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Unhappy Teachers

Most of us have bad days at work now and then: days when we’re feeling grumpy, days we’re under pressure because of an enormous workload, or days when nothing seems to go right.

But on occasion, unhappiness at work may last for longer than a day.

We have many teachers who are unhappy, looking for work outside the classroom, lacking funds, and are ready to leave the field all together. I have taught for seven years now, and I’m not sure if this is just a problem in the state I reside in, but I have come across so many sad and complaining teachers and it seems to me that the number is steadily increasing. As a teacher, I am personally aware of the reasons why some good teachers are leaving the classroom.

This is a major concern because if we have teachers all over Nigeria who are unhappy in their roles, it means we also have students who are suffering in both academic and non-academic ways. If our teachers do not want to be in the classroom, it is only natural for students to feel this resentment and displaced animosity. This situation begs to ask the question: Why would students want to be in the classroom if their teachers do not want to be there?

As teachers, we set the tone, the mood, and deliver the expectations in the classroom on a daily basis. From the minute our students walk into the classroom, the energy shared from the teacher sets the tone of the day, either positive or negative. Our non-verbal language sends messages we are not aware of, and thus, travels to each and every student.

As a teacher, teaching is the only profession I know I’m truly making a difference. The gifts my students bring every day can never be replaced. Teaching is a gift, an honour, and should be treated as such. Let me just use this moment to thank all my students who make coming to work every day special. My heart blesses you.

So, the questions I’m asking are: Did you leave or are you leaving the teaching profession? Do you plan to stay? Why or why not? Are you experiencing teacher burnout? Is there something about the teaching profession that attracts people with negative attitudes, or are our jobs so stressful that it causes many teachers to become spiteful?

I feel many reasons or a combination of reasons may contribute to a sense of unhappiness in teaching. It could be the workload. It is a popular misconception that teachers have a short working day. The school day may be shorter than the standard office day, but teachers put in many extra hours before and after the school day and at the weekends. There is so much to do: planning lessons, marking and grading assignments, assessing students, inputting data, organizing and running extra-curricular activities, meetings and taking on wider-school roles and responsibilities.

It could be the lack of support. Being a new teacher can be especially overwhelming. Without the proper support – emotionally, financially and professionally – from the school administration and colleagues, it’s tough to make a go of it. Plus, there seems to be little or no old-fashioned respect for teachers today.

It could be unruly students. One teacher I spoke with used the word ‘abominable’ to describe behaviour in the classroom, and most teachers will tell you that disciplining students is one of the toughest parts of their job.

It could be the difficult parents, and how their disrespect about teaching seeps into the classroom from what is heard at home

A sad teacher may also have been unsuccessful in applying for a promotion or may be experiencing tension with one or more colleagues. He may dislike the work of teaching, see it as lacking challenge or being monotonous, and see no way out. The conditions under which he works may have deteriorated. Or his professional unhappiness may have spilt over from personal unhappiness due to illness, relationship difficulties, financial problems, bereavement and so on.

And as much as some teachers have many reasons to love their job, there are many more reasons to hate it.

So…What do you say, educators? What do you think are the biggest reasons why teachers quit?

If you are reading this and are unhappy in teaching, I suggest you read an inspirational book, get connected with enthusiastic teachers and try and resolve the tensions that exist between you and your colleagues. If your unhappiness is connected with the school you are in, please get another job in a different school. Talk to someone. Please, talk to someone. My school offers the services of a school psychologist who gives support through counselling. I engage mine on days I feel upbeat, and it helps a lot. Sometimes, we just need someone to talk to.

In work as in life, we all need something that gives us hope, something to look forward to.

So, you either get busy living or get busy dying.