Why a jobshare relationship is like a marriage

A good jobshare, like a good marriage, relies on trust, communication and a willingness to clear up after yourself. Ginny Bootman says her vows

Ginny Bootman

Line drawing of man and woman, running towards each other, holding half a love heart

The more I job share, the more I come to an inevitable conclusion: job sharing is like being married, but to a partner you can’t be entirely honest with. 

Having to think constantly before you speak is the main part of job sharing, and it is at times exhausting.

I have job shared as a headteacher and as a class teacher. They have their positive points and their difficulties. Sharing, after all, takes compromise.

You must remember that you are sharing the role, and let things go. For example, in a primary class teacher jobshare, you might decide that one of you will set the spellings and the other set homework. 

If you choose this route, you have to have complete trust in what your jobshare partner is doing, or else it fails terribly. You must also resist the temptation to check up on what they are doing, or the trust is lost.

Like a dysfunctional marriage

Planning is another can of worms. I know of a colleague who split maths and English planning with her jobshare partner. However, she then picked apart her partner’s planning, re-did it and sent it back to her. Ouch. 

That jobshare, much like a dysfunctional marriage, did not last very long.

As in a marriage, a jobshare works best when there are shared values. There is an unwritten jobshare code, which says: “Finish the work during your own working days, and don’t leave it for me to finish during my days.” 

But not all jobshare partners subscribe to this code. A colleague of mine who job shared had a partner who didn’t get the “Don’t leave me work to finish” memo. That’s like moving in with your boyfriend and finding out that he only thinks he needs to wash half the dinner dishes. 

Rearranging the furniture

As in a marriage, in a jobshare you need a shared commitment to housework. Or, more accurately, classroomwork.

You don’t want to let your jobshare partner down when they walk in on their first day of the week. No one wants to turn up at work and find Pritt Sticks with no lids on, or a whiteboard with no marker pens. 

No one wants to come home and find that their partner has rearranged all the living-room furniture without asking. Equally, I have learned over time not to do anything radical in the classroom without asking your jobshare partner.

If I have an idea for changing the classroom layout, I discuss it with my partner, and we talk about it together. If, on the odd occasion, one of us does decide to move things around, we let the other one know. Jobshares don’t like huge surprises.

Residential trips are another hot potato. Which of you goes? Should it be that you always go if the residential falls on your working day? 

This works as a general rule – but not when my son was very young. Back then, my jobshare partner went instead. As in a marriage, there needs to be give and take.

It's not you – it's me

I remember speaking to a teacher who was job sharing, and he was very scathing of his jobshare partner. His “other half” was lazy, he said. She didn't do her fair share, and her planning wasn’t up to scratch. 

On further discussion, it transpired that he actually overplanned, micro-organising the jobshare and generally making his partner feel rubbish about herself. 

I tried to broach this with him, but his expectations were so high that any jobshare partner was doomed. All very tricky. His jobshare left soon after. It’s not you; it’s me.

Communication is key to any good relationship. But how much to communicate is difficult. Too much, and both people feel like they are never away from work. Too little, and you end up having that awkward conversation with a parent about an incident that happened on your day off, and feeling embarrassed that you don’t know the full story.

Trust keeps a marriage afloat, and also a jobshare team. If one partner is a micromanager, you may as well just work full time. 

We work part time. We get paid for the days we work. We need to remember this. When we are not in school, there is someone else getting paid to take the class and do the job on those days. So let them get on with it.

Ginny Bootman is senior manager, Sendco and class teacher in a village school, part of the Evolve multi-academy trust, in Northamptonshire. She tweets @sencogirl

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