8:30-3:30? 

Umm… No. 

Teachers spend hours each day on top of the school day planning lessons, reporting on learning, making resources, resetting their classroom, answering emails and attending meetings. 

But the holidays… you have so many holidays! 

Wrong again. 

Yes, some parts of the school holidays are spent unwinding and recharging, but you also need to spend some of this time planning for the next term and attending professional development. 

These misconceptions are still rife in the community, and frustrating for teachers to repeatedly hear. 

It’s not all doom and gloom in the world of teaching though. I can say from experience that the juggle does get more manageable as the years tick over. 

You get a lot better at prioritising your workload, and you refine your skills and build up your resource collection. Tasks that once took up a huge amount of time become quicker and easier. You learn to ask for help when you need it and grow to understand that leaning on your colleagues and leadership for support isn’t a failure, but an act of courage. 

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Finally, and definitely most importantly, it is actually the most rewarding job in the world. 

Is it exhausting at times? Yes. 

Do you question the sustainability of the workload? Sometimes. 

But there is nothing like teaching. To see, in real time, your impact on children’s learning is pretty special. When they make a new connection or reach a goal or eagerly share their learning with their families, it honestly makes it all worth it.  

Teaching is hard. It’s really hard, but it’s also a privilege. 

So, if you’re a teacher and you’re struggling, hang in there. Know that you are not alone in your feelings or your experience. We've all been there. 

Are you a teacher? Share your thoughts on this article in the comments below.

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