My partner grew up in West Berlin, in a borough called Neukölln, which was part of the American Sector. When she was 14 the wall came down and she remembers that day vividly. It had a major impact on making her the beautifully complex woman she is today. The influx of Eastern Germans into her Gymnasium School, after the fall of the wall, brought very different values, beliefs and political views with them. They challenged her way of thinking more than anything in her life and many became lifelong friends. Knowing this helps me understand her juxtaposition of a love of Louboutins melded together with her strong socialistic and collective tendencies.
She remembers going over to the East Side of Berlin after the wall came down, with her father who was a Police Officer. East Berlin had none of the capitalist advantages of West. To her it seemed like it was another place completely. Somewhere totally foreign and definitely not part of the same city. Even after 25 years after the wall has come down it still feels like that to her when she visits friends and family. A recent photo from space captures that perfectly showing the different lighting of the two halves. Even though the city has been reunified since 1989 the split still lingers.
A wall can stop two halves of the same thing from growing together and even when it finally is pulled down it can be hard to reconnect. In a relationship between two full-time teachers a wall builds up. It slowly creeps higher and higher without you noticing it. The foundations of the wall are laid with laptops open at breakfast whilst checking emails from work. The bricks are placed one on top of each other when one of you continues to mark whilst the other goes to bed alone. Soon you lose sight of your partner, but you don’t realise as your focus is on improving a resource that was perfect last year. The height increases when you forget to ring your friends or family because something that is important for someone else needs to be done that night. It continues to build when one of you doesn’t sleep due to the worry of a child that isn’t even yours. Weeks of building go by, even on the weekends, as excuses are made to continue to work. You guard your words, not knowing what effect they may have. Then the holidays come and you are suddenly aware you are alone in the dark shadow of a monstrous wall.
It isn’t till you have the time for yourself that you realise it towers above you and between your partner. Having a partner that teaches gives you an empathy, understanding and an insight in the relationship that a non-teacher sometimes can’t. They understand your stresses and worries as they experience them themselves on a daily basis. It allows you to talk, question, bounce ideas off each other and to support completely. It also builds a wall between you such is the relenting nature of teaching if you fully embrace it as a lifestyle choice.
Our holidays are used by the media or the public to highlight how easy we have it as teachers. It’s a constant remark made by people I meet when they ask me my profession. Previously this would make us both feel very guilty if we weren’t working constantly in the holidays. We felt like we needed to justify to others that we used our holidays for catching up. We would spend days in work, by ourselves, doing displays, tidying store cupboards and catching up on admin that had been put aside. Teaching and building relationships with children requires a substantial amount of your energy and enthusiasm. They feed off it and grow. You get something back from that, but it takes away what you have to give to your partner.
What the holidays give you is enough time to dismantle the wall and embrace what is behind it. To share new ideas, laughter and moments of joy with your partner before going back to work and being ignorant of the wall that slowly builds itself up again. Don’t feel guilty of the holiday you have. Embrace it fully. It’s needed to not only recharge yourself but to make connections to those close to you, when for weeks you’ve been trying to build connections with your pupils.
Use it to bring down the wall. Rebuild connections and try to plan not to let the wall get so high next time.