Why do so many Teachers take Antidepressants?

Teachers are tired and stressed! And it stresses me that there’s nothing I can do about it. Isn’t there something that can be done?

For the most part I really like and support the Common Core mathematics standards. But how can teachers provide the new rigorous curriculum in ways that are most effective when they are having to stop every 4 or 5 days to give some kind of test? No, I’m not talking about a ‘test’ on the unit they may be teaching. I’m talking about the benchmark tests, the Writing test, the mock Writing test, the CRCTs, the mock CRCTs, pre tests, post tests, screening and monitoring tests, STAR tests, etc. These are just the ones I know of and it makes me tense just typing them. I’ve been told by numerous teachers that they give some form of mandatory testing about 40 days in the school year! If students go to school 180 days then they spend almost 25% of their ‘learning’ time testing.

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Why are students being tested so much? Because someone somewhere decided that all students should score at a certain level on a certain test on a certain day, regardless of anything else that may influence their results. Are you kidding me? What if her parents got into a fight that morning? What if he had to stay up late to take care of his little sister because his mom was working until midnight? What if she freezes up on tests simply because that’s all she’s heard about since the first day of school? What if his mother is fighting breast cancer? What if she has attention problems and needs to regroup every 20 minutes but must remain still and quiet for an hour straight? What if he was born at 24 weeks instead of 39 weeks? What if she was already 3 years behind before she got to this class? What if he didn’t have anything to eat for dinner last night and got to school too late to eat breakfast? My niece almost chewed a hole in her mouth the week of testing her last year in public school – all because of one test that someone thought should be the be all and end all of education!!

Some of you may be cheering while others of you may be thinking “Doesn’t she believe that all children can learn mathematics?” Duh, of course I believe ALL students can learn mathematics – but not the exact same amount at the exact same time of every other child their age. How many adults can do that? What made someone who ‘can’t teach’ powerful enough to ‘pass laws about teaching’? We’re creating students who hate school as early as 6 years old simply because they feel and suffer the stress that the teachers feel and suffer. Five year-olds are not even taking naps in kindergarten any more. Did you all know that? When I was five kindergarten was an option. Now if a child doesn’t go to preschool for at least one year, they are considered behind when they enter kindergarten. How can a child – a kid – be behind academically at five years old?! Something is wrong with our priorities in this country. Why not let children climb trees, ride their bicycles, play imaginary things like baby dolls or cops and robbers, play on swing sets in the backyard, play football with the neighbor kids? Instead they’re spending 8 hours a day from the time they are 3 in most cases in some form of organized learning.

So, how does all of this affect teachers? Teachers are being judged on their performance based on how their students do on the one test on that one special day. I know what the ‘guidelines’ say. Student performance is only a portion of a teacher’s performance report. Yet teachers are being treated as if these scores are the only thing that matters. They are given pacing guides (often written by someone who doesn’t understand the content) that they must stay within at least a day or two. This truly doesn’t make any sense. Many schools group students based on their levels of performance – low (special ed, EIP, etc); high (gifted, over achievers); and regular (the leftovers) – regardless of what the research says about grouping. But that’s the topic of another blog later. How can a teacher with all of the ‘lower performing’ students in one classroom possibly stay at the same place on the same pacing guide with the other classrooms? They can’t. But they’re still expected to.

And all of that is just the pressure of testing. Teachers are also expected to CYA. If you don’t know what the acronym stands for ask a teacher. If their students don’t score well on a benchmark test (again often written by someone who doesn’t understand the content), they have to complete documents justifying why and a plan for what the teacher is going to do to get that student(s) caught up. In most instances they have to do their own scoring of all of these tests I mentioned earlier. They have to fill out paperwork for all of their students with an IEP or a 504 plan (my number may be wrong). They have to make accommodations for all students who legally require one.

Teachers have to be at work 8.5 hours a day 5 days a week. I know what non teachers think – “yeah but they only have to do it for 190 days.” Bull! Actually for the last couple of years they had to do the same amount of everything in even less days because they were furloughed. Furlough to a teacher just means “work without pay”. Rarely are teachers ONLY at school for 8.5 hours a day. Many come to school an hour early because that’s the only time they can get things accomplished. Even more stay late – for tutoring (without extra pay), for IEP meetings, for RTI meetings, for faculty meetings, for parent teacher conferences. And then on some of these days they are expected to come back to school at 6 for a PTO meeting, or open house, or academic night, or math bowl, or fall festival, or some club or sport that they have been bullied into leading. Then what used to be called “work days” when I was a student are now called “professional development” days. This means that teachers are supposed to be in some kind of class in which they are learning ways become a better teacher – when all they really want is time to change a bulletin board or type up those standards they are required to post, or clean the student desks because many schools don’t even have someone who keeps students’ desks or the board clean. AND most of them work during those 11 weeks of summer ‘vacation’, fall ‘vacation’, Christmas ‘vacation’, Spring ‘vacation’ getting their rooms ready for fall, grading papers, writing lessons, etc.

