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To be feeling like I've ruined everything in my life, and I'd like to start again?

(27 Posts)
TypicallyEnglishMustard Fri 22-Jan-16 14:59:49

Apologies, this should definitely be in Staffroom, and it is essentially me just being whiny and attention-seeking, but I thought that others here may have been in similar situations, and could help. I don't feel like I can talk to anyone IRL.

I'm a secondary school English teacher, and I've been sent home from work today because I broke down before tutor time this morning. I'll admit that I have been struggling a lot at work lately, and I've started to feel a constant sense of paranoia, and that someone is always watching me, and waiting for me to mess things up, like have lots of kids under target on data, or for a member of SLT to do a learning walk and my books aren't marked well enough. I've also not been well recently (I have chronic asthma, which I've struggled with loads the last couple of weeks) so I think that's been dragging me down as well.

We had ofsted last year, and did really well on it for the first time in many years, but the workload has actually got much, much bigger this year, e.g. My head of department wants us all to write a full A4 page of individualised feedback per child per half-termly assessment, something I'm struggling to do whilst also keeping up with Year 11 controlled assessment marking, and Year 13 coursework essays, and the children's usual workbooks.

My department is staffed almost exclusively by young women all the same age as me (we are all mid twenties to early thirties), and it's totally cut-throat. Everyone sees everything as a huge competition so they can look good for SLT. I actually have no desire to climb the education ladder, I just want to be a good classroom teacher, but they see me as a threat along with one another, so there's no one I can really turn to in the department for any support, or to speak to about problems.

I really love my job, and I love the kids, especially since becoming a sixth form tutor, but simultaneously I feel that I can't give any more to the job, and they deserve a better teacher who is able to do more for them.

I have a lovely life at home, and a lovely and very supportive fiancé, but I'm not even looking forward to our wedding, as I'm secretly convinced that he's going to find out what an awful person I am, and call everything off and leave me. Also (TMI) I'm always so tired and grouchy and busy in the evenings, and we hardly have sex anymore because of that, and I always feel guilty because he really is so lovely and he actually deserves far better than me.

Also, I feel like we are totally stuck in life, and I need to keep my teaching job, because we are in a tiny rental and desperately saving for a mortgage, which I'm also sure is never going to happen as it just seems very insurmountable. I'd love to have children soon after we are married, but that can't happen in such a small place, so we will probably have to wait for years and years until we can afford to buy a bigger place. My teaching salary is double what my fiancé earns, so I can't really quit on those grounds either.

I'd love to spend the evenings rectifying that by making a bit more money eBaying my old stuff, etc, but there's just no time with school work, even though I'm not paid anymore for it.

Okay, so sorry if you've just read all of that whining. I just feel a bit lost with it all today, and a big part of me feels kind of trapped and like I've ruined absolutely everything, and I'd love it if there could be a start over for life. I'm not really sure what this post is (sorry, I've broken the AIBU rules, as it's not really an AIBU unless you think I am and need to get over myself, which is quite possibly true), maybe a sort of WWYD/has anyone been in a similar place before, and how did you cope? I think I just want someone to talk to really.

DeoGratias Fri 22-Jan-16 15:36:15

Poor you.It sounds horrible.

What about starting with having sex every other day however you feel. That might make you feel better and would also probably suit your fiance.

KitKatCustard Fri 22-Jan-16 15:38:23

Hello. You just sound overwhelmed. There is so much going on in your life that you sound unable to step back and prioritise the things you can, and need to, change.

And briefly, yes, you can change or start again if that's what you want!

Work on one thing at a time....

Kleinzeit Fri 22-Jan-16 16:08:41

You do have a lot on your plate. But I think you were right not put this in a teaching group because this isn’t just about teaching. You said two crucial things: first, you are feeling very anxious and even paranoid about two areas in your life, both areas where (seen from the outside) you are actually doing very well. And second, you broke down and were sent home from work.

So maybe you need to put a higher priority on simply looking after yourself. Not so much on being a “good teacher” or being a “good fiancé” or keeping your boss happy or competing with the others. The feeling that you are not good enough, that your students deserve a better teacher and your fiancé deserves a better wife is not realistic. There’s a mix-up between “I can’t get what I want/need” (a bigger home, children, a fiancé who earns enough so you can stress less, less paperwork, more spare time) and “I am not good enough”. Those are two different things but you are sliding from the first to the second and that is not healthy. That is a place to “start over”.

And for a first step, for the WWYD, in this situation I would ring the GP and make an appointment to talk about how you broke down and your feelings. I’d be looking for some talk therapy (works for me!) And after I’d phoned the GP I’d have a cup of tea and a big plate of choccy biscuits and a hot bath with a book.


WontLetThoseRobotsDefeatMe Fri 22-Jan-16 16:21:37

OP I could have written your post 3 weeks ago. Breaking down at work is fucking awful.

Please please go to your GP. Tell them what you've said here. Don't tell them is work or home or minimise it. Being honest was so, so hard. Admitting to yourself that something is wrong is so, so hard. But you've done it. A huge well done from me.

Be kind to yourself.

strawberrychewits Fri 22-Jan-16 16:25:23

Hello, I am also a female teacher in my late 20s. I also work in a high pressure school with ridiculous workload demands, although that a4 page thing shocked even me! I give it 2 weeks before a member of SLT suggests it in my school now. I have also cried in school due to pressure and many more times at home. I earned more than my fiance and got married in an ofsted year.
I know how difficult it is so here are my attempts at making you feel better;

Firstly you haven't messed anything up, you worked very hard got into a well paid career. Passing a PGCE or equivalent and surviving an NQT year is not something just anyone can do. You say you earn more than your fiance therefore even if you left teaching tomorrow you would do so having made a brilliant financial contribution to your life together.

Secondly more than 50% of teachers now want to leave the profession in the next 5 years. That means you are in the majority. You have not failed the profession the profession has failed you. I won't rant about government changes as you will know better than most how damaging they have been. I actually have friends who were paid to consult on the changes who have never worked in education. The whole thing makes my blood boil.

I know that sense of paranoia. Teaching attracts perfectionists who would be mortified if an imperfection was ever revealed, such as an insufficiently marked book. However in reality the worst thing that would happen in the first instance is that they would tell you to mark it again. The best thing to do is to make your line manager aware, in writing, that you are struggling and ask for support. You don't have to feel paranoid about being caught out if they already know! You need to have a very honest chat about how long tasks take you and what you can realistically complete. People forget that line managers are just people and just because they have set a task it doesn't mean they have actually sat and worked out how long it might take and if it is even possible on top of everything else they have set.

You may also want to contact your union. They are there for support not just legal issues. Who knows you may be doing work that it is not in your contract to do. Or you may be under more pressure from monitoring than is actually allowed. An example might be too many lesson observations.

In terms of money do you have a friend or family member who might ebay things for you for a cut of the profits? Or could your fiance do it? Remember you and your fiance are a team and it is not all purely on your shoulders.

In terms of sex. I know it is difficult but do try because it might chill you out! Realistically it doesn't take long (in terms of if you have enough free time) it is just pushing yourself to get started,

Maybe a different school might be the answer, they are not all the same and job adverts will start coming up soon.

Also millions of people change careers much later in life than near 30 and end up incredibly successful!

I am sorry to hear about the others in your department sometimes all you need is to hear that someone is finding it as difficult as you are

Anyway, how did I get through it? I told my line manager who told me what to prioritise and told her what books had not been marked so didn't feel I could be 'caught'. It's a funny thing, if lots of things are a bit behind you live in fear of being discovered but can't fix it because so many things need doing you can't possibly complete them all before someone finds out. However as soon as your line manager knows you can start to tackle them one at a time without fear. Everyone has fallen behind at some point. It is not a crime and definitely not a sackable offense if you have identified it yourself and taken steps to sort it.

I let my mum plan my wedding. It wasn't everything I ever dreamt of but it was pretty close!

I streamlined my planning. I picked one lesson structure and adapted it for all classes for each week. So every class did the same starter, main and plenary just different topics and differentiated (of course!). I actually spent 1/2 an hour making a list of all of the teaching strategies I use so I could just pick 3 at the start of a week.
I also assigned each classes marking to it's own date and created a calendar so I couldn't get too behind.

I worked out where I was most productive. For some people they work fastest if they stay late after school and and for others it is at home on the sofa. If you are an after school person it sucks but staying until 6pm every night an a quiet place with a desk can make you work incredibly fast as you just want to get home!

We saved money by not going out, eating cheaply, buying clothes from ebay etc and bought a house. I am currently on maternity leave and am the happiest I have ever been. It can only be 3 or 4 years since I was exactly where you are (except they didn't let me go home and I was still crying when it was time for me to start teaching, my class were so sweet to me as they knew i was upset but didn't know why). The point is there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it might not be all that far away.

Every single day is a chance to do something differently to change your life. Beginning a career in teaching is not like getting on a train you can't get off until retirement. You can change career anytime! You don't need to start your life again because you have benefitted from the years you have spent teaching financially, building skills and work ethic and finding out what you love and hate about jobs.

If nothing changes with the teaching profession I will leave it. It is not a reasonable amount of pressure or workload. However when I do leave I won't feel as though I have wasted these years of my life. I will look back an be proud of myself for sticking out an incredibly difficult job for such a long time.

ghostyslovesheep Fri 22-Jan-16 16:25:45

you sound utterly exhausted and defeated sad poor you OP I really feel for you

Please go to your GP - you need help - rest, support and you need to look after yourself - you are at breaking point - don't break - heal xxxx

MaudGonneMad Fri 22-Jan-16 16:27:35

What about starting with having sex every other day however you feel. That might make you feel better and would also probably suit your fiance.

Please ignore this shitty advice angry

vulgarbunting Fri 22-Jan-16 16:55:43

You poor thing. I totally understand where you're coming from (I'm not a teacher, but in a similar place in life, and have also recently been finding work tough).

I'm sorry, no real advice but know that it will get better. And try and focus on the positives (though appreciate that's hard). Your fiancee sounds lovely. You essentially enjoy what you do.

jay55 Fri 22-Jan-16 17:14:40

See your gp.

Lots of us feel like we're faking it on a day to day basis, work, home etc it can be exhausting and overwhelming if we punish ourselves for it instead of accepting we're no worse than anyone else.

At work can you talk to someone outside your subject, the head of sixth form maybe?

redexpat Fri 22-Jan-16 17:52:38

Im going to suggest a book. How to do everything and be happy. It will help you set managable goals to make you feel a bit happier, measurably so.

ValancyJane Fri 22-Jan-16 17:59:29

I'm a teacher and I've been where you were (I once was sent home sobbing hysterically on the morning of an inspection). I second the recommendation to see your GP, I think you need some breathing room. I would be raising the a4 feedback thing with my Union as that doesn't sound sane. I was asked to do something that was way outside of what was an acceptable ask in terms of feedback earlier this year, and my Union and then HR in school were quite supportive. Ultimately my manager backed down.

In my case I'm still in a school I dislike, and am one of the majority planning to leave the profession at some point over the next few years. I'm on maternity leave at the moment, and could quite happily never go back.

Sending you lots of very un-mumsnetty hugs flowers

yorkshapudding Fri 22-Jan-16 19:28:00

I very much agree with pp that you should visit your GP and tell them what you've told us.

I understand how if it feels to be so under pressure at work that nothing you do is ever enough. If you ignore those feelings and try to carry on, the anxiety, the guilt, the feeling of not being 'good enough', it all starts to seep into every other area of your life.

Don't ignore it. Get support for yourself. If your GP offers to sign you off work for a while, let them. The place will not fall apart without you, you will not be doing anything wrong and you will not be judged for it by anyone who actually matters.

ImperialBlether Fri 22-Jan-16 19:35:31

I was a teacher in a sixth form for decades and life is SO much better now that I'm out of it. I agree with you about the young women who are ambitious and will do anything it takes to go up the ladder. I've never known why they go into teaching if they're that ambitious. In a college the promotion takes you out of the classroom which then allows you to bring in all those mad rules about writing lengthy reports on all students.

Bearing in mind that teaching isn't just being in the classroom, are you sure it's what you want to do? So many teachers are leaving for exactly the reasons you cite, so it's unlikely you'll find anywhere better or different than the school you're in. It's awful when you have children, too, especially if you work full time.

Why not start to think of other careers that might interest you?

Hrafnkel Fri 22-Jan-16 19:36:23

Can you change schools? Yours sounds awful.

A page of a4 every half term? Most of them won't bother to read it.

I agree with the shitty advice about sex. Just something else yo do yo keep someone rose (possibly) happy. What do YOU want?

goshnotme Fri 22-Jan-16 19:52:44

I think that possibly the competitive environment at work is contributing towards this feeling of paranoia. Work is also the reason you are feeling overwhelmed, and why you are too exhausted to do much in the evenings, let alone have sex.

Talk to your fiance, and talk to your line manager. Are you living in a particularly expensive part of the UK in terms of housing costs? If so, could you consider moving so that you don't have to work so hard to save up for a house - maybe you could continue teaching but only 3 or 4 days a week? Would your fiance be able to find work in another area? Could he/she work from home?

Or could you consider supply teaching instead - much less responsibility and none of the competitiveness?

As one of the previous posters said, you are plenty young enough to change careers - is there something you'd rather do?

You have lots of options but the trick is to take them before the current situation grinds you down so much that you don't have the energy. If you are at that point, then it's time to see your GP.

Best of luck.

miraclebabyplease Fri 22-Jan-16 20:07:23

I totally get where you are coming from. The pressure is immense. I have actually been off for two weeks as I left an ear infection as I couldn't possibly leave my class. It resulted in a raging ear infection which needed antibiotics. The antibiotics messed with my epilepsy and so have spent 10 days fighting it without meds. Even though I have been really poorly i jave still planned work, made resources and labels and put it all in the system. It is so bizarre. I was so ill I couldn't work yet have not been able to relax. No wonder people burn out.

Please be kind to yourself. Teaching is so hard and the pressure can drive you crazy. Remember, it is only a job at the end of the day x

TypicallyEnglishMustard Fri 22-Jan-16 22:09:46

Thank you all for your lovely messages and useful advice. Feeling a bit better now after a sleep and being at my mum's for a home oozed dinner... Cheers, ma!

I rang my GP on the advice of people here. He's going to do a callback on Monday evening, so will see what happens.

One of my colleagues came to my house after school to see how I was. It was thoughtful of her, but a lot of what she was saying seemed to be that the others in the department had been talking about me and saying that they were worried that they'd have to "pick up my slack" if I was signed off, which I can understand but made me a bit sad

TypicallyEnglishMustard Fri 22-Jan-16 22:10:17

*cooked, oozed sounds awful

thinkingmakesitso Fri 22-Jan-16 22:52:32

I haven't RTT but find another school. There seem to be loads of English jobs ATM and the thing about the full page of feedback would be enough to make me leave. Fucking ridiculous. I am an English teacher and sixth form tutor and I broke down this morning and was supported- not about work.
Not all all departments are like yours.

SuperMoonIsKeepingMeUpToo Sat 23-Jan-16 08:54:11

I've been in a similar position to you, desperately unhappy in a teaching job. Teaching nowadays is a cut-throat business: a friend recently told me she had to leave her headship as she was always looking in front of her in case she tripped up, and behind her checking for someone who might be stabbing her in the back. It's the same at the chalkface. I left the 3 years ago and now work for county as a home tutor for children who don't have school places. It's highly rewarding, with an excellent hourly rate and a fraction of the pressure of classroom teaching. The work can be a little erratic but this year I'll earn nearly as much as when I left my 0.6 FTE job. Maybe this can give you a glimmer of hope?

I'd definitely recommend you see your GP. Ignore the advice on forcing yourself to have sex (what a bizarre thing to say!) and think very carefully indeed about confiding in your line manager. If he/she is also terribly ambitious you could be viewed as being weak and be the next on the capability list. I asked for help with a certain class of horrors, next thing I knew this was the class the head chose to observe during our department review, and I got a 4 for it. The majority of previous observations I'd got 2s and a smattering of 1s. I verbally resigned at my feedback session.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do. You don't deserve to feel like this, you're a good person trying to do a good thing well. And you are definitely young enough to embark on a new career, with fantastic transferable skills you've worked hard to acquire in a tough job.

SuperMoonIsKeepingMeUpToo Sat 23-Jan-16 08:54:54

Oh, and repost this in Staffroom. You'll gets lots of support there.

theycallmemellojello Sat 23-Jan-16 09:01:20

Some good advice here! I'd add that no one in a full time job has sex in the week! Also, I'd try not to see your colleagues in such a negative light - they may well be ambitious but it doesn't mean you can't bond. I feel like you're projecting on them and they might surprise you. Also, long term, is moving schools an option?

TawnyGrisette Sat 23-Jan-16 09:39:58

My DC attends a fully online secondary school, Interhigh, and is very happy there. The teachers live all over the place, some of them abroad, even - as long as they have a good broadband connection, they do all their teaching from home. I don't know whether they're recruiting teachers at the moment, but it might be worth considering for you? I assume they're full time posts, as there are multiple classes for each year group, and they cover all the core subjects in line with the NC. No ofsted inspections, no 'learning walks', no staffroom politics, no jostling for supremacy/promotion, fewer targets and less pressure, I would think. A lot of my daughter's teachers are young women, and she has great relationships with them - they seem to have time to really build relationships with the students.

What you're enduring at the moment sounds toxic and unsustainable; no wonder you're so unhappy. I hope you find a solution that works for you. I would definitely see your GP, too.

Barmaid101 Sat 23-Jan-16 10:02:42

Get out of you feel like this! Best thing I ever did for my sanity! And by the name you can see I'm a barmaid now!
If you are enjoying sixth form, would you look at a sixth form college or something or a college? A change of scenery might be good

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