Why is teaching becoming more difficult? – A guest blog by Michael Hempseed
23 February 2021
Why is Teaching Becoming More Difficult?
The opening question is a huge topic, I could write several very long books on the subject and still not cover everything.
I want to focus on a significant and rising problem.
Firstly, many teachers are reporting an increase in aggression and even violence in the classroom, https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/419869/kicked-hit-slapped-and-bitten-quarter-of-primary-school-teachers-feel-unsafe-in-class-survey
This is being reported at all levels, all deciles and all across the country.
Secondly, many teachers are having to manage increasing numbers of anxious and distressed students.
An increase in aggression and anxiety can be related, when people become anxious, their body activates the fight, flight, freeze or faint response. Some people when they are anxious the fight response comes out and this is why we are seeing an increase in violence and aggression. I must point out that not everyone with anxiety will become aggressive, some become very passive, but it must be acknowledged that some become very aggressive.
New Zealand research and International research points to at least a doubling of mental illness in the last decade . Researchers believe that this is a genuine increase and it is not because we are just better at recognising it.
All of this means that teaching is often becoming much more difficult than it was even a decade ago.
However, there are ways to manage this.
Firstly, taking the time to learn and educate yourself about these issues can really help.
I speak to groups all over New Zealand. When I explain that often anxiety and aggression can be related, this often gives teachers and parents new insights into the behaviour, once they understand the true causes, they can start to address this. The overwhelming majority of mental illness is at least manageable if not treatable.
Secondly, this can be really tough on the well being of teachers, teachers should seek support for themselves.
There is a great TED talk on this by Sydeny Jensen, https://www.ted.com/talks/sydney_jensen_how_can_we_support_the_emotional_well_being_of_teachers
 Keyes, K. M., Gary, D., O’Malley, P. M., Hamilton, A., & Schulenberg, J. (2019). Recent increases in depressive symptoms among US adolescents: trends from 1991 to 2018. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 1-10.