To be a teacher you need to be mentally fit. Of course, being physically fit helps but this is a profession where mental toughness counts more.
Workload warriors are always banging the drum for a reduced workload and that’s a good thing. We could all do with more downtime for tea and cake.
But teaching isn’t for the work-shy. This is a job that has bags and bags of work. It will always be a job where the load will be heavy.
What seems to matter more is our approach to the work in front of us and the way we handle the bags and interact with them. This is far more than just intelligent time-management. This is whether you are fit for teaching and whether you fit teaching.
Teaching is made up of many personalities but it seems to me that some fair better than others when it comes to managing the stresses and strains. Those that can meet the challenges of a complex job face-on without losing face or crumbling under pressure display high levels of self-control, they are achievement orientated and have a low reactivity to stress.
The way they deal with stress is interesting because they don’t see stress as being all bad. In many cases they know that being stressed can also make them stronger not weaker unable to cope. Teaching is full-on and that means teachers are repeatedly exposed to a range of pressures. But many teachers are super-resilient because of the repeated exposure to these stressors – like building a muscle through training, repeated stress makes them more resilient.
This stress inoculation or toughening is what some people experience as a positive rather than a negative and gives them greater emotional stability. But it’s worth pointing out that the stressors we are talking about are acute, controllable and moderate in intensity. Stressors that are chronic, uncontrollable and severe cause damage to our physical and mental health.
Teacher ‘combat’ experiences can help some people become more self-disciplined and able to cope with adversity. They develop a hardiness. Where stress makes us stronger, this is what Nassim Taleb describes as ‘antifragility‘.
Put simply, too many teachers are mismatched to their jobs. They became teachers ‘by accident’ or seriously underestimated the demands of the job or misjudged their own characters. In many cases, students are given poor careers advice. What they need is quality guidance to help them define their skills, attributes and personality rather than become yet another teaching casualty.