Now because of the wonderful world of technology they get emails all day long from their administrators, system leaders, grade level chairs, subject lead teachers, content coaches, or parents. Probably only 5% of those emails are positive and thanking the teachers for what they are doing or have done. Most of them include reminders of something that they must do, or complete, or turn in, or go to. Parents complain about what the teacher is not doing for their child, or because they got a note home that was worded in a way that they found offensive.

In order for any teacher to successfully do ALL that is expected of them they would no more than 12 children in their classroom. Yet, due to financial constraints their classroom sizes are becoming unbelievably large.

Are you tired and stressed yet? I am. I can guarantee you that my blood pressure is higher now than when I first started this blog. Have you noticed that nowhere have I mentioned that these teachers are parents of their own, have aging parents they are taking care of, do volunteer work, go to graduate school, have health problems (mostly caused by stress), are single parents who are working a second job because they aren’t getting enough child support and make too much to get government assistance, are active church members, or Lord forbid – have a hobby?

I guess this all explains why I have seen 6 teachers cry in the past week. Most teachers have not even been able to finish reading this post because they simply don’t have enough time. So that means that those of you who had the time to stick with it needs to figure out what we can do as a nation to change things.

Yet, as an individual there is something you can do. Love and appreciate teachers. Tell them thank you. Show them kindness. Send them cards. Consider what their day may have been like before you criticize something that they have written or said. Pray for them.

(Disclaimer: I realize that everything I have written will not be considered politically correct by some. Sorry.)

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127 thoughts on “Why do so many Teachers take Antidepressants?

  1. Don’t be sorry because it is not politically correct. Never apologize for speaking the truth. And you forgot a few stressors. Most of which have to do with the actual students. What about the kid without a coat or shoes? No social worker to help. What about the aggressive or depressed student? Counselors are too busy pushing papers to counsel. What about the kid who came to school sneezing and coughing up the nastiest yellow slime ever? Nurse… what nurse. She was laid off due to budget cuts. Have you tried to get assistance for a particularly challenging student from an administrator? Good luck with that. Not only are they also running around trying to do too many things at once, but they know nothing about what you actually teach.

  2. Well said! The only reason I have time to read this now is because we have a 2-hour delay this morning! I am in my 34th year of teaching and it gets ore stressful every year. Oh, and did I mention that I teach special education, am a single parent (widow), AND the parent of a special needs son who is 19.

  3. All parents and their teachers HATE what common core is doing to children, unless they’re backing a political agenda. The change in math practices in common core have had students stressing and teachers jobs harder, because it’s so backwards. The children I know can do math problems the way we learned them, but because of the strange and wacky way they’re forced to learn it now, they are becoming more confused and hating school. Not only that, a teacher tutor I know can’t even understand why teachers are teaching this way. Let the teachers teach the way they feel is best, STOP FORCING TEACHERS TO TEACH THE WAY COMMON CORE DEMANDS. It’s about freedom in learning and we all learn differently.

  4. this is so true. Teachers are so stressed these days because of this common core. I know there are good parts of it but like you said its not fair to the teachers or the students. The classrooms are too crowded for this to work like it should. Instead it is hurting students and teachers. Also remember thses teachers in Ms. are the lowest paid in the U.S. They have to be commited to the children to keep doing what they do… its not the pay!!!

  5. I have never felt to have been made stupid as a teacher. My students and their parents (with the exception of a few) have always upheld me as their past favorite teacher. The kids I have taught always come by my classroom when they are in high school to give me a hug or a smile. I still get sweet teacher appreciation gifts from past student like cups with favorite teacher written on it . I check on my past students still, cheer when they achieve, fuss when they do something they know better, and celebrate their life as they mature. I hold the title of teaching very seriously and definitely do not hang my head when I say I am a teacher. I proudly tell people. Even a bouncer in a nightclub that took out a few of my friends got to hear me say “you don’t talk to me that way, I am a teacher!” (Funny but true story) my daughter and her bud are excited about starting their life at college training to be a teacher. I wouldn’t ever discourage someone that I know has the passion and love for what I feel is the most important person in a child’s life in that particular school year. I know that this common core will pass just like all the other implements that I’ve seen in my 19 years of teaching. Your article is true in many ways… Do I ever get discouraged? Yes… Do I look forward to holidays? Yes… But I wear the title of teaching proudly… I know I am doing exactly what God had in his plan for me. ; )

  6. Oh and by the way… I DO take anti-depressants not because of my job as a teacher – as the famous singer says ” it’s called life”.

  7. LOVE it and totally agree with it!! THANK YOU for shedding some light on our world as educators of the future! Too bad people don’t realize that without teachers, the leaders that we have would never have been!

  8. Thank you! I am a teacher and scanned this because I don’t have time . Off to super lengthy lesson plans now that prove I am doing what the state wants. I need a secretary so I can teach well planned lessons.

  9. Thanks for writing this, but honestly, the only ones that agree with you are the rest of us overworked, stressed teachers. My daughter is a teacher as well, and of special needs, is a single parent, and my grandson’s father hasn’t seen him in years, it is all up to her to work and raise her child. I teach high school, and my students feel entitled, and when they don’t do work and get F’s the parents call to complain that I am not doing my job. The old saying, you can bring a horse to water but not make them drink. Luckily, I am close to retirement, and feel for all those of you just starting out. I have state mandated tests that decide I am/or am not a good teacher. I work all summer preparing my next year (we are totally online because we can’t copy and use paper), I am at work and hour before and a few after, have to go to open house, visitation days for upcoming students, career days, career camps, conferences, professional development, mandated technology training (none of which are paid). Even though my students don’t open a book, do homework, complete missing work, study for a test, etc. especially after school is out for the day. I cry on the way to work every day, can’t wait to retire, and sadly I believe in what I do. Teachers all over the country feel your pain and agree, if only we could make parents, administrators and government agree too. But thanks, I don’t feel as alone as I did before!

  10. I had time to read this because I am retiring January 1, 214. I teach Special Education but honestly, the standards are trumping the IEP so I’m gone. How many masters can one person serve?

    I now have high blood pressure, cry in front of students (which used to be the kiss of death.). I had a student who wanted to the Superintendent last year to tell them to stop bullying me and other teachers. He was disgusted with the treatment we were receiving. I had to talk I’m out o it. But, I will always love him or it.

    As I told my Principal, much of this nonsense s to appease a jealous public who regrets that they ade different choices. Plain and simple. They laughed at people going into education because they felt there was no money in it. Later, when we were finally compensated fairly, they were upset.

    Also, there as been a push to privatize education in some states for years. Well, 2008 and since shows ow well that went for private everyday people in the financial world when friends lost lots and lots of money…sure we want o turn our children’s education over o greedy Wall Street people! NEVER!!! And citizens just are too uninterested to do a little research and inform themselves of what s coming.

    Well, it was good to read your article.

    Thanks

  11. I am sitting here AMAZED at this blog…because I could have written it WORD FOR WORD! Thank you SO much for taking the time to put into words what most teachers are feeling now…at least in my school district in Louisiana. We have had a lot of wonderful teachers retire or simply resign this past year due to the (unwarranted) stress put on them by not only Common Core, but also COMPASS. I pray that “the powers that be” will realize the great harm they are doing to our educational system before it is too late….

  12. I think this should be an article in The Tennessean, on the op/ed page. Somehow get the word out about how those conservative Republicans on the hill are destroying public education by starting with destroying the teaching profession. I am not a legislator, I am a teacher with 46.5 years experience.

  13. It may not be politically correct, but it is right on target… The only thing you left out is the workshops we must take during the school week where we have to leave our students in the hands of a sub who doesn’t do what you’ve left behind. The extra planning time needed to leave stuff for the sub and the loss of instructional time for students because you cannot leave new things for the sub to actually teach. I have personally been out of my classroom 1-2 times per month since school started this year for workshops that were NOT MY DECISION to attend.
    I hope you have enough people to read and create change in the education system.

  14. I am not a teacher, but I have a mother-in-law and father-in-law, recently retired teachers. I have MANY friends who are teachers as well. I am a mother of 4 and a stepmother of 1. My husband and I have considered many times taking our children out of public schools for this reason. My oldest daughter was an all A until recently an AB honor role student. She just gets it the first time she hears it. When my younger daughter started school about 2 years after my older, we found out that school isn’t as easy for some children. My younger daughter, despite her VERY high IQ (we’ve had her tested), struggles in school to the point of been held back a year(and w an October birthday she is at some points of the year 2 years older than her classmates). We recently found out, that she has ADHD and dyslexia. I’m worried she’s also getting depression on top of it or at the least low self esteem because she can’t meet those bench marks and doesn’t do great on all her work. Why did learning have to stop being fun? With all of the requirements they put on teachers, they don’t have the time to come up with them.
    We have friends who homeschool for this reason and I wonder how many people will have to pull their kids out of public schools for this to make a difference and start raising some red flags. I have a feeling these people coming up w these things have children/grandchildren allot like my oldest child. With my third in kindergarten and my youngest in pre-k 3 I’m beginning to see that my oldest honor roll student is not the norm.

  15. I so agree with your post. I also teach special education (the students who are intellectually disabled and are on Alternative Assessment). My students really need to be taught social and life skills so that they can become productive members of society, not standards for subjects they will never use once I turn in their portfolios in March. I am expected to teach children who cannot talk, feed themselves, walk, or read the same standards that “normal” students are learning, when my students do not need to know how to solve equations. I have to show that my students are “making progress toward the standards” through work samples and such. Plus these assessments are more about the teacher’s ability to write up what was done than about the student’s progress. If there are errors in how it is written up, the whole portfolio can be tossed and not scored. My administrators do not understand the dynamics of the students I teach, so I get very little support to help me. I have ten of these portfolios to complete by March, and each one takes several hours to write up. I have to use my spare time on weekends and holidays to get this done, since the time I am supposed to get each month from administration never materializes. I love teaching the students I teach; however, I am quickly getting burned out from the stress and lack of support. Thank you for the insight into our minds as teacher….now if the government would just back off and let us teach!

  16. In addition to school counselors I also think it would be helpful to have full time social workers on hand to help with the multiple problems that parents and children are now facing that effect their ability to learn as stated in your blog. What do the teachers out there think about this option, you would know better than I?

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