May is Mental Health Awareness Month

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to say a little something about mental health and teaching. I love being a teacher, but sometimes I wonder if it’s just too hard and if I would be happier in another profession.

I feel overburdened in my job as a teacher. On top of my full time job in the classroom teaching my students, I also work in the mornings and in the evenings outside the school day. I do lesson planning, grading, meetings, and communication for several hours in my personal time everyday. Let alone that I’m not being paid for this extra work, it is stressful to not have enough time to live and breath and rest. The lessons never stop approaching. If I don’t do the work, we will have nothing to do in class. Everything that happens in class is 100% because of the teacher. It’s a lot of pressure!

Some Teachers Feel Overstressed in Their Jobs

It’s only natural that some teachers feel overstressed in their jobs. The extra time I need to work each day takes away time from my family. It keeps me up at night and disrupts my sleep. It’s too much work and too little downtime to recharge my batteries. Sometimes it really catches up with me, and I am so grateful for the school breaks during the year. Check out my blog post Needing Chill Time as Teacher! And as a Mom! to read more.

Then there’s the stressful stuff that happens in the classroom. Student behavior can make my job extremely challenging. Someone half asleep who I need to micromanage through everything. Bad behavior and distractions that interfere with my painstakingly planned lessons. There’s also straight up insubordination or a student who makes everyone less safe. It’s only natural that some teachers feel overstressed in their jobs.

When the stress gets really bad, like really really bad, it can lead to burnout. I have personally known teachers who burned out and had to take time off or leave the profession entirely. I also experienced burnout around my fourth year teaching. It actually started me on my own mental health journey. Check out my blog posts Teacher Burnout and I Had a Panic Attack at School. It Impacts My Life and My Career as a Teacher to read more about that.

Students Are Stressed

Students are stressed, too. They just don’t look good. They don’t look happy. They come in, tired. They don’t want to move around. They just want to sit there and zone in on something like the wall or a pencil. They look sad. They don’t come out of their shells. They are withdrawn. They don’t share in the laughs or intrigue with the rest of the class. They are not prepared. They don’t pay attention. They struggle with the material. They fail.

I’m not saying this about all of my students, but it can be a big chunk of some of my classes. Some might just have a bad day here and there. What I see is that some students aren’t doing great. Check out my blog post My Students are Struggling and it Makes my Job Harder as a Teacher to read more.

My students who are struggling are dealing with much bigger problems than I can solve with scratch paper and a calculator. They are stressed, and sleep-deprived. They spend way too much time on their cellphones. Some have experienced trauma and I would believe it if they had undiagnosed mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. They need love, support, and help. This foundation comes from family, friends, community, and maybe a professional like a therapist or psychologist.

Mental Health Affects Teaching and Learning

I worry about these students. Also unfortunately these situations are a drain on the finite time and attention that a teacher possesses. If I’m reminding someone to take out their pencil everyday, that time adds up. That’s one less question I can ask someone else. That’s a genuine connection I’m missing out on with someone else in my classroom, in my little community that I cultivate and nurture. At the end of the day, it makes teaching harder, and way more stressful.

I have a lot more to say on the topic of mental health, particularly when it comes to my students. Some of their problems interfere with my teaching, and it’s a drain on the education system. These problems and behaviors also impact their learning, and affects the learning of others. I care about all the students out there, and it really hurts me to see them suffer. Stay tuned for more on that.

Mental Health is really important. I make a commitment to look after my mental health. It makes me feel better. I am much happier when I manage my stress. What are your thoughts on mental health and education? Let me know by leaving a comment! I would love to hear from you! If you want to read more about mental health, check out my blog posts:

My Students are Struggling and it Makes my Job Harder as a Teacher

When I Have to Micromanage Students

Needing Chill Time as Teacher! And as a Mom!

What it’s Really Like to be a High School or Middle School Teacher in a Public School

Teacher Burnout

I Had a Panic Attack at School. It Impacts My Life and My Career as a Teacher

Published by How She Teaches

I teach Biology and Earth and Space Science in high school and middle school. I want to share my personal experiences and teaching milestones with anyone who wants to learn.

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