I’ve been a public school teacher for over a decade, and
over the years I’ve come to realize that my job takes up a large part of my
life, my heart, and my mind. I’m married
to a wonderful man, but the fact that sometimes my job creeps into the space
where our married life should be placed #1 hasn’t always been easy. My husband isn’t a teacher, nor did he grow up
in a teaching household. It was a
completely different world for him, but thankfully we’ve grown into this place where the demands of my job doesn’t cause a strain or resentment. The
spouse of a school teacher doesn’t always know what he/she is signing up for,
and truthfully, neither does the teacher.
I hope the following open letter to the spouse of a school teacher provides a point of view that will enlighten and encourage in a space that isn’t
very easy to explain, understand, or navigate.
1) The job never ends. It’s partly because we are excited about the work
we are doing, and it’s partly because there is just so much work to do. We are going to bring it home with us. We are
going to talk about it. If we aren’t talking about it, we are working on it. If
we aren’t working on it, we are thinking about it. If we aren’t working on it, we are talking
about it. You get the picture. All you
have to do is listen, nod, and help us carve out space and time to get it all done.
2) The exhaustion isn’t just physical;
it’s mental and emotional exhaustion, too. We pour into students all day long – we encourage,
we beg, we prod, we discipline, and we give, give, and give some more. They are on a roller coaster, and if we aren’t
careful, we ride it with them. At the end
of the day, we need someone to fill our buckets
back up because our students aren’t going to – neither are their parents nor
will the administration. It doesn’t take
much – trust me. Just a little will
3) Like any job, there are going to
be good days and bad days. One day we will want to quit, and the next day we
will feel like we are on top of the world.
That’s because our hearts are in it, and sometimes it’s just because of
the moon phase! We don’t want you to
feel like you have to walk on egg shells. Remember that roller coaster? It’s easy to get caught up in the drama or to
become a part of it by telling us not to worry or to let it go, but it’s probably best if you don’t buy a ticket. The next day will be a
new day. Just be there to pray for us and help us
4) We do need someone to help us set
up our room. In my high school classroom every summer, the cleaning crew
dismantles the room to deep clean.
It is impossible for one person to put it all back. One person wouldn’t
be expected to move herself into a dorm room or small apartment. So, yes, that means I’m comparing a classroom
to a small apartment. We do have that much stuff. We spend 8+ hours a day in that room. We would like it to be nice and
5) We love you very much, but the
world of teaching, shaping other little peoples’ minds, and the pressure, judgement, and expectations
we are faced with each day from the government, administration, parents, students,
other teachers, and our own need to do it all to the best of our ability, puts
us in a fragile state of mind and leaves our emotions frazzled. It’s hard to manage all that and then come
home and keep up the smiling, kind words, and thoughtful gestures. It’s not that we don’t want to – we just
usually don’t have much of anything left. This is the hardest one of all. We know it’s hard for you; it’s hard for us, too.
I always think of the movie Freedom Writers (based on a true story),
when the main character’s husband leaves her because she is “consumed with her
students” and doesn’t have time for him.
This scene makes me sad – like the kind of sad that hurts. She is blindsided by the fact that he is feeling that way.
She never intended for him to be left out; in fact, she spent hours telling him
about it. But wait, that was the
problem, wasn’t it? If you’ve watched
the movie, you know the ending. If not,
just know that she does an incredible work with her students, but she loses her
marriage. We aren’t choosing our
students over our spouse. I’m completely
aware it seems that way, but we truly aren’t. At the end of the day, we need and
want you more than anything or anyone – to be our rock, supporter, listener,
around-the-house helper, and biggest fan.
We will never get that
anywhere else, and if you can just hold on to the end of May, we promise we will make it
up to you.