It is the end of another school year in parts of the world. It signals a coming relief for teachers. I came across two teachers on their lunch break today who commented that the smiles on their faces were growing as the countdown to the end of the year approached. Both stated that they love their work and their students but that they were excited about the break. It made me imagine the teachers as holding their breath until they get to exhale in a few short days.
On the same day, I met with another teacher who was also excited by the oncoming break because the break also marks the start of an extended leave period. The teacher explained that after many years of teaching they were feeling worn out and unhealthy. ‘I can’t teach well if I am not well’, they said.
These teachers are describing the tendency for teaching to become overwhelming with the emotional load of teaching. Teachers are expected to manage competing priorities such as increasing administrative demands, as well as the relational classroom elements, as well as the business of teaching. Sometimes these facets are at odds with each other, or they are sometimes just so intense, and a teacher can feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster.
The holidays are a time for teachers to recuperate but is it enough? It wasn’t enough for the dedicated teacher taking an extended leave out of the best interest of their students, and it is not enough for the 40—50% of early career teachers who exit the profession each year.
There is no better time to show support for our teachers than now. Remind them how appreciated they are by telling them so. Even better still, show them by prioritising their wellbeing over other competing agendas. We need to look out for our teachers; otherwise, there is a real risk of education being limited for our young.
Teachers, I hope you have a well-deserved break and feel rejuvenated enough at the end to do it all again. You mean the world to your students and society at large. Imagine where we would be without them.