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Returning to Work Thoughts

(10 Posts)
Rockhopper81 Mon 22-May-17 12:55:54

This is long - I'm sorry about that.

I guess this could be identifying if people I know are on here, but I just don't know how to get a rational, independent viewpoint on it otherwise.

I'm a teacher. I currently am employed to teach KS1, with mostly Y1 children who did not meet expected requirements at the end of their Reception year. My expertise is EYFS (3-5 year olds), so I am out of my area of expertise. I knew this when I took the post, but had been teaching Y1 at the small school I worked at previously without difficulty. The school is larger than my previous school and uses a different way of 'doing things', mostly evident in phonics where they use a system I'd never heard of, let alone taught before.

I have Aspergers, so the change was always going to be hard, particularly as there was so much of it - school, year group, curriculum, strategies etc. The Aspergers has never effected my ability to be with the children, but I can't honestly say it hasn't effected other areas, such as adult interaction and organisation. However, my children have always made good progress and thoroughly enjoyed being in my class.

I've been signed off work since January with anxiety and depression, and have spent most of the past 5 months back living with my parents so that I haven't been on my own. I'm back in my own flat now and things are okay - not brilliant, but it doesn't feel terrible to be on my own again.

I'd like to go back to work after half-term, on a phased return. I've had a meeting with my Head, who is very happy for this to happen and was expecting it. My employer has been very supportive throughout and I feel that's been really important.

In the autumn term, when I was heading towards feeling like this, I will be the first to admit I wasn't performing as I should. I know there were gaps and the children weren't getting the best that they deserved. It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't all good either. So I know there will need to be something done about that. An action plan will be put in place to help address these issues.

This is where I now feel stuck and upset going forward.

In a previous school, when my diagnosis of Aspergers was disclosed to the Head, I was suddenly managed under capability proceedings with fabricated observations and information. I know it was fabricated as one of these observations/comments named a colleague who is also a friend and I asked them outright. It was also all only bought about when I asked for the evidence several times. I have a very, very bad association with 'action plans', as this is how it was used with me. I ended up leaving before further action was taken.

I have asked my Head if there is every any chance of moving back to my expertise year groups - not confrontationally or as an ultimatum, but to find out if I can expect things to get easier. They, understandably, said they honestly don't know, and I believe them - expected numbers on roll change so much at this time of year.

I guess I basically don't know whether to hand my notice in from the end of the academic year or not - I know I am capable of being a good teacher, but I honestly feel like I don't know what to do going forward and whether I can 'remember' how to teach KS1 children. I just feel so much guilt that I didn't give those children all that they deserved in the autumn term and I don't know how to reconcile myself with that. I feel lots of guilt about lots of things all the time, but this is overriding at the moment.

I would be unlikely to get a teaching post in another school, as I would struggle with interview proceedings, so I would have to move back in with my parents on a more permanent basis until I found another field of work. This would mean leaving where I live now - where I have an actual friend, who is essentially family and whose children I am incredibly close to - and moving 160 miles away. Said person - who I haven't discussed this with in-depth yet - says it doesn't matter one way or the other, that it won't effect our friendship, but I'm not sure how that can happen. I would miss them, there's no other way to put it.

I guess I'm just completely confused at the moment. I cancelled my CBT this morning because I just really wasn't in the right place for it and couldn't manage it. I don't know what to do for the best. I'm scared it's going to send me back down again. I just want to be better and to make sure everyone is happy. I can't face letting anyone down again, especially not my kids at school or my employer.

Am I overthinking this? I'm trying not to view an 'action plan' in the way I have before, but I don't know how - it has this horrible association for me and makes me think of being dismissed or 'managed out'.

Sorry this is so long - thank you if you made it to the end.

NolongerAnxiousCarer Mon 22-May-17 18:03:31

Hi, sorry you are having such a tough time. I am 5 months into a phased return at the moment. I never expected it to take so long but luckily my manager did and has been very supportive. A supportive head is a big bonus. My advise would be to take it one day at a time for now and not worry about making any big decisions right now.

When I first went back my manager suggested that I just went and had lunch with my team a couple of times a week. Then I went back on reduced duties and reduced hours. I work in the NHS and I started back with no patient contact (the unpredictable part of the job) then I worked as an assistant to other proffesionals for a few weeks as an extra pair of hands. Gradually I have picked up a caseload and expanded back to almost full duties now. Currently I'm not dealing with emergencies and Im working short days.

If your head is experienced supporting return to work thet nay have some ideas. You could suggest starting out with a few hours a week supporting a teacher who is more experienced working with that age group which would help ease you back and also help you to gain more experience in the way this school teach the curiculum.

Rockhopper81 Mon 22-May-17 19:37:30

Thank you for your reply. My Head has said that they expect my phased return to pretty much take up the next half term, so I think they're onboard with easing back in.

I wonder if part of the problem is, bizarrely, I haven't had a colleague in the same year as me for a long time - either only class in year group, or very small school - and my colleague this year (who is lovely, incidentally) is an amazing teacher who's specialism is KS1. So not only am I finding it hard with the different curriculum and expectations, I'm working with someone who is outstanding and I feel totally inadequate against her. It's not her fault or anything, just wondering if that's the case.

Maybe I should suggest observing her, or team teaching with her to get a better understanding. My main difficulty is that my approach is very 'play based' and observational, which is great for EYFS and is totally appropriate - not so appropriate for KS1 where they have to actually do 'book work'.

I'm just overwhelmed again at the moment. Things were progressing well and I really don't want to go back again.

NolongerAnxiousCarer Mon 22-May-17 22:24:50

I think suggesting working alongside this very experienced teacher sounds like a great idea to build your confidence and expand your experience. It will also show that you are being proactive about your own development needs.

When we work with someone very experienced its easy to judge our performance against theirs, but very unfair on ourselves. Would you judge a reception child against a KS1 child? It can be much more helpful to measure our selves against our own prior performance. Think back to the first time you taught a KS1 child, I bet you have learnt a lot since then that you can now use with the children you are teaching.

Rockhopper81 Tue 23-May-17 23:14:02

Thanks Nolonger - working alongside said colleague would probably be helpful and would be proactive.

However, I'm starting to think that teaching isn't for me anymore, or at least for a while - I've said on another thread, that any more instances of absence (for whatever reason and whatever duration) will trigger absence management. I'm not sure I need to add to my list of anxieties (already a mile long!), worrying about getting a migraine or a stomach upset will just make things worse.

The action plan would also need to be quite rapid and intense - the school is due Ofsted at any time, so things have to be in place (that's my observation, not that they've said directly, although it has been mentioned about an 'intensive' action plan). It's not the school's fault, but I really can't face failing at yet another thing.

I'm also a lot less sure about retuning now - I was very anxious and uncomfortable when back in school for the meeting with the Head, I'm not sure it bodes well for returning in two weeks time...

I might just have to suck it up, move back in with my parents and rethink career options. sad

NolongerAnxiousCarer Wed 24-May-17 19:25:11

If it helps the first few time I went back to my workplace after being off recently with PTSD I had pannic attacks. And my illness was nothing to do with work stress. But now after a very gentle phased return I feel back to my normal confident self. That was why to start with I just went in to have lunch with the team.

Rockhopper81 Thu 25-May-17 01:16:53

Thanks for your advice NoLonger - it's been really useful and much appreciated.

I saw my GP today, who has signed me off for two weeks and wants to assess my readiness at the end of it (I actually have an appointment for 12 days time, so before my note runs out).

I have spent most of today thinking and running through scenarios in my head and have come to a very scary decision, that I need to step back and leave teaching, even if it's only a temporary break and I eventually return.

I think given the situation - that I would still be teaching a year group outside of my current comfort zone and would need to follow an intense action plan - nothing will have changed on the work side of things, and I don't think I've changed enough to compensate for that. Since I have been back living on my own, I've started to feel more 'down' and realised maybe I wasn't as better as I thought I was.

Teaching isn't getting any easier - stress and expectations are rising all the time. I can't cope as it is with the guilt I have over what happening in the autumn term; if I were to go back and fall ill again, I think it would push me further than I can cope with.

I'm scared by this - absolutely terrified actually! - but having made a decision also feels liberating in a way. I have spoken to my parents, who are happy to have me stay with them for as long as I need until I can sort things out more permanently. I currently rent out my house I have a mortgage on (due to relocation for work - I rent where I am at the moment), so will obviously continue to do that until I am sufficiently back in work to afford household bills. The rental income will cover the mortgage and storage fees for my belongings.

I feel weak and like I'm failing, but I also kinda need to be a little selfish and put me first for a while - it's not in my nature at all, but I just want to be better long term.

Minimoan Thu 25-May-17 01:51:10

Would a teaching assistant role more suit you presently? Or maybe working with 3-4 years old in a nursery setting? Just thinking of other possibilities?

Newtothis11 Thu 25-May-17 02:38:04

I'm not a teacher but have friends who are, it seems a very full on and pressured job. Perhaps teaching isn't for you however you've not been in the classroom for 6 months so much of how you feel is the anxiety of returning and the assumption you'll feel the same. Don't forget you've had a period of feeling better and therefore you're not retuning feeling like you did when you went off. It probably feels way too overwhelming to think it may work ok. Working alongside an experienced teacher may be unsettling but try to think of the positives of the support available in having this.

If you can go in after the holidays and see how it goes. It won't be perfect and won't be anxiety free but it may be better than you think. After this half term you'll then face the summer to think what's best.

teaching doesn't have to be in a classroom of 30, you can use your skills elsewhere e.g. In historical places being your guide, teaching support, private tutoring. Or working with the younger end again either with current school or elsewhere.

You can do this.. try to go to your next cbt session it may help with some of this.

NolongerAnxiousCarer Thu 25-May-17 09:40:05

Putting yourself first is the best thing you can do and only you know the full situation and how you feel about it. Just wanted you to know that it is normal to feel anxious about returning after a long period of sickness. I had nightmares about going back to work anc not coping at one point, which my GP said showed I wasn't ready to go back at thst point,

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