In his recent feature on what a teacher needs from their partner, Callum Wilkinson makes some salient points: he is right, there is no denying that education has been hit hard this year; and he is right, they do need an understanding ear from their partner.
Teachers around the world have struggled to teach from home and all that entails *insert scream here*. The return to work this autumn has been no mean feat. If half-term happened, it must have been while I was in a marking-induced slumber and yet here we are, in Lockdown 2, the return of the unknown.
How you can support your teacher partner
But unlike Callum, I have seen the challenges that teachers face this year not because my partner is one, but because I am one. While I admire Callum for his anthemic support for our breed, I have additional advice for those of you who are not teachers, share your lives with them and would like to continue to do so.
Think of it as an extension task.
Contrary to Callum’s advice, you do not need to be there for your teaching partner at all times. They are independent, strong, dynamic people who are used to making many decisions in less time than it takes you to finish your coffee.
Here are six more things you need to remember to survive.
1. You need to actually listen
Nodding and saying "Hmm" at odd intervals is not listening. Learn some abbreviations to help you navigate this. Teachers talk in code. SLT, TA, CPD, PM, Sendco, EBI are useful starters.
Put a time restriction on post-work ranting, 15 minutes in the week, a total ban at the weekend. This means your teacher will prioritise their seething vent and you will retain some sanity.
2. Retain control
Teachers run the show: their classrooms are mini empires. Every minute of their working day is controlled in some form. It is exhausting, ask any world leader. So sometimes it is wonderful to come home to find that the other adult in the house has taken the initiative with life’s mundanities.
3. Step away from their stuff
Do not on any terms touch any of the vital resources that teachers collect – they are sacrosanct. Do not tut and huff and sigh, just work around the piles of household treasure. Do not throw away anything that could be used for mixing paint or making a snowman’s hat. What you can do is wash up the yoghurt pots and mince pie tins and stack them neatly by the sink ready to be taken to school to supplement the tiny budgets teachers have to work with, OK?
4. Hope they don’t use their voice on you
A teacher voice has many levels. In a domestic setting, it is mostly low-level and instructive. My husband recently shared with me that I never switch off from teacher mode when I speak. I don’t have a problem with that and neither does he, now that I have shared a PowerPoint on assertiveness with him. However, there are varying degrees of teacher voice. The one almighty hurricane that comes up from the soles of your feet, blasting small children off their chairs is one you never, ever want to witness so just bear that in mind. My advice? See point three.
5. Understand the holidays
Teachers spend most of term time stockpiling tasks to be completed in the holidays. This can be as underwhelming as tidying a drawer but it will have been planned for many months in advance. Do not add to their self-imposed holiday workload by suggesting a total refit of the kitchen or a trip to Diggerland. And do not forget that doing nothing at all is an actual thing and counts as time well spent.
6. Be the balance
If there is one thing you do, find some friends who are not teachers. Better still find some friends who never went to school because, for some bizarre reason, all people seem to think their school experiences are of interest to us. They really aren’t. Horrible teachers, failed exams and educational injustices are of no interest.
Zoë Crockford is an art teacher at a secondary school in Bournemouth