I met my wife Zoe on the TES online forums some 10 years ago where we bonded over discussions on the films of Kevin Smith, sci-fi novels and song lyrics. After getting through a gruelling Ofsted inspection I suggested we meet up for a celebratory hot chocolate and a movie. We have been together ever since.
As soon as colleagues hear that we are both teachers, there tends to be the same reaction: a raised eyebrow, an inquisitive look and the comment “I’m not sure I could do that.”
I’m not sure what they imagine will happen if they did. A recent slew of articles and blog posts about the pressures faced by teachers driving them from the classroom would certainly suggest that teaching will put pressure on a relationship; but does both being teachers necessarily double that pressure?
There are certainly times that it can. End of term and exam season tend to mean we are both tired and more than usually over worked. Some weeks we find we have parents’ evenings and meetings, which mean we aren’t going to see much of each other and weekends can quickly get away from us in a blur of marking and lesson planning. But I am not sure this would be improved if only one of us taught. In fact, I think it could make things more difficult.
As we are both teachers we have an understanding of what the other needs to do and why. I know couples where one of them is a teacher and they struggles to explain why they aren’t free to go out on a Sunday afternoon or why half term doesn’t automatically mean they are available for childcare.
It also means we have a shared language. Can you imagine being able to say “I wonder what Dylan Williams makes of how AFL has been distorted into multi-coloured pen dialogic marking. I know David Didau would have something to say about it” to someone outside the profession?
Now you might argue that you would rather not utter such a sentence at all and one concern some have about being in a relationship with another teacher is that they would not be able to switch off at home. But I can’t imagine being married to a teacher unless I was happy talking shop at home. The job is immersive and it isn’t something I can just walk away from as I leave the school gates. It certainly helps that we love our jobs and are very happy in our respective schools. When we are talking about work it is usually with a sense of excitement about what we are doing and where our schools are going.
Bringing work home to a fellow teacher also means you have someone to bounce ideas around with, someone to look over a lesson plan or just to make sympathetic noises when the Education Secretary announces their new back-of-a-fag-packet idea. We are both involved in planning and delivering CPD and can share blog posts we have come across and ideas from books we have read.
Being in a relationship and both being teachers works for us. It means we have holidays at the same time, it means that we have someone who understands the crazy demands of the job and can lend a sympathetic ear. And of course we can share a subscription to Tes.
Mark Enser is head of Geography at Heathfield Community College and blogs at Teachreal.wordpress.com. Zoe is director of Improvements: CPD and English at Seahaven Academy.