Brian is an experienced teacher in his 50s. Originally from the east Midlands, he has lived in northern England for more than twenty-five years. Six months ago, he left teaching after 25 years citing stress and burnout. 

"I'm the last person in the world I thought it would happen to - going off on the sick, or anything like that. My family are all working class so the idea of going off on the sick for stress is not something that would really make sense to them. I didn't tell my mum when I took time off - she wouldn't have got it. 

"I had always worked in primary but four years ago I went to work in secondary special education. I enjoyed working there. Around last Christmas time (2018), they announced there were opportunities for voluntary redundancy. It had never occurred to me that I wanted to leave or anything, but it was almost like the penny dropped at that point: "Oh my God. I don’t have to do this anymore!" It was a bit of a Road to Damascus moment. I did apply for redundancy, but I didn't get it. But, you know, when I had made that decision, that was it. The flood gates opened.

"My school introduced a staff mentor - it was quite forward thinking actually. So, if you had issues, you could go and see her and talk about it. I went to see her, just before the half-term holiday, just to talk about not sleeping, waking up at strange hours, not being able to get back to sleep: stress basically. I went to see her once and, just from us talking, she advised me to leave and not to come back. Which I laughed at, and said: 'don't be ridiculous!'.

"But then, over the half-term, I just thought, 'I can't do this anymore'. I self-certified and took a week off work. But towards the end of that week, I don't know, it was like the wheels had just come off. I just couldn't go in again. I ended up taking seven weeks off.

"The diagnosis I was given was burn-out. If I am honest about it, probably I had been for about two or three years but I just carried on, thinking: 'this is how it is, everyone feels like this.' And, yes, maybe a lot are, but it isn't how it should be.

"When school went back in September, and our kids went back, I felt a bit removed from it all. I feel a bit detached. I don't feel any regret at all, or anything like that. I have taken up a bit of work teaching at one of the universities - I'm just dipping my toe in. My first class is tomorrow. I'm not feeling that confident about it, but we'll see how it goes*."

*It went really well!


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