Should they stay or should they go?

14th September 2007 at 01:00
I wasn't expecting it when Julie came to see me. I've known her a long time, we have taught together and shared a lot. Yet suddenly she had found herself in the grip of entirely unexpected feelings she had become emotionally entangled with a colleague.

They are both like teenagers, apparently. Not eating, not sleeping, exchanging hurried and secret emails. But now this first flush of excitement has been replaced by anxiety and guilt. They have always liked each other but they are both happily married with children.

What should she do? It is far too easy to judge if you have never experienced such a thing. But I am only a headteacher, nothing more. My job doesn't give me any more insight into the intricacies of the human heart than anyone else.

They have both always been so much in control but now events are running away from them. Julie tells me they haven't actually done anything much more physical than holding hands and kissing at the end-of-term disco. But as far as they are concerned, their connection with each other is such that they may as well have gone much further. My problem is that I do not want to lose either of them. Yet they both feel, as honourable people, that at least one of them should go.

They are both fundamentally decent people. It will undoubtedly end in tears. Now that I know about it, I can see it in their glances and their proximity. But I can offer no advice.

She has told me because I am an old friend and because I have seniority, but I suppose she just needed to talk. There have been rumours. It might be easy to criticise but I do not think I can, and they are so desperate not to hurt anyone else.

I want to help them but it is hard to know what I can do. Would it help if I were to tell them to pull themselves together? Or should I send them away to a hotel to sort themselves out? If only it were easy. Pain and heartache seem inevitable.

I have a duty of care to both of them but I am not quite sure what form that should take. They are trying to control their hearts with their heads, putting the needs of others before this overwhelming emotional connection.

I know that my obligation to the school community means that I need to keep two excellent teachers. But it is hard because they are honourable. They cannot anticipate working together again.

All I can do is to offer to listen, but they are the ones who will somehow have to sort this out.

John Sutton

is a pseudonym. He teaches in North Wales

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