Editorial - Teacher seeks partner for quiet nights in

As we head towards the end of the school year in the northern hemisphere, teachers are inevitably faced with jibes from friends and family members about the "ridiculous school holidays". The lengthy summer break (not to mention Christmas and Easter) is perhaps the most significant dividing line between teacher communities and their muggle neighbours.

To be fair, most lay folk engage in this banter with tongue firmly in cheek, vaguely aware of hideous working hours during term time and certain that they could barely hack a day at the chalkface, let alone 39 weeks a year.

Partners of teachers, of course, have long known not to engage in this kind of jesting; no one understands the commitment that school staff make better than husbands, wives or other halves (which is probably one of the reasons why so many teachers settle down with other teachers). Indeed, no one is better positioned to appreciate that the long summer break is well deserved.

In fact, they would probably be the first to observe that the 13 weeks of holiday a year in England is not about teachers at all, but is necessary because children need far longer than adults to recharge their batteries.

So what does it take to be a teacher consort? What qualities are needed to design pencil holders, collect rock samples at midnight or simply keep pouring the coffee that fuels marking?

First of all, acceptance: if it's a school night, then spontaneous fun is out of the question. That probably goes for Sunday afternoons, too. Marking and planning take precedence - over just about everything.

But apart from a willingness to hibernate for great swathes of the year, what other characteristics can we identify? Judging by our feature (see pages 30-34), a few traits are common among those who maintain successful relationships with teachers.

Patience is a must. Teaching is a stressful career and teachers bring their work home with them. Literally. The job can - and often does - become all-consuming. It takes tolerance to share a life with someone who is obsessed by exams, school inspections and the assistant principal from hell.

Then there's creativity. It is striking just how many teachers rely on their partners to supply the je ne sais quoi when the inspiration has dried up at 1 o'clock in the morning.

Intellectual curiosity: good teachers love to learn. If you're married to a geographer, you can expect to find yourself "accidentally" visiting a "fascinating" chalk escarpment. If you're attached to a physics teacher, your children will know their way around the local science museum better than the local park.

Empathy: if it's not clear why you need empathy in spades, this column is failing.

In short, many of the characteristics of the teacher's perfect plus one can be found in the perfect teacher.

So go on, all you singletons out there, look no further than the staffroom. Why not take advantage of the summer break and suggest a drink to that charming bod in the mathematics department who you've always rather fancied?


Gerard Kelly is away.

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