We know American teachers are under a tremendous burden of stress right now. They’re trying to juggle new technologies with their usual lesson plans. In many cases, they’re still expected to meet the same benchmarks they met pre-pandemic. They have to track down kids. They have to answer endless emails. They never know what new policy or protocol will blindside them. They need a support system. That’s where the teacher’s partner comes in.
As a teacher’s partner, I’m drowning.
My husband comes in from school—if he’s chosen to go to school, where some of his colleagues wear masks that don’t cover their noses and refuse to respect social distancing—and the litany begins. He’s always angry. Something has gone wrong: he’s had to change policies. He can’t find parents. He can’t find kids. His technology broke mid-class.
I used to be like my kids, counting the hours until Daddy comes home. Now, when I hear the door slam in the driveway, part of me cringes. I love my husband. But part of me, the part that’s the teacher’s partner, closes her eyes and steels herself. It’s coming.
He slams in the door. The policies don’t make sense, he says. If they make all the kids show their faces on Zoom, it’s clearly classism: every student sees the inside of every other student’s house, and it’s obvious who has money and who doesn’t. If they don’t make the kids show their faces on Zoom, who knows if they’re really there? He’s angry about a world where his students have to watch siblings because parents have to work, and it affects their education. He doesn’t blame the kids. But he’s livid that it happens, and he tells me.
Being A Teacher’s Partner Is Anxiety-Inducing
My husband wears an Apple watch. It tells him when he has an email, and I cringe at every ding. Is it his mom? Or is it his administrator relaying some new policy that will send him raving? And as the teacher’s partner, I’ll have to listen. I can’t calm him. I can’t help him. I can only be a receptacle for this rage, his safe space to unload.
The kids and I will be having a good day homeschooling. I’ll be getting writing done. We’ll be humming along, fairly happy, and then that car door slams. My stomach drops. Will he be in a good mood? Will he be in a bad mood? Will he storm through the house, angry at an unfair world, with only me—the teacher’s partner—to listen? Will he yell at the kids because his temper’s short, because he’s given all he can, and the poor man has nothing left?
I never know.
His Teaching Takes Over Our Lives
Our family life runs on Daddy. It has to. Daddy’s under the most pressure, and we have to give him space. Does he need time to go fishing alone? As the teacher’s partner, no matter how tired I am, I have to say, “Go. We’ll be fine.” Does he need someone to listen? As the teacher’s partner, I have to set aside what I’m doing and say, “Talk. I’ll hear you.” When he teaches from home—the safest option—I have to herd the kids out of his way, even when he’s on break.
As the teacher’s partner, when his email dings, I have to give him space. When that email enrages him, I have to listen.
Recently, I was having one of those pandemic days: the days when the walls close in and you feel good for absolutely nothing, when life seems like an endless slog into nothing and nowhere. I laid on the bed and cried. In the middle of that crying, I realized something.
My husband was on his email.
I called him on it.
“It could be from work!” he snapped. “You know I have to check it every single time! And I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is!”
This is what it means to be a teacher’s partner.
Being A Teacher’s Partner Can Suck The Life From A Marriage
Don’t ask me when I last had sex. I don’t want to answer you, mostly because I can’t remember, and I used to have a really great sex life. I just don’t want to be intimate with someone who makes me that anxious, who stomps in the door, who’s constantly only half-there, whose topic of conversation is school, school, school. And if he isn’t talking about school, he’s talking about his friends who teach at school. Being a teacher’s partner simply drains me. I’m giving so much to someone else that I don’t have enough to give more back.
Forget hanging out after the kids go to bed. He does a few things: he sleeps. He watches a mindless movie. He works. Usually he does the last two in combination.
Usually I’m not tired, so I stay awake and do my own thing. It’s lonely being a teacher’s partner. Sometimes I go to sleep when I’m not tired, just because I can’t think of anything else to do. We used to have time together in the mornings before the kids woke up. No more. He sleeps until the last possible minute. I can’t blame him. But I hate it.
His school sucks up everything he has. If it’s not school, it’s his family. He doesn’t have enough emotional energy left for me. I’ve stopped asking for it. Being a teacher’s partner at this stage in the pandemic means giving and giving until you can’t give any more. It means supporting the people who need the most support. We’re the people behind the front lines, the ones you don’t see: the medics binding up the wounds and propping up the soldiers to fight another day.
Teachers have it harder.
But being a teacher’s partner isn’t an easy job, either.