At this time of year, the start of term or semester often comes on the back of significant results in August. This September will be the first in as long as I can remember when my life hasn’t been about education. From school I went to college, and then to university, and from there I trained as a teacher, and eventually worked in Higher Education and although I’ve had jobs outside of education, they were usually alongside study or still involved working in schools in some way. Earlier this year I left my job to start working for myself as a counsellor and Hakomi practitioner.
So until this year, education has been a really big part of my life, and it does not take much for me to start speaking from my experiences about how difficult we make our young people’s lives by the education system in this country. How assessment focused it is. How much it supports the separation of body and mind. How little it teaches our young people about connection and relationships and about managing emotions. How little support there is for teachers in being able to enjoy their subject with students because of the pressures there are to come top in league tables.
It is no surprise that there are articles that say, “More than three-quarters of young people seeking mental health support say the pressure to achieve academic success played a significant role” TES, September 2019, and headlines stating “As a teenager, I believe our mental health is harmed by this dehumanising education system” Independent, August 2019. It seems more and more young people are forced to manage their own mental health because they can’t find the support they need as found in a recent survey by YoungMinds Huffington Post, September 2019. The impact for teachers is also mentioned, and a recent article in The Conversation highlights the pressure on teachers and how this contributes to difficulties with mental health in the profession The Conversation, September 2019.
As someone who has spent so much time in and around education, I can’t remember a September that felt spacious and full of ease and choice. For many years my September and October have been prefaced by a build up to so much tension, stress and busyness that has been difficult to manage. And as I look around and see people that I have known for many years still in that environment, or who’s children grow up in those difficult places, I am filled with compassion. They do not seem to be easy places to work or study, and certainly weren’t for me.
Although some of my current work focuses on bereavement because of my training and experience in this area, I feel fortunate to work with clients who are students or who work in education (or both). In this way my connection to education continues, supporting those in these difficult environments. Education and learning feel like such exciting things to me – full of potential and newness, and yet the conditions often make it a hard place to thrive. If this speaks to your experience too and perhaps you would welcome support, then please get in touch and I would be happy to discuss this with you.