When I graduated from university in the early eighties, I already had a steady boyfriend of four years. He was my senior at university and had graduated a few years ahead of me.
By the time I accepted my scroll during my convocation, he had already worked for three years. A few months after my graduation, we were ready to tie the knot – therefore I never tasted life as a single career woman.
As a working woman I had to juggle both the duties of a wife and the responsibilities of a career. In fact, I have been married for as long as I have been working!
For a good 24 years, I learned to manage my time, a social life, two children, my in-laws, other family members and work responsibilities. It is difficult to juggle the myriad roles women play when working and married at the same time.
Even today, the needs of my husband, children and home still interface with and affect my life as a teacher.
I sometimes wonder to myself: “Is life easier when you’re single?”
People say that teachers who stay single (be it out of personal choice or fate or circumstance) are better able to devote their energies and commitment to their role as teachers. Is that true?
It has even been said that single women or men, for example, make the best administrators or teachers, simply because they will be sort of “married” to the school. They will be willing to spend a large part of their time at school simply because they have the time to spare.
It is said that their devotion to scholarly causes, students and the needs of the school far outshine that of a married teacher. I wonder how single people respond to this belief? Is it an erroneous one?
I have often looked around at my colleagues and done a mental assessment of their professional commitment. Honestly speaking, while I think it is quite fair to say that most single teachers do seem to have more time to spend at school and therefore, be more involved in school affairs, I don’t think the simple correlation between “being single” and “being more dedicated at school” is true.
To my eye, single teachers show as many vagaries of personality and character as do married teachers. Some are hardworking, diligent, effective, efficient, dedicated and yes, even show the trait of almost being “married” to the school but I have met others who shirk their responsibilities or turn a blind eye to professional demands.
In my opinion the belief that single teachers work harder or contribute more is erroneous. Just like married staff, many of them want time to call their own and will bridle if asked to work overtime. And, just like married teachers, many single teachers have their own family concerns such as taking care of elderly parents, unmarried siblings or nieces and nephews.
They too seem to be as busy as those who are married with children and have husbands to answer to. Take giving tuition after school; I think that single teachers are as involved in this pursuit as many married breadwinner teachers are.
I remember a senior assistant I worked with two years ago. A woman in her late forties, she was efficient, diligent, a good administrator who “walked her talk” and was single.
Yet, I couldn’t help but notice how often her “single” status was remarked upon in a negative manner by those teachers whom she reprimanded. She could be quite acidic at times and rather candid in her comments, but then she was no worse than other married teachers who were administrators too.
But, the word going round the staffroom was often disparaging and cruel – she was described as a “dragon-lady”, a “fussy spinster” and a woman “who had nothing better to do with her time”.
I even heard a married teacher say: “Thank God she didn’t get married. Her husband would have left her within a month.”
In yet another school, I worked with a single man who had his own set of eccentricities. While he too was a good administrator, he was not the most tactful of men and used to make acerbic comments. On bad days, the staffroom was filled with equally acerbic and sometimes, downright uncalled-for words about him.
Are our comments about single teachers who are doing their job well but who rub us the wrong way fair? Isn’t it true that when married teachers commit similar “crimes”, we absolve them in a more kind way?
It is high time we sit down, reflect and stop the business of labelling others. A single teacher’s lot is not an easy one. They certainly do not need to bear the brunt of negative opinions at school. They have feelings too.
Statistics show that many of them love their single status. In fact, many young women with good jobs reject the idea of marriage.
So, who are we to judge them? We should appreciate the choices people make and stand by them in a professional manner.
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