I’ve been a public school teacher for over two decades, 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 music teacher, but the fact that sometimes my job creeps into the space where our married life should be placed #1 hasn’t always been easy.
The spouse of a middle 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 middle 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 be done. We are always 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 do.
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 refocus.
4. We do need someone to help us set up our room. In my middle 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 an hour a day SEVEN times a day in that room. We would like it to be nice and functional.
5. We love you very much, but the world of teaching, shaping other peoples’ minds, and the pressure, judgment, 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. At least I hope I will.
Modified from Julie Faulkner's blog