I’m just going to put this out there straight off the bat. Writing this article makes me angry; disappointment no longer cuts it.
Anyone who knows me, particularly my ex-students, knows it takes a lot to test my patience, but every now and then... I have to use my teacher-voice. Usually 'the look' will do it, but as every teacher knows - sometimes, you need to bring out your big guns and get really, really mad to get your point across adequately. This is one of those times.
Since anger is a superpower which can be alchemised into passion to evoke change, I write this angry article in the hope that I can be a voice for the teachers still inside the system with very little energy left to fight.
Watch: NSW Teachers Federation marched down Dean Street, calling for better pay and working conditions. Post continues after video.
Earlier this month, reports were made from the Teachers Federation that NSW was facing a 'large and growing shortage' of teachers.
While this finding is a sad reflection of the state our system is in, the finding is far from surprising. As an ex-teacher who helps hundreds of women make big life changes, a large portion of my clients are teachers (and nurses, where circumstances are no better) planning their next move. While you might think I’d be happy my business is thriving, I can’t get past the feeling of sadness and frustration every time a once-passionate teacher lands inside of my inbox looking for a way out.
The landscape was abysmal before COVID, now, it’s out of control. Teachers are leaving the system in droves and often, it is with a heavy and defeated heart.
Pre-COVID, teachers were already drowning in the depths of administration, reporting, marking and class sizes; the pandemic became their anchor, pulling them further into the ocean of expectations. This anchor was made out of the online programs they built (overnight) from scratch, the extra documentation, the constant interruptions while delivering an overloaded curriculum, and the general feeling that teachers' health, needs and wellbeing was once again unimportant.
Every email, message or registration I receive from a tired teacher is some iteration of 'I just want my life back', 'The conditions have impacted my mental wellbeing' or, 'The workload is unrealistic.' Just last week one of my clients told me, 'I can’t be the mother I want to be, I just have no energy left for my own kids.' It is also not uncommon for a teacher to tell me, 'My husband told me he wants his wife back.' Teachers are drowning with no lifeguard in sight.
Now, I want to make this abundantly clear: these women are all highly organised, extremely intelligent, self-motivated and driven professionals. Generally speaking, teachers are a special breed of productive beast who can hold their bladder for an unnatural period of time and have the patience, understanding and compassion of Mother Teresa. This is not an issue with time management or emotional regulation, so let’s refrain from the insulting suggestion that they may need some 'professional development' or 'resilience training'. What they need is a system which gives them the resources, time and conditions which allows them to do what they love most... teach. Since they are smart enough to see that is not happening, brilliant teachers are leaving their classrooms behind.