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'Help! I'm in a relationship with an NQT and I don't know how to help him cope'

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My partner is a newly qualified teacher and he’s reaching the end of his first term in charge of a Year 6 class. He’s also reaching the end of his tether, and the end of a large packet of Strepsils.

But it’s me who needs your help. Friends who are teachers tell me I must give him “support” – but I have no idea how.

Some days, it’s easy. He comes home thrilled about a lesson that’s gone well, or a pupil who’s made great progress. Other days, he’s frustrated, exhausted and – worst of all – disappointed in himself.

I tell him he’s doing a great job. But I’m not a teacher, so I don’t really know what a “doing a great job” involves. He knows that, so my reassurance doesn’t carry much weight.

I can’t help my boyfriend keep a class of ten-year-olds quiet, or mark books in the best (and quickest) way, or make great lesson plans.

So what can I do? Tactics I’ve tried so far include:

  • Making him food to take to school – sometimes there’s not enough time to grab food from the canteen.
  • Dragging him from underneath a pile of marking at the weekend, just for a quick walk in the park. I know the workload is huge, but a teacher with cabin fever is surely no use.
  • Agreeing to watch his favourite films on a Saturday night, because although I’m no fan of Top Gun I know it’ll cheer him up.
  • Not complaining about the 6am alarm, even though I don’t need to be awake until at least 7.30am.

These things have had varying degrees of success (walks in the park = good; cleaning squashed banana from school bag = bad; falling asleep during Top Gun = not ideal).

But I’m fed up of offering empty reassurances so I’m appealing to teachers for help. How can I give him the confidence to do a great job but avoid the ill-informed platitudes? What would have helped you the most when you were starting out?

Answers on a postcard please… Or on Twitter... Or on Facebook... 

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