by: Alex Stubenbort
“That’s what people do who love you. They put their arms around you and love you when you’re not so lovable.”-Deb Caletti
Teachers are a fickle, fuddled bunch. We often pour ourselves out to complete strangers day in and day out, showing unconditional love and acceptance, only to return home where we don’t extend the same decency to our own families. I know I’m guilty of this. My job calls me to see in my students what they don’t and/or can’t see in themselves. I nurture their passions, challenge their intellect, and celebrate their successes; in short, I play a fatherly role in the lives of my students, many of which have no father at home to speak of. Then I come home.
For those of you that are not familiar, this is a four year old—MY four year old, Noah. All of his energy and exuberance don’t take a backseat when Daddy’s had a rough day. Guest starring in this video is his understudy, two year old Stella. Likewise, Stella has no sympathy when Daddy’s spent his day solving the problems of the leaders of tomorrow. In fact, they almost have a natural nack for turning their youth into overdrive on days that I have the least to give.
It honestly crushes me to admit this. And yet, speaking to colleagues in passing ultimately led me to an unfortunate truth: I am not alone. The vast majority of teacher/parents regret the fact that they lay their lives down for their students and, as a result, struggle to find anything left in the proverbial tank when they arrive home. If this was where my story ended, it’d be a tough pill to swallow. Luckily for my children and me, I have a secret weapon.
That’s right. That’s my wife. And I know what you’re thinking, “She’s out of your league!” And, yes, you are correct. “But like really, REALLY out of your league!” I am well aware. I often share that my dad gave me some of the best life advice a man could offer his son when he told me that if I ever find myself dating a girl way too good for me to marry her, and that’s precisely what I did. However, to understand why she’s such a perfect wife to a teacher like me, you must first understand our relationship’s genesis.
The year was 2008 and I am in juvenile detention. More accurately, I am working at a juvenile detention facility located in the beautifully remote Ocala National Forrest in Marion County, Florida. It is a residential wilderness program for young men who have broken the law. My job is to mentor, supervise, and teach them 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. This is where I’ll ultimately meet the love of my life.
My wife is petite. Such an adjective is not the typical descriptor for someone working at the facility. In a world where young men have assaulted countless authority figures in their short lives, my wife boldly loved these children unconditionally. I knew she was the woman I longed to be with on a not-so-out-of-the-ordinary day when a young man devolved into an anxiety fueