Steve Waters: 21st September, 2017
If you read my first blog here, you will know that I referred to Pennywise, the clown in the film ‘IT’, who reappears after a 27 year absence to terrorise a group of teens in a small town in the USA. I won’t say more about the film or what a fear of clowns is called – I’ll let you read that for yourselves.
There’s a whole lot we can learn about teachers’ wellbeing from Pennywise. You see, teachers are often putting a face on, wearing a smile, disguising how they really feel inside. Whereas Pennywise paints a smiling clown mask to hide his features, teachers often have to present an image of wellbeing by consciously adjusting their own facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. The less wellbeing they feel, the more effort it takes to project it.
It is rare that teachers say what they really feel in class. Because, if their learners knew what was going on inside their teacher’s mind, some would lose confidence, others would be confused, a section of the class might try to take advantage by misbehaving. Several more empathetic learners might be concerned, worried. The teacher would feel vulnerable, exposed, and potentially at risk of losing control. If you have ever cried in front of a class or seen another teacher cry, you will understand the ‘loss of face’ (note the metaphor) it entails.
The constant effort of maintaining this persona comes with a price. It takes a great deal of concentration, resilience and energy. If it is repeated day after day, it is ultimately exhausting. I know. I’ve been there. When the thought of putting on an act with a difficult class at the end of the day seemed almost impossible – one step too far. Actors will often tell you of the physical and mental demands of sustaining a role. And they are not required to control, amuse, engage, teach, guide and relate to 30 learners at the same time.
Pennywise has it made. He presents his clown face to the world without having to construct it. In the film, behind the grinning mask, his true feelings are hidden from the world…effortlessly. If only it were that easy for teachers…
Steve Waters is the founder and CEO of the Teach Well Alliance which is committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing of teachers: www.teachwellalliance.com You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org