Joanna's story | Education Support

Joanna's story

Primary school teacher Joanna (not her real name) broke down one Sunday afternoon because she couldn’t face going into work the next day due to bullying.

She rang our helpline and was hugely relieved to be told by one of our counsellors that she wasn’t over reacting and the situation was unacceptable. 

This is only my second teaching job. I sought it after just one year because my partner was relocating and he asked if I would move in with him. I’ve just completed my third year of teaching and I really love my job and especially the children that I teach and engage with on a daily basis.

However, the job wasn’t the problem. It was my Headteacher. When I was interviewed for the job we seemed to be on the same wavelength. I thought therefore that we would be able to work together fine.

It didn’t turn out that way. Instead she’s made me feel victimised, picked on.

She claimed, wrongly, that I’d yelled at a child when in fact, I hadn’t. This accusation left me feeling cornered, unsupported and with nowhere to turn at work. I became quite terrified of my Head. I believe myself to be a typical ‘fresh out of University’ teacher who loves the job. I don’t go to school every day to deal with staffroom politics. I just want to teach the children in my class. I’m vibrant and have a hands-on approach to teaching. I care so much for every single child in that school not only the ones in my care.

Night terrors

Since this admonishment from the headteacher, I’ve had night terrors and on one occasion, even a panic attack which resulted in my collapsing onto the kitchen floor in front of my boyfriend who was very supportive.

One weekend it all got too much. My other half was at work and it was a Sunday afternoon. I was sat on the sofa, dreading going into work the next day. I really needed something, needed somebody, to tell me it was all going to be okay. So I searched for education counselling services and the Education Support Partnership popped up. I recognised the name from a poster I’d seen at work in the staff room so I knew I was in the right place. I rang straightaway and spoke to a lovely lady.

I just unloaded and told her everything I’d been through up to that point. She listened intently and helped me to realise that my feelings were completely normal. I hadn’t put myself in this situation. Somebody has done this to me. That was all I needed to hear. Although my partner has been incredibly understanding, at times I felt so alone. Having someone tell me what to do made such a difference. She listened to me. She was brilliant. I came off the phone with a plan. That was all I needed to hear.

I would definitely encourage others in a similar position to me to get in touch with Education Support helpline. You’re not alone. They really understand.

Plan to move forward

Together, the counsellor and I decided on a plan to move forward. The pressure of having all of the answers myself was completely removed. It was like having a huge weight on my shoulders taken away.

The helpline made me feel so much better. It helped me to try to take control of my situation. Most of all I felt supported and much less alone. 

I am still employed but currently on long-term sick leave while I decide whether to go back to my old school or try to find a new job. I’ve said I’d be happy to work in a sister school but I don’t think I can return and work again under that head. If I go back there I’ll be back to square one. The issue is not the job, nor the workload. It’s the head.

I’d go anywhere, I’d drive 100 miles, to work in a school again. I love the job and I love the kids. And I really hate being out of work. There’s a school at the end of my road and seeing the children there every day breaks my heart and reminds me what I’m missing.

I would definitely encourage others in a similar position to me to get in touch with Education Support helpline. You’re not alone. They really understand.

How we can help

  • Help for individuals  
    Sometimes work (or just life) can be tough. A challenging student, workload pressures, 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.