I once saw a picture that said “If your profession has an ‘appreciation day’ it is probably because you are not being paid enough”. I laughed in realisation that truer words were never spoken/written.
Earlier in this month, 5th October, we observed World Teachers’ Day. As we know, teaching is a very noble profession that is not recognised financially as such. Seriously, the amount of work we put in, before hours, during hours and after hours is insane when you factor in all the admin, class sizes, marking, voices from Principal, HODs, Subject Advisors, Parents etc. And then brave teachers have to factor in their safety with regards to the area and sometimes even their own learners capable of causing them harm just for being in disagreement about discipline. All of that for very minimal recognition and incentive.
On October 10th, we then observed World Mental Health Day. I made a dark comment to some of my colleagues, “There must be some sort of correlation between the two days.” Of course we laugh it off, but it is really serious though. Teaching really plays with your mental health. It drains you on a consistent basis and a lot of the time, oddly enough, it may feel lonely when people around you do not understand what you are going through and there is just a general lack of support, which is true for many teachers in many schools.
The feeling is painful and heartbreaking, especially when you have children who refuse to work with you. Chilldren who are so angry at the world and have no way of properly dealing with that anger. That makes any teacher feel bad. Kids tend to believe that teachers are superhumans who make no mistakes and have no personal life and issues other than school to deal with. I wish I could say “I really cannot be everything you want me to be.” And sometime I wish I could say “You are f***ing pissing me off right now,” but I cannot do that either.
Creating a teacher community has really been the answer to most of my problems. I am fortunate to occassionally meet with people who I can vent to without judgement, productively so, because most times I get new ideas to think about and eventually implement into my context. I have learned the importance of having a “Teacher Bestie” at work to speak with. Not someone I want to be exclusive with, but rather someone/some people who I can be real and vulnerable with. We cannot undermine the importance of support in the teaching profession, without it we are bound to suffer and that is a major reason why we lose so many good teachers in the system.
I guess we should have a World Teachers’ Mental Health Day, to emphasise the importance and correlation of the two days. I encourage all teachers to put their best foot forward, but it should never be at the expense of ones mental health and overall safetly. Yes, we want to educate as many children as possible, especially those at a disadvantage to give them hope for a better future. However, we also cannot change people who are not ready to change and that is a sad reality for many children. I wish it were different.
As a teacher, I want to say I COMPLETELY get it! We are tired and drained especially as the year is coming to a close. I want to say hang in there, but also hang in there with me and other people who can support and uplift you.
“It is not sexy to suffer alone” – Old friend. Much love and strength to all teachers!