Teaching with your heart(break).
How the two loves of my life conflicted and the lessons I’ve learnt from both.
I’m not a relationship guru, consultant or counsellor. I’m not Hitch (great film by the way). My own experiences of relationships is, like many of us, a rollercoaster. But I have realised through life’s many unexpected twists & turns that, intimacy is very fragile. Relationships need time, mutual effort & respect. I’ve always wanted to know how teachers handle the demands of their jobs alongside the demands of their relationships.
Romance and relationships aren’t easy nor are they supposed to be. They come with their demands, compromises, stresses, strains, expectations, challenges, frustrations, anxieties, euphoria & everything in between.
The following blog is an interview from a good friend, Tom (I’ve anonymised names upon his wishes). Tom wanted me to bring light to this story & how teaching impacted on his relationship with his then Fiancé Rachel. This is Tom’s story & I hope we can all learn a thing or two from it. I certainly have!
Rachel & I
Rachel was the love of my life. We met in Sixth Form, suppose we gravitated toward one another studying the same subjects. She was my partner in Performing Arts in our schools end of year performance; Grease. We hit it off, even went to the same university! Rachel was funny, kind, caring & smart. I was perhaps the more emotional one but I knew she was one special. She would light up the entire room with her smile. We both graduated, moved into together and we wanted to become teachers. Rachel went into Primary, I chose Secondary. The PGCE was tough on her, her Father passed away during her first placement but she soldiered on. A year later, our NQT year was done & dusted. I proposed on our NQT graduation, she said YES! I had everything I ever wanted. The best job in the world, a loving fiancé and when Rachel fell pregnant, a family. What more could a guy ask for?!
Rachel unfortunately had a miscarriage in August 2018 and our relationship was never the same. I was struggling to process what had happened so I just buried myself with work. I was chasing a promotion so I spent every hour of ever day making sure I could get that TLR. At home, Rachel & I grew distant. I began to forget anniversaries, birthdays & family gatherings. All of which I religiously worked around but now I was working to avoid. Rachel left teaching and took up a job at our local cafe. The money wasn’t great but she was happy not to bring work home.
I continued to work my 80 hour weeks. Rachel would tell me “Tom, when you going to make time for us?”. I would say “Just got to mark one more book” or “After I’ve done this reference”. I was coming home later and later. Totally oblivious to my partner because I thought I was building a future for us. I wasn’t. I was thinking about my career ahead of my family.
After her miscarriage, Rachel gained support from the Miscarriage Association. A fantastic charitable organisation that helped her through such a traumatic time.
Thursday September 13th 2018. I was pulling into drive after my interview to become a Trainee Mentor. I got the job and was going to tell Rachel about it over dinner. But I spotted her taking a load of boxes into her sisters car. I could see how distressed she was. We argued, we cried, we disagreed but ultimately we agreed that I spent too much time working. Rachel said and I remember this as clear as yesterday “Work! It’s all you talk about. Where’s my fiancé? Every second you spend on work. I’ve told you so many times but you won’t listen. I needed my fiancé when we lost our baby but all you wanted to do was mark f*ing books”. She left me. This battle between us which was created by my workload as a teacher lead to me losing the love of my life.
I knew she was struggling after the miscarriage that summer but she had left me. I tried to avoid that feeling of sadness by planning Friday’s lessons. That morning I woke up, got read and drove into work. I put on the radio to take my mind off the home truths I was hit with. OutKast – Ms.Jackson was playing. Oh the irony, her last name was Jackson. Ironically also, the song we wanted to play at our wedding.
Asking what happened to the feeling that her and me,
Had, I pray so much about it need some knee, pads,
It happened for a reason one can’t be, mad,
She was the love of my life & so was teaching. But my two loves couldn’t co-exist. This is not to say that colleagues and fellow friends don’t have prospering personal & professional lives. I would be lying to say that my old HOD worked with his wife, same department. They were lovely, planned holidays around work, had a young family and I was in awe. It can be done but something that does take time, dedication and commitment. Rachel & I couldn’t find the balance. Losing Rachel was so difficult but hindsight is a beautiful thing, I’ll always love her. I’ll always love teaching but I’d choose a life over a career.
Since that rainy day in September, I couldn’t cope with work. My taken-for-granted personal life was a mess. I was lonely, still in shock and reeling. I got my promotion, my TLR & I was being fast-tracked to be in SLT. Was I happy? No. I lost my soul mate because I dedicated all my time to teaching. Shuaib remember when you put that Tweet up about ‘Building a career & not a life’. The rest of 18–19 was terrible. I began to loathe my job, lost all my passion. My lesson observations dipped below my quintessential ‘Outstanding’. I couldn’t help my trainees. Coming home every night to piles of marking and not a smile in sight, I handed in my notice at Easter. I was signed off for weeks on end desperately trying to find some sort of work-life balance.
As I’ve said, hindsight is a beautiful thing. I just want to share some of the lessons I learnt from both Rachel & from teaching.
• Prioritise – Rachel would always plan & mark to be on top of things for the next day. She would separate her books and mark them according to urgency. She had an uncanny ability to work until 6pm every night and ONLY do her immediate priority jobs.
• Cut off time – 6pm. She’d work till 6 and nothing more. Even when she had lesson observations and Ofsted, she would stop working and start something totally different.
• Weekends – I would work every second. Rachel would refuse. She would always plan days out with her Sister or friends. It was self-distancing which she mastered. You’d never catch her frowning. She loved teaching, loved her students and this was possible because had a balance between work & life.
• Supporting your loved ones – I wasn’t there for Rachel when she had a miscarriage. I actually didn’t take any time off as my exam groups were approaching a critical time. My Fiancé had lost our baby but I was too work obsessed and negligent to put her feelings before my own. In hindsight I would have been there for Rachel, taken time off, tried to understand and yes, grieved with her. We have to support our loved ones as they are all we’ve got.
I know have a large readership Shuaib so thank you and all your readers. I’m a lot happier now working in the Finance sector. Rachel & I are on good terms. Could you please leave a link to MA for me too!
Tom & Rachel’s story is truly important. When we refer to wellbeing and work-life balance, we sometimes see it as an abstract concept. If anything, our loved ones, our families and our stories are more important than our jobs. I hope I was able to articulate this story as accurately as possible. With my love Tom.
Thank you for reading.