Going back to work

Hi there. I'm due to go back to my teaching job soon on a phased return after nearly 6 months off with depression, my second long absence in the last couple of years. I'm trying to build up stamina and physical fitness before the 60 hour weeks kick in by taking up running (the couch to 5k programme) and doing lots of walking., but I'm less sure of how to prepare mentally. I'm trying to pluck up courage to join a local yoga class to learn some relaxation techniques. Does anyone have any other ideas? I need to make it work this time as my OH is unemployed and I can't afford to lose my job! Thanks

12 Replies

  • Hi there

    I can empathise so well with this post. I'm also a teacher and had some time off last year. I completely understand how you're probably feeling about going back. Loads of teachers have depression, but unfortunately many of us get beaten by it. The thing with teaching, there's no such thing as a phased return. The pressure and stress will be waiting for you in your pigeon hole as you walk through the door! What do you teach? I am in year five at the moment. I started C25K too, but unfortunately gave up after a few weeks and didn't get back into it.

    There are a few things I would recommend. A big one is to try and keep work and home life separate. I culled a load of colleagues from Facebook and stopped seeing them so much out of school. It's not that they aren't nice people, it's just I felt like I was constantly in work. As you say, 60 hours is bad enough!

    Use your PPA wisely, and keep out of the staffroom at lunchtime. That way, you keep on top of your work and take less home on the weekends.

    I talked to my doctor last week about managing bad spells in work. She gave me some practical tips like taking supplements of Vitamin B and Evening Primrose Oil, and avoiding eating sugary snacks between lessons. Apparently this causes a temporary high, but the comedown afterwards is worse. Apparently the best school-day snack is a slice of brown bread with marmite. I'm still working my way up to that one!

    Trying to get an early (ish) night makes me feel less tearful in the morning, and things like ironing uniforms and making sandwiches the night before gives me an extra ten minutes in bed in the morning. Great for a bit of feel good factor!

    I hope the return goes ok. I'm here most days, so just give me a nudge if you want to chat!

    Lucy xx

  • Thanks Lucy. Good to have someone to chat with who understands the situation but isn't directly involved.

    My main problem is that the school has been through a failed ofsted when most of the staff (myself included) were put on capability. I somehow got through it (everyone else either took early retirement or resigned) but it's left me feeling that anything short of perfect is going to bring the world crashing down on my head again. I need to stop being a perfectionist and chill a bit but that's easier said than done.

    Teaching y6 so straight back to SATs! Thankfully my head has been incredibly supportive and is trying to convince the governors that she can afford to keep on the teacher who has been covering for me for a few more weeks so I don't have to go straight back into the fray. Fingers crossed!

    Thanks again. I'll let you know how it goes.

  • I'd say that not resigning shows incredible strength of character and I am sure your head recognises this. There are many, many reasons why teachers end up on capability, and one of them is lack of training opportunities. Things move so quickly in education and what is seen as good practice is then frowned upon a couple of years later. Eeek @ year six and SATS! We don't have them in Wales any more, but children do have to sit the national numeracy and literacy tests, which are a bit stressful! X

  • Hi there. I also understand where you are coming from on this one.

    I am off at the moment and have been since mid-December. I am definitely not fit to work and also empathise as going back is difficult unless you are fully fit and able to cope with what is a relentless workload. It doesn't help that other people don't see what we all have to do in a day and then more work during evenings and weekends. It's always hard to draw the line and say I've done enough especially as schools seem to want more than a pound of flesh these days to keep their 'good' rating. I personally am sick of being shown pieces of paper with the idea that we can all become 'outstanding'!!!! It's never good to show a 'perfectionist' this on a regar basis as all it does is drive us into the ground because we try too hard to obtain the 'impossible' on a daily basis. This pressure has led to me developing huge 'anxiety' since October and then when my mum had her breast cancer spread in late November that was enough to send me into breakdown mode. I am now considering leaving my job for the improvement of my mental health. Which is not an easy decision since I have taught for 19 years and once upon a time it was the only job I wanted to do. But I need to look forward to the next 20 years and I actually don't like where I see the job heading. It sure doesn't get easier with age! So...I agree totally with what Lucy advised and I wish you all the best every step of the way on your return to work x

  • Hi catgirl. Good to hear from you but I'm sorry you're having such a tough time. It's so hard to find the emotional and physical resources to cope with family crises when you're so ground down and exhausted. I'm still trying to forgive myself for being the only member of my family who wasn't with my dad when he died last year because it never even occurred to me that I could take a day off to be with him! How stupidly workaholic is that? So if you still have your mum, make her your priority and don't learn the hard way that it's only a job and you're not indispensable.

    Like you, I'm desperately looking for a way out after 20 years in a job I used to love, but as the sole earner with kids at uni and my daughter's wedding coming up I just can't afford it. At least wedding planning helps take my mind off things.

    I have a meeting in a couple of weeks with the head and HR to sort out exactly what is happening so I'll be in touch when I know more x

  • Hi again and thanks for your reply. It does depend on your individual circumstances of course but I am fast coming to the conclusion that as an owner of just one lifetime on this planet I do not wish to spend it stressed out and with a battered self esteem. So even as main wage earner I am choosing to move to a cheaper area for housing so our mortgage will be cheaper and then I can do something different for work. I may even be able to take a year off from work altogether which I should have done when my 10 year old daughter was born but was unable to take due to being main wage earner. I intend to take control of my life back from the education system and from my anxiety/depression. You will too if you can put into place some or all of those ideas that Lucy suggested. I too will turn to those if I go back to work to work my notice period.

  • I love this reply! Shall we start a depressed teachers chat!!! X

  • Me too! I'm sure there would be plenty more people out there who could join in!

  • Hi there It's always hard going back to work and I think that's pretty natural

    For anyone who is out of work for a while. I think Lucy has covered all the

    Bases and spoke fromThe coal face of a Mum with a busy life.

    The only thing I could say is when I went back to work I used to take little

    Five min. Breathing breaks. I realise as a teacher that might not be so easy, but

    I'm sure you will be able. This was from the Mindfullness Course I did

    Which did help me. That and realising that it will get easier and you liked

    Your job so I'm sure you will be ok.

    We will be here and just take it day by day, because getting too much into

    The future would be counterproductive. Best of luck anyway.


  • Hi there,

    I empathise with you completely as Im going through the same process. I have just been off for three weeks and Im going back part time next week. I also work in school but Im a teaching assistant.

    My wife works full time as a teacher and the job is so demanding. I enjoy working with children so I dont want to give it up and part time is a good compromise. Have you thought about part time for the first few weeks. It is nearly the Easter break anyway.

    Have you got other people at school who can support you with planning as that is the hardest job of a teacher. Dont do more than you need to for the first few weeks.

    Good Luck

    David x

  • Thanks David. I'm not actually going back until after Easter but stressing about it already! It's a very short half term with Easter being so late and it will be a phased return so I won't be full time straight away. Like you I love being with the children - it's all the pointless paperwork and data crunching that I can't stand. I hate kids being reduced to percentage points on a spreadsheet!

    Good luck with your own return to work. Let us know how you get on x

  • Yes just play the game with the paperwork and then enjoy being with the children.

    Maybe go in to say hello before the holidays.

    We are here for support.

    David x

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