It was an idyllic vision: my husband and me, both working as teachers. I could imagine us swapping classroom stories over dinner, commiserating about difficult students, bouncing lesson plan ideas off each other. And then, of course, the summers together.
It almost turned out that way, too. An educator at an aquarium, my husband wanted a more in-depth teaching experience than the hour-long sessions he spent instructing field trip classes about marine life. When he enrolled in grad school for a teaching degree, I rejoiced. An English teacher and a biology teacher, a marriage of different disciplines, united by a common profession … ah, the romance of it all.
Then my husband finished his student teaching. And decided that actually, he didn’t want to be a teacher after all.
When he landed another science job, one he really wanted, I was happy for him, even though part of me felt cheated out of the two-teacher marriage that was almost ours. But in the year that followed, I began to recognize the upsides of a life where my partner isn’t a teacher too.
1. Different yearly rhythms
It was grading crunch time during my first year at a new school and I was teaching a new grade level with an unfamiliar curriculum. My weekends were a non-stop slog of essay reading, with occasional breaks to plan the next week’s lessons. Who was bringing me cups of tea and making dinner? That’s right, my partner, who happily wasn’t laboring under his own pile of grading. Before this, I’d been harboring some disappointment that he’d given up on teaching. Not after that weekend. And because his workplace rhythms are different from mine, I’m able to provide support for him during his crunch times too.
2. Solo decompression time
When I get home from school at 4 pm, the last thing I want is a conversation. The hour and a half alone before my husband gets home is my time to decompress. I enjoy the empty house, sorting the mail, and listening to NPR as I prep dinner. By the time my husband gets home, I’ve shaken off the day’s hassles and I’m ready to engage with another human.
3. Different work stories
My husband’s job involves habitat restoration, land acquisition, and the occasional panicked phone call from a citizen convinced that coyotes ate Rover. I enjoy my days with students (well, most of the time), and I like regaling my husband with tales from the classroom (or venting about them). But frankly, it’s refreshing to listen to a completely different set of workplace stories over dinner. Especially if they involve hungry coyotes.
4. The non-teacher perspective
Sometimes you’re just too close to the problem to see it clearly. That’s as true for teachers as anyone, and it’s why I value my partner’s outside perspective—whether it’s about a lesson idea, a discipline issue, or a co-worker. And though I’m no biologist, I appreciate that he depends on me for insight about his workplace too. I may not know much about coyotes (or dogs, for that matter), but defusing emotionally charged situations is certainly one of the things we teachers understand how to do.
It’s only now, at the end of the school year, that my regret that my partner isn’t a teacher tends to creep up on me again. That’s when I find myself pensively contemplating the benefits of summers off together: the extended travel or volunteering we could do, the projects we could begin (and finish). I suppose there will be time for all of that someday when we both retire. For now, I’ll have to be content with that and remember why I’m (mostly) happy that my partner isn’t a teacher.