1. Team dynamics and personality clashes: Teachers, God love them; invest so much of their time and energy into this job. It often comes at the cost of having a personal life as well as time socialising with family and friends. When you invest so much, the job feels more than that. The job starts to feel like your life. It can become teaching first. With so many of us pouring our heart and soul into this job, it is only natural that disputes, conflicts, relationships and opinions take on a more dramatic form. That comment, that decision, that action all of a sudden becomes magnified. The person who said that in the wrong way. That colleague or leader who made a comment that made you feel put down. Worthless. Then you start to stop and think. Hang on; I am giving up all of my life and personal time for what? To be walked over, put down etc. As so much time and energy is invested into teaching, I have watched too many conflicts magnify. Personalities clash. Team dynamics that do not work. People turn on each other. Gossip and rumours begin. This aspect of the job becomes challenging and trying to depersonalise things is tricky. After all, it is hard to take criticism when you give so much that often goes unacknowledged.
2. Data analysis: When do we honestly have time to properly analyse so much data? We spend so much time planning to collect it, discussing which will show us the most amount of student thinking and progress. Then what? To feel like we are drowning in paperwork. So many teachers spend countless hours uploading their results, measuring growth and progress. As meetings and school time do not permit this to be done, majority of this is done in personal time. It is expected and part of your job description. It is important, relevant and essential in today’s growth measured world. Yet when do we do this? This is a major factor that I believe contributes to teacher stress and that constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Drowning in paperwork. Yes, technology makes it easy at the click of a button. That still does not help when you have kids asking you questions or needing your assistance. It often feels like wasted and meaningless hours when the data is not used properly.
3. Parents: Yes, there I said it. I have been blessed with the most amazing, generous and supportive parents. Ninety nine percent of the time. There is always that one that makes your life a living nightmare. One who questions your every move and every decision. One who passionately disagrees that their child would never do that. Part of you wants to scream, “So I called this meeting and am wasting my own time for what? A lie”. The distrust and disbelief in schools by parents is often unjustified and misguided. There is confusion over current curriculum and educational trends. I have seen and heard some teachers being spoken to with utter disrespect. This is a frustrating element of the job. People are so quick to jump on the negative yet not in a hurry to celebrate the positives. With the constant drive towards community building, the issue of parents crossing the line continues to present new and interesting challenges. Challenges that can be too much for some teachers.
4. Wasted and irrelevant meetings: We have all been to them. Numerous amounts of them I am sure. Meetings where all you do is sit there and think about the million other things that you could be doing. Do not get me wrong, the big picture meetings with visions, questions, reflections and actions are powerful. Discussion and rich discussion, although time consuming, is and will always be essential in moving forward and change. It is more the wasted time with administrative stuff that could be presented in a document or sheet. One of the most successful ways that I have experienced to combat this is an agenda given before the meeting containing summary information and important dates given. All of that stuff is placed on a document, people have ten minutes to read it and then any discussion points are timed. Simple. Or it should be. Pointless meetings often create frustration and discontent.
5. Exhaustion and lack of time: I find myself constantly saying “Wow, they would be great if I had time”. We all experience it. The million and one brilliant ideas, displays, learning experiences and professional development things that we would like to try. Amazing. Exciting. Engaging. In my head. Reality clicks in and you realise that you were awake at 3 am thinking of things that cannot possible be done within the strict time constraints of this job. Time runs out and we are after all, only human. You cram so much into any given day that you almost limp out the door. It feels like you are never at your best because so many other things take up time. Time that we could be setting up that amazing display. Time that we could be creating and developing that rich curriculum. Time to trial things that we learnt at professional development. We are the jack of all trades yet it feels like we don’t have the time to be a master of one.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet. We get to see little faces light up with excitement, joy and engagement. We hear the “ah ha” moments that make you proud. You know that you make a difference. However, the reality is that teaching is not always like that. With the positives come the challenges. Challenges that often prove too much for some people to bear or come at a great cost. Teaching is an exceptionally hard job. We need to start addressing the aspects of the job that cost us good teachers. We need to do this now before the cost becomes a shortage of great teachers. The only people who suffer when we lose good teachers are the children. Our future.