After 20 years of teaching, I have decided to take a break. I have simply ‘hit the wall’. I am physically and mentally exhausted. I have come to the realisation that I have burnt myself out by trying to maintain a workload which I feel has become completely unmanageable.
I used to be able to fit adequate sleep and regular exercise into my weekly routine. As a PDHPE teacher and sports coordinator I know full well the benefits that these provide to physical and mental health and wellbeing. I have only been able to fit in playing netball on a Saturday (in between marking assessments) and have rarely used my yoga membership.
My working day was starting at 4am as I was no longer able to sleep. I could go off to sleep alright as I was exhausted at the end of each day, but would wake up early with my mind racing with all the jobs that I had to do and deadlines that needed to be met. I couldn’t switch off any more. I barely took breaks at work as there simply wasn’t enough time. I would eat at my desk or on the run.
It started to affect my health (constant fatigue, dizziness, headaches, loss of appetite and pain/injury associated with prolonged sitting).
I feel that more and more demands have been placed on teachers without adequate release time and professional development. This has become worse in the last five years.
Teachers are expected to analyse NAPLAN data to plan and teach engaging lessons that cater for the diverse range of learners, incorporate technology, manage challenging behaviours, affirm students, respond to endless emails from colleagues/parents/students, create lesson resources, update programs, devise assessments, mark assessments, give timely feedback, chase up work that has not been submitted, log data into Sentral, call parents, attend meetings and the list goes on.
I lost track of when one day would end and the next would start. It was hard to ‘clock off’ especially with emails going to my phone. I could access them at any time of the day or night (and work related emails would be sent after hours with a prompt reply expected – gone are the days when a 48 hour reply to an email is considered acceptable!).
In regard to professional development, most of the time I had to organise my own which meant staying late at school, leaving lessons for the casual teacher, and then travelling to Sydney, adding to the time burden. There is not a lot of local professional development opportunities in my region.
I love teaching and am still very passionate about it. I have not lost the desire to teach. I am just completely exhausted and hoping that I can return to teaching once I can devise a strategy to make the workload manageable again. I need to find a work/life balance. I want to be able to spend quality time with my family and continue teaching for the next 20 years as I feel that I still have so much more to give.