In this culture of whinging about work and hating on everything, I came to a realisation that I actually really like my job and my school. As my husband said, you just need to choose which bulls*** you’re happy to put up with.
I’m going to preface the rest of this article with two things. Firstly, forgive my seemingly rambling introduction for the next little bit. It’s how I got to my own place of loving my school and I’m sure many of you will relate to it, but if you’re genuinely not interested please skip to the section “Accepting The Reasons You Love Your School”. Secondly, I ask you to come at this article with an open mind and a willingness to potentially alter your outlook a little, and to not be offended by the concept that there are teachers out there who just don’t like their school.
I’ve worked in a few different schools in my short career so far. I’ve liked and disliked each of them for different (sometimes similar) reasons.
My current school is far from perfect. There are difficult children, difficult staff, difficult expectations. But these sorts of problems can and will be found in every single workplace in the entire world. They are certainly not unique to my school, or even my profession.
I used to get really annoyed and upset at it all; I’d come home angry or crying about something that had happened, really letting things get to me. This happened at every school I worked in – there were absolutely great things in each school, but I would let them be overshadowed by the things that got on my nerves.
Then one day my husband mentioned something that changed my outlook.
He said that I just seemed really unhappy with everything.
That one sentence struck something deep down in the core of me and rang with such a harsh truth that I couldn’t brush it off. I began thinking about why that was the case, and realised with the wisdom of hindsight that it stemmed from being unhappy with my work. We spend most of our waking life at work, and I was just not happy with it, particularly at the new school I had moved to.
Leaving The New For The Old
There was nothing particularly wrong with the new school. I’d been on the hunt for a good 4 months to get a job there, and when I finally scored one I was so excited. It is such a fantastic school for the students – there are so many great opportunities, a strict-but-fair culture, absolutely fantastic facilities, even a staff uniform (which is something I really like for a few different reasons, mainly that if students have to wear them, staff should too, but also because it saves thinking about what’s appropriate and nice to wear each day). It should have been perfect for me, but after working there for a while I realised I just wasn’t happy.
As some of you might know, when I was working in London I was diagnosed with stress, anxiety, and depression – all three caused in part, big or small, by my work there. Working at that new school back here in Aus was bringing back similar feelings, which were no doubt compounded by my anxiety over developing anxiety and depression again – a vicious, self-fulfilling cycle.
I don’t think it was anything in particular, I just wasn’t into it. I missed my old school, and made the decision to try return there. I sent some emails and was lucky enough that they had a position I could fill starting this term. I jumped on the chance, and immediately felt like a weight had been lifted. I knew then that I had definitely made the right choice for me. The thought of returning to my old school made me much happier than the thought of staying at the new one.
I was worried that people wouldn’t understand my choice, and so was nervous to talk about it. I was leaving a truly fantastic private school to return to a somewhat difficult public one. Returning to lower pay and bigger behaviour management.
In trying to justify my choice to my husband, he said another thing that really struck home.
You just need to choose which bulls*** you’re happy to put up with.
Now I’m not happy with swearing on this site, but I didn’t want to alter his words. The choice of that particular word really hit home.
As soon as he said it, I began thinking about the different types of challenges each school presented, and realised I was much happier ‘putting up with’ the ones at my old school. That realisation really cemented my choice for me, and made me even happier with my decision.
Once I’d realised I was quite happy to accept the challenges of my school, I went one step further and decided to make a conscious effort to love being back there. I guess I psyched myself up a bit, and I’ve found it’s made a huge difference to my work life as well as my personal life.
Accepting The Reasons You Love Your School
It’s very easy to hate something, especially your job. You can find 1,000 reasons in a single day why you don’t like it and why you should leave. I think it shows a great strength of character to instead find reasons why you love it. Or at least like it.
There is crap everyone is able to put up with, and other crap you aren’t. It will be different for each person, and different for each day. Overall, you need to work our exactly what you’re willing and happy to put up with, and what you can/will not.
Our brains seem to be wired to find it easier to dwell on the negative, to talk about negative experiences, to click on negative headlines. We sit with our colleagues and friends and whinge and moan about how hard our jobs are, why that particular colleague or student makes like difficult, how the expectations are unreasonable. We sometimes feed off each other’s negativity, and by doing so we encourage more of it.
It’s often harder to focus on positives, and people seem less interested in sharing positive experiences. You might start on a success story with your friend, and they might say ‘oh that’s nice’ and move on to another topic. You might write something lovely on Facebook and get a handful of likes.
Other people’s success can make you feel less successful, but their challenges can be easy to relate to and sometimes even make you feel a bit better about yourself.
It can be really hard to accept the positive things about your job, particularly if you are intent on hating it or if the people you work with are intent on hating it. You really do need to make a conscious decision to look for the positives, and that can be incredibly difficult. You need to be in the right head space to allow it to happen, otherwise you’re banging your head against your own brick wall.
