We're all in the same boat
Pop culture has long peddled exaggerated stereotypical images of miserable teachers. Some of my favorites include the terrifying Mrs. Trunchbull, the principal in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Mrs. Krabapple, the wry primary school teacher in The Simpsons, and the painfully boring unnamed economics teacher from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, with his classic monotone drawl as he tries to get a response from his class; “Anyone? Anyone?”
These stereotypical representations depict teachers who are burnt out – or strung-out – and uninterested in their role and the success of their students.
All of us, including teachers, have our moments of negativity and pessimism; some research even suggests that sharing gripes and personal struggles in the staffroom can be seen as a form of social-intimacy; a way of solidifying trust. I, for one, am relieved to learn that a little bit of cynicism and negativity isn’t so bad. I recently observed a pillow at my local gym that read “Be Happy All The Time!” In my typical rebellious manner, I chose not to be happy in that moment just to spite that pillow.
No one likes phony optimism, however, if we allow frequent and pervasive negativity to consume us we run the risk of becoming emotionally exhausted and cynical, as well as draining those around us. In the face of many realistic stressors, ranging from high-workloads to staff conflicts to vicious attitudes in the community towards our profession, it should come as no surprise that a University of South Australia study which compared 26 occupations revealed teachers to have the second poorest physical health and psychological wellbeing.
One cause of this dismal finding could be the tradition of isolation common to teaching, which can negatively impact teachers in two ways. Firstly, good teachers can be demoralised by a lack of recognition for their efforts. Secondly, teachers who may be struggling tend not to seek support for fear of judgment or humiliation.
Structural approaches can improve the culture of sharing and collaboration, both in formal and informal ways. Education consultant Bill Rogers suggests that creating teams and groups of teachers who have a shared purpose can empower teachers and lift their sense of moral, while reducing stress and competitive behavior.
Beyond formal support networks, it is the deceptively small acts of collegial support that make a bad day more survivable. Examples include positively greeting each other, leaving a funny post-it note on a colleague’s desk, collecting photocopying for others, remembering a birthday, smiling in the corridor or leaving a choccy in a pigeon hole. These small expressions of support indicate a shared knowingness about the challenges of the job, and remind us that we are, in fact, all in the same boat.
If cynicism is contagious, then so too is kindness, creativity, courage and belief in our colleagues and students. I know which I’d prefer. On the most hectic days in this job, I remind myself of the saying “Attitude is contagious, is yours worth catching?” Anyone? Anyone?
Melanie Ralph QTU member
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 2, 10 March 2017, p14
Selected volumes and articles from 2008 to current editions...
Publication information (incl. advertising)Queensland Teachers' Journal editorial information and information, including booking forms, for advertisers...
Letters to the editorYou can easily send in your letter to the editor using our quick online form...
QTU stands in solidarity
The Queensland Teachers’ Union wishes to express its shock at the killing of 17 people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and stands in solidarity with the many brave teachers who risked their own lives to protect the students in their care.
These horrific events reveal the deep commitment and bravery of members of our profession under the most extreme of circumstances, and we are proud to stand with them at this terrible time.QTU, 16 Feb 2018
Advice - QTAD
Training, seminars & PD
- salary info
- campaign information
- branch meetings and much more
One of the great benefits of QTU membership is access to the QTU library.
Find out more about the library's great collection and how to order and request books online here.
You can visit us at
21 Graham Street, Milton Q 4064
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm
Qld Retired Teachers' Assoc.
For the professional...
- Click here for resources to assist you and professional organisations to support you to meet the increasing demands of your role.
- Care about your profession and want to help shape its future?
Join the new Professional Issues Network Group (PING) now!
QTU On-line Shop
There are no vacancies at this time