How’s your mental health? Not too good it seems, according to the Easter Teacher Conferences. Dr Mary Bousted of the ATL cites some grim statistics. More of you are going more bonkers. It’s up 38 per cent in the last two years; 55 per cent have “mental health issues”, 80 per cent “stress”, 69 per cent “exhaustion”, 57 per cent “anxiety” and 47 per cent “headaches”. Crumbs. And Jan Nielsen, of the NUT, calls Ofsted “a regime of terror”. More crumbs.
Meanwhile Middle England call you “bloody whingers”, Daily Mail trolls suggest you “grow some” and the Gove, that paragon of mental health, deems you enemies within. Marvellous.
I’m surprised that you’re not all madder.
Your day starts at dawn with a yard of coffee and then you’re phoning rubbish parents, planning Ofsted lessons – and marking 8th years – and invigilating, data basing, measuring, modelling, mentoring – and marking 9th years – and doing dinner duties, grabbing a bun, glugging more coffees, meeting line managers, social workers, shrinks, cops – and marking mocks – and ticking more boxes, writing reports in triplicate, doing detentions with florid maniacs or Twilight Workshops with world class buffoons – and marking A levels – and fixing more coffee to stay awake and smile pastorally at parents’ evening, where you’ll be threatened by a raging thug, who wants to know why you don’t “learn ‘im anything” – and who knows where you live. This is peripheral to six hours of teaching 180 pupils.
Then you crawl home, have a fag, boil something in a bag, plan next day’s lessons, ruin most relationships and, too knackered to sleep, ponder the multiplicities of your professional failures and take sleepers or ketamine and can hardly surface at dawn without that yard of coffee to peddle again a curriculum in which you cannot believe to knackered pupils who must get their levels up to compete with the darling democracies of China and Singapore.
You’re wired, trashed, bonkers. You need to work less. But you can’t. You must put food on the table. You need a pay rise. Fat chance – unless you work more. Who says? The Gove. You must make a “wider contribution to school life”. Eh? When? Like what? Like weeding the school garden, pruning some roses, driving the minibus, painting the foyer, cleaning the toilets or attending Booster Weekends for marginal halfwits.
But, but, you might just go madder or drop dead. No matter. There’s an infinite supply of whizzo Teach First types or the randomly unqualified to replace you, until they too go barking mad and pack it in.
All this does nothing for my mental health. It makes me want to eat my head. Or strike. Ah, there is one. In June. Rather.
Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.