I want to tell you, right here and right now, that it’s ok to like your school.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking, or even loving, your school. It might seem like a weird concept, but you are actually allowed, heck I even encourage you, to enjoy your work in your current workplace.
It sometimes seems like if you let it be known that you’re actually happy with and enjoy working at your school that you are a bit on the outer. People will question you, remind you of all the bad things, but that’s ok too. Let them. But then let yourself let go of those things and remember why you like it.
If you can allow yourself to like it, you’ll find each day that little bit more enjoyable.
It makes it easier to handle the challenges when you are willing to accept the positive things. You will build up a reservoir of good things in your mind that you can fall back on when times are tough. You’ve got a very difficult student in this class? That’s ok, you’ll get through this lesson fine and next lesson there’s that little group off to the side who you really enjoy working with.
Positivity Makes A Tremendous Difference To The Staff Room Culture
Since I’ve made the conscious decision to like my school, I’m trying to be Number 6 of the 9 Fantastic Teacher Colleagues – the Optimist. I know that person can be overwhelmingly annoying, so I’m trying to not be, but when real negativity seeps into a staff room it can turn into a toxic wound.
I’ve been in so many negative staff rooms that it makes me a little sad. When you encourage whinging and moaning about your job, it makes it ever easier to hate on it. When you get a whole group of those people together, it festers and becomes ever more unpleasant to work in. Everyone builds on the negativity to the point where it seems like you can’t hold a conversation without it turning to the reasons why you’re unhappy with the place.
Negativity breeds negativity.
And negativity leads to increasing levels of unhappiness. Increasing levels of unhappiness lead to burn out. Nobody wants burn out.
I’ve also worked in a few very positive staff rooms, like the one I’m currently in. Instead of people actively discussing all the things they hate about the job, they discuss the things they’ve enjoyed that day. We share success stories and encourage each other. It is really such a wonderful place to be in, and I know a big part of that is my willingness to open myself to the positivity and leave out the negativity.
But it’s hard, so very hard sometimes. We still do whinge and moan about things that happen, but instead of focusing on them in a negative way, we try and come up with solutions or resolutions, even if they are only temporary. I’m finding it even more easy to talk about difficulties I’m having, knowing that the people around me want to help, and want to be happy.
Knowing the people around you like their jobs, and want to like their jobs, makes such a difference to the day.
Sometimes Leaving Is The Best Option, Whether You Come Back Or Stay Away
In saying all this, I just know I wouldn’t have been happy staying at the other school. Sometimes you can look for the positives all you like, but still know it’s not right for you.
If you find yourself in the situation where you’re just not happy with your school, you have two options, The first is to try talking to your colleagues and senior leadership team. Try to work out exactly why you are unhappy, and if it’s something that can be fixed. Then decide whether the fix will actually make it better for you, or if you will still be unhappy.
If you find that you’re still just not happy to be there then you really do need to move on. For the sake of yourself, but also for the sake of the school and the students.
If your heart isn’t in it, the students know. They always know. And they feed off that, giving you more reasons to be unhappy. Staff won’t appreciate your constant talk of why you don’t want to be there (assuming you talk about it with them), or the fact that you aren’t putting 100% in any more.
Instead of putting yourself through misery, just go. It might sound harsh, but it will be for the best. You will hopefully find another school where you are happier, or like me you might come to a realisation that you miss your old school enough to want to go back. Either way you should end up in a better place.
If you’re in a situation where you are considering leaving teaching all together, I urge you to instead try another school. Or try supply teaching for a little bit to give yourself some breathing room (assuming you can let go of the crappy supply days at the end of the day).
You might find that another school is a much better fit for you, and you’re happy to stay there. In that case, brilliant! You will find your passion reignited.
You might find though that you just really don’t enjoy teaching any more. In that case, also brilliant! At least you gave it another shot and can say for certain that it isn’t for you anymore. Move on to another career that makes you happy, knowing full well you did your best and casting no negative judgements on yourself.
My Challenge To You
I challenge you to find one reason why you love your school each day this week. Write them down on post-it notes or in your phone, and at the end of the week spend a couple of minutes reflecting on them.
Then, when you’ve reflected on them, share them with at least one other person. Literally say to them:
This random person on the internet challenged me to find one reason why I love my school each day, and I kinda figured why not. Crazy, yea I know, but this is what I came up with…
Then, when you’ve shared them with one other person, share them with me. Either comment on this post or on the one on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and actually tell me why you love your school this week. Use #ILoveMySchool so we can all find our responses!
Is it silly little things like the stupid lock down alarm that sounds ridiculously happy, or the way that one kid always says good morning, or something a colleague has said? Whatever it is, please share and let’s start building on the culture of positivity for our incredible profession!
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.