Letter: Teacher's stress

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Having been a teacher and teacher trainer, I view the current debate about stress levels with concern ("Helpline opens for stressed teachers", 8 September). The simple answer is that teachers have too much to do. Not only are classes too large, but teachers are asked to teach too many lessons.

My own teaching commitment, for example, in Turkey was two-thirds of what it was as a head of department in the UK. This enabled me to seek out interesting new material and plan exciting and stimulating lessons. In England I found I was just keeping my head above water and the strain eventually affected my health.

There are teachers who don't object to their teaching load. They are usually mediocre, like my colleague who fell asleep at his desk while the class was reading a Shakespearean play. The high-flyers, who want to make each lesson exciting and stimulating, find the pressure too much. It's as simple as that.

Having retired from the fray, I look back on a system which values facts rather than people. The National Curriculum aims at conformity, not individuality: let's make sure everyone is doing the same thing. My own view is that education should aim at the development of personality and should encourage creativity and individuality.

I believe it is vitally important that children experience warmth, kindliness, friendship, courtesy, pleasure and joy in their lives. These qualities should be the basis of the educational experience. The rest is secondary. If schools were more enjoyable, more people would want to teach in them.

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