Who Stood Behind You This Year? #SOL21

I’m 7 school days away from the end of the most challenging year of my 23 year teaching career. I’ve taught in person for the majority of the year though I did teach remotely for a short time in September and again between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I spent the first two and half months of the school year teaching a 2nd grade hybrid class where every day I had 14 students in person and 5 students join my class remotely. I’ve heard this modeled referred to as “the unholy hybrid model” and I have to say, I agree. Thankfully, my district realized this wasn’t best for K-2 students. Sadly, my 3-5 colleagues have continued teaching this way the entire school year.

We teachers have been through a lot this year. Personally, I could not have made it through this year without my husband by my side every step of the way. While I went off each day facing the risks of exposing us to a possibly deadly virus he worked from home. As he worked from home he also assumed many of the domestic duties that we used to share. Laundry, cooking and dishes pretty much became solely his responsibilities. While we planned our meals together and I pretty much did all the grocery shopping, he’s been cooking and doing all the dishes for the entire school year. This school year has left me exhausted at the end of each day. We would have starved if I was responsible for the cooking and our kitchen would have looked like the kitchen in The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes.

We went away this weekend to celebrate his birthday so we didn’t do our usual menu planning and grocery shopping for the week. I texted him at lunchtime to let him know I couldn’t get to the store after school. Between after school meetings and needing to be ready for tomorrow it just wasn’t going to happen. I knew we were running low on most things but he texted back a thumbs up emoji followed later in the day by “I’m working on dinner now.”

He pulled together the most amazing mediterranean influenced dinner of marinated grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, brown rice and an amazing garlicky sauce. I could have been convinced he ordered take out from our local Greek restaurant but I actually watched him cook it. Coming home to our nightly dinners has been the highlight of my day this year. Most nights if I even attempt to start doing the dishes he just waves me away. I never could have made it through this year without him and I can’t thank him enough for all the love, help, kindness, patience and understanding he has shown me this year.

Teachers, we’ve had a rough year but many of us have had family and friends who have stood behind us and held us up throughout this year. Give them an extra hug and kiss this evening.

Part of the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Revelation #SOL20 Day 25

“You sound different.”

“What do you mean I sound different?” I said as I descended from my office classroom. I had just finished doing my daily Morning Meeting over Zoom with my 2nd graders and it was time for a late morning snack so I ventured to the kitchen.

“When you’re teaching, you sound different. Your tone of voice, it’s different. You’re just . . . different.”

It seemed like my husband thought a stranger had emerged from our upstairs office but then I realized he’s never really seen me at work. He’s never really seen what I do day in and day out when I’m with my kids. He sees all the preparations. The hours of making plans, creating materials, reading children’s literature and this year pouring over my Units of Study in Phonics as I learn yet another new teaching resource, but he’s never really seen me carry out all those plans.

I’m an introvert by nature but elementary teachers, especially in the primary grades, need to have the qualities of an extrovert. So, every day as my kids stream into my classroom I transform into Teacher Beth. Teacher Beth loves to get silly at Morning Meeting, do read alouds and get kids excited about books, use my mascot Gus to help me teach phonics, get over the top excited when someone shares a math strategy, or embellish a personal narrative to help make a teaching point.

“My job is a little like acting, you know, putting on a performance.” I explained. “I have to act different when I’m in front of a group of kids.”

“I guess I never really thought about it.” he said.

“As an introvert I really do need to become someone different in my classroom. It takes a lot of energy for me to do that.” I shared.

“That explains why you’re exhausted when you get home.” he concluded.

“Exactly!” I replied.

There’s so much we’re learning through this strange experience of social distancing and quarantine. I’m sure we’re all seeing a side of those we live with we’re not used to seeing. I hope my husband likes Teacher Beth, I’m not sure I can tell yet. Maybe once he gets over the shock I’ll know.

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Two Writing Teachers

It’s Not Easy Being . . .

IMG_8485Photo credit to one of my favorite teacher websites, We Are Teachers

Summer is winding down and it’s almost time to start the transformation back into School Year Wife. I think my husband dreads the transition even more than I do. I fear that during the summer I’m the woman he married 30 years ago but 10 months out of the year I’m some other woman. Years ago my husband started calling me his “favorite wife” which left me wondering How many wives does he have? When I would inquire about this his answer would be, “Of all the wives I know, you’re my favorite.” That didn’t really clear things up for me nor was it comforting. He’s married to two women and they’re both me, School Year Wife and Summer Wife. It’s not easy being . . .married to a teacher.

We teachers ask a lot of our spouses. We are the carefree fun-loving spouse they married for 9 weeks during the summer and then mid-August rolls around and everything changes. Suddenly we are consumed with setting up our classrooms, cutting lamination and labeling everything in sight using handwriting our spouse doesn’t even recognize. We live and breathe the 24 names on our class list and forget to grocery shop, do laundry, cook dinner, feed the dog . . . Our spouses pick up a lot of slack throughout the school year but the start of the school year is especially difficult for them. We call on them to build things, cut things, lug things, lift things and move things.  There’s a lot of lugging, lifting and moving at the beginning of the year and we’re often asking them to do this after a full day of work at their own job or on the weekend. It’s not easy being . . .married to a teacher.

For years I have said it takes a special guy to be married to a teacher. A quick internet search reveals the truth in this statement.

While several of these are humorous reads there were some sad titles in my search as well: Wife’s Job Sucks! How can I convince her to change careers? and My wife’s career as an elementary teacher is tearing our lives apart. I don’t want to be the subject of one of these articles. It’s not easy being . . .married to a teacher.

Teacher husbands learn to take a backseat to their wife’s teaching responsibilities. In the early years of my marriage and career we committed to one night a week when I didn’t bring home school work and we didn’t let anything interrupt that time.  Of course this was before laptops, cell phones, email and Facebook. I attributed the constant work to my inexperience but on the eve of my 20th year teaching I bring even more work home than I did as a new teacher. I’ve often wondered if I just suck at teaching and that’s why it’s so much work for me. A recent fortune cookie from a lunch with a teacher friend put it in perspective for me.

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I think that pretty much sums it up for those of us who make the transformation from the person we are in the summer to the person we are during the school year. We are wired to help a child in need. Our job is not just a career, it’s a calling and a mission. Those who are married to us get this and they wouldn’t dream of doing anything but support us in our calling. So, thank you to my favorite husband, I know it’s not easy being . . .married to a teacher.

Slice of Life