There’s a bit of a backlash against the teaching strikes going on at the moment. Not that bashing teachers is anything new, there are regular media updates on how awful teachers all are, and I constantly see posters on TES Forums kicking teachers when they are down.
In particular, I want to address the idea that some people have that a teacher who is being targeted for bullying and has developed mental health issues as a result is just soft and not up to the job. It is shockingly usually other teachers that hold this view, teachers who’ve never had a problem and so are wholly unsympathetic.
Firstly, I think it’s symptomatic of the bullying culture we have in education that teachers turn against each other like this. It’s every teacher for themselves, and some teachers try to make themselves look good by distancing themselves from a struggling teacher. They distance themselves from them by joining in with the bullying as well.
The view is usually that a teacher off with stress is either too pathetic to do the job, or is utterly incompetent and can’t handle being told they are incompetent. They think that getting a sick note from your GP is a cop out and that they have chosen to do it as part of a plan to get away with not doing the work, or cover up the fact that they are rubbish.
Stress is a serious mental illness which stops people from functioning properly in a lot of aspects, including work.
Regarding stress as not being a real illness is part of the stigma that people with mental health issues battle every day. There are scores of campaigns and support groups aimed at correcting this and helping those suffering this discrimination. Perpetuating this will not only contribute further to someone’s mental illness, but is also completely contradictory to the values we try to teach students about respect and supporting each other.
GPs are health professionals and don’t just write people off work in order to do them a favour, they issue sick notes because someone is sick.
To suggest that GPs regularly contribute to a teacher’s manipulative plan to get away with doing no work undermines GPs. I think it also is a typical attitude of SMT whereby they presume everyone else has, or should have, the same values as them. I live for my job, and so should all teachers. I am manipulative, and so I suspect everyone else is being manipulative too.
Also, if these teachers who are turning on their struggling peers think they are so untouchable, they should beware. Bullying happens randomly and can happen to anyone in teaching – even if you have done nothing wrong, evidence against you can be easily manufactured. Even if you are an outstanding teacher every day of your life, you might be too expensive, or too near to retirement, and you might be targeted in order to replace you with a cheap NQT.
No, we’re not just being soft. These are genuine issues within education. Managers and government are trying to avoid dealing with such a big problem by downplaying it and turning the tables, and it is not just unsympathetic, but completely discriminatory and a terrible example to the students.
I maintain that the only way to ‘fix’ education is to properly fix this issue.
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