We see it all too often as teachers. The demands of the job get too much, and anyone you try to talk to can’t see anything about your job other than school holidays. You put up with it because every teacher is. It’s just a part of being a teacher.
Students are behaving worse and worse. There’s always one parent who needs to remind you of all of the things that you aren’t doing to support their child. The students do test after test and if they don’t perform, it’s you’re fault.
Teachers are burning out at a record rate. This job has always been physically and emotionally exhausting, but we’re seeing more teachers burn out now than ever before. Percent of teachers burn out and leave the profession within five years.
As I’m just about to embark on my fifth year teaching, I’ve noted a few things that have made me want to throw in the towel:
Student behaviour is getting worse.
As a new teacher, I heard this from the older teachers from the first year I started.
“Student’s are getting worse” they’d say, “they don’t listen and don’t care anymore.”
I used to scoff at this. Surely it’s not that bad. They’re just remembering a time when they found teaching easier, the job itself can’t have changed that much.
If you sit down and listen to them though, you’ll learn a few things. High schools around Australia are struggling to manage behaviour. The most shocking piece of evidence is how the rate of assaults on teachers by students has increased.
There are many reasons for this. From the shoddy implementation of the hot new behaviour management strategy to the trauma of growing up in the world today, it can’t be the students’ fault. That doesn’t change the fact that the world has changed, and our students and schools feel it.
School expectations are getting higher.
Schools are placing ever increasing demands on teachers. As we have students coming through with more complex problems and behaviours, there is naturally more for teachers to deal with.
All this is added to the admin pressure. Teachers are reporting a greater percentage of their time being taken up by admin than ever before, to the point where it is becoming a key concern for our unions.
The prime example of this came during lockdowns and online learning. Teachers were expected to do twice as much work, half of which they had never done before. Schools had to go back online intermittently after lockdowns because the number of sick staff meant that there were not enough people to supervise the students.
Teachers are expected to make things work, regardless of the situation. We are told time and time again that we just need to make it work, and teachers are feeling undervalued as human beings yet alone professionals.
We have no one to talk to.
If you aren’t a teacher, it can be very difficult to understand what happens in a teacher’s day to day life.
Many teachers know first hand that they need to be picky about who they debrief with after a hard day, and the mainstream media clearly doesn’t care if it understands the teacher perspective or not.
The burnout cascade.
We are are now seeing the cascading effects of this burn out. Believe it or not, there are plenty of employers outside of schools who are looking to hire people with teaching experience, and yet more teachers are changing careers entirely.
As more teachers leave, the ones that want to stay are placed under even more pressure. The current teacher shortage in Australia has demisters this perfectly; I know that I was at 130% of a full-time teaching load for most of 2022 because we simply couldn’t find enough teachers.
There is also a growing principal shortage, which school sectors are trying to manage by fast-tracking young teachers to leadership through training and scholarships. Current school principals are becoming deeply concerned that we’re in for a wave of principals who, while they know how to lead a school, don’t have the experience to truly understand the people they are leading.
The problems that teachers are facing are not easy to fix, and it hasn’t been a sudden change that has led to this burn out. Decades of the public perception of teachers being degraded by media and politicians coupled with the complexities of being a teenager in a world that is quickly falling apart has meant that many teachers are at their limit.