Paul's story | Education Support Partnership

Paul's story

I probably would’ve left teaching if I hadn’t called the helpline

Paul, 29, a new secondary teacher, was feeling overwhelmed with the job, thought himself a failure and considered switching careers. Then he rang our helpline and with our guidance found a way to stay in teaching and enjoy it again. With #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek coming up on 14th May, he urges anyone in a similar position to do the same. 

I rang the Education Support Partnership helpline because I was feeling overwhelmed in general and feared I wasn’t doing a good job. At one point I felt like such a failure I seriously considered switching careers as I was running myself into the ground with all the worry.

Before I went into teaching I was a self employed youth worker working in various projects. I volunteered for a museum, worked among young people and discovered I really liked it and that’s when I decided to go into teaching, three years ago.

I’d went in via the graduate training programme which meant we got six weeks study then straight into schools with on-the-job training. I struggled with that in my first school. And so did many others because from the 90 or so trainees I started with only half are still teaching. We went into it all bright and enthusiastic and we’re going to make a difference to people’s lives then found the reality very different. Maybe the recruitment crisis in teaching wouldn’t happen if more schools were supportive of their young teachers?

At my first school I didn’t feel I received all the help I needed. I was wondered if I was I just blagging my way through and thought maybe I wasn’t prepared to be a full time qualified teacher. I felt insecure in my ability to do the job and added to that there were behavioural issues with the kids, a heavy marking workload and planning to do in the evenings. It was a cocktail of lack of confidence and everyday stresses and strains of job. I couldn’t switch off from the job at night or at weekends. It consumed me. I couldn’t get on top of everything I felt was expected of me.

I have friends who trained at the same time as me, found it difficult and found themselves almost bullied out of their schools. Kind of, ‘If you don’t think you can do it then we’ll see you later,’ sort of thing. I was very worried the same thing would happen to me. But it didn’t. Instead my second school’s approach to young teachers is that they want to build up their staff and keep us in the profession. I am very lucky to be where I am. But I still needed to ask for outside support before I was really sure I could stay a teacher.

Helpline

It was while chatting to a friend who’d gone through a similar experience that I found out about the Education Support Partnership helpline. She told me she’d rang them after a colleague recommended it to her.

I rang as soon as I’d finished talking to my friend. It went brilliantly. I spoke to the person on the helpline for a long time. I told her how the job was affecting me and how I was feeling and she went through how they could help me. My first session was just me ranting to get it off my chest. She was incredibly friendly, understanding and helpful and she referred me onto someone for counselling sessions. I then had six one-hour sessions over the phone. My counsellor helped me to find my work/life balance by learning to compartmentalize everything and leave the stress at work. With her help I managed to separate myself from my job. That had been my biggest problem as it was all rolled into one. I wasn’t just struggling as a teacher - I felt as if I was failing as a person. I make myself find the time to relax, though it’s a work in progress.

My counsellor also gave me a lot of advice on how to solve different issues such as seeking out support in house and accessing more direct help with my teaching. This has paid off massively. I’ve had a lot of support from my school. They’ve been brilliant and very understanding. I really felt fine by the sixth session by which time we went over the progress I’d made, did some recapping over where I was and what I needed to do to move forward. My counsellor told me she really felt comfortable I could run with this now but that I could always ring back any time I needed.

Bottling it up

Until I spoke to a counsellor on the helpline I’d been bottling it all up and feared if I dared tell them at my school that I’d been struggling they would sack me. But I learned you sometimes need to let people know you need support because if they don’t know, how can they help you? I feel very supported now and have just completed my NQT training so I’m now a fully qualified teacher.

It’s all completely turned around. Thanks to my counsellor on the Education Support Partnership helpline I really enjoy teaching again and I’m going to stay in it. My school has been brilliant and put mentoring and support for me into place. Before I reached out and asked for help I felt sheer paranoia over what could happen if I said I wasn’t coping. You hear these horror stories of people who struggle and then get bullied out their jobs because of it. When I asked for help I found our head and school leaders extremely supportive and as a result I now regard teaching as a long-term career option.

I would say to anyone who’s struggling as I was to get help. Don’t be frightened to seek support. People can’t help you if they don’t know you’re have difficulties. So tell someone. I would definitely recommend calling the Education Support Partnership helpline. It was a massive step in right direction for me.

How we can help

  • Help for individuals  
    Sometimes work (or just life) can be tough. A challenging student, an Ofsted inspection, personal financial worries; there are many stresses on those who work in education. That’s why we offer free, confidential help and support, no matter what your problem.
  • Help for organisations 
    Working in education is demanding so we’ve designed a set of services to help you check how your teams are coping, troubleshoot problems and boost everyone’s wellbeing.