The dark side of the whiteboard - Teaching has cost me my marriage

12th March 2010 at 00:00

On Wednesday last week, my loving husband of 23 years walked out on me, two teenage kids, two dogs, an assortment of grazing livestock and the eight Wall's pork sausages he was frying for our tea.

He said he needed to leave us in order to find out who he really is. That really shouldn't be too difficult - try a two syllable word that begins with W and rhymes with banker.

In less time than it takes me to mark a whole set of Year 7 books, he has removed all trace of his personal possessions from our lives. Gone are his clothes, his CDs, his unwanted advice and his irritating habit of overloading the dishwasher and then blaming the Finish Powerball tablets for the streaky results.

And much as I want to heap the blame on him, a tiny part of me wonders whether my career as a teacher played any part in grounding the good ship Matrimony.

So, when I'm not anaesthetised by sleeping tablets, or worn out by coping with the demands of a family and a full-time job, I have been thinking about what it must be like to live with a teacher.

First off, there is the issue of deferred gratification. We are so busy keeping on top of planning, marking and government initiatives that any pleasurable activity (cinema, theatre, going to bed with your clothes off) has been postponed so far into the future that even the Enterprise on warp factor 10 would struggle to get there. My husband regularly complained that I was never "in the moment" but always "hopefully travelling". He was right. Teachers are work junkies. We are addicted to coping with unmanageable deadlines: "It will be alright when I get through the AS coursework""I will be fine after the November entry""Just bear with me until after Ofsted". Sound familiar?

The tasks are endless and - like the Augean stables - we never get them finished because just as soon as we have swept up one pile of ordure, another one magically appears.

There is, of course, some brief respite at the end of the academic year. In July we all go cold turkey for six weeks, swearing that next year it will be different, then we hit September and the whole cycle relentlessly begins again. So, much as I despise my selfish, egotistical husband for leaving, I realise that it can't have been easy living with an addict.

I also recognise that my career killed off the last vestiges of any romance in our lives. Where our bedroom was once full of candles, fine linen and exotic perfumes, (well, long-life bulbs, a plug-in air freshener and a Norwegian duvet set), in recent years it became an extension of my classroom. My bookshelves bulge with set texts, York notes and a cornucopia of support materials to ease in AQA's new spec GCSE. It's hardly Ann Summers. With hindsight, I can see that the introduction of formative assessment into the marital bed was ill advised, and that following up lovemaking with two stars and a wish, however well-intentioned, might be construed as some form of sexual slight.

Thanks to teaching, my marriage is in tatters, my health is in crisis and my children may never be able to face pork sausages again. So while the TDA is urging you to "Turn your talent to teaching", be warned - you may also be turning your partner into your ex.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary English teacher in the North of England.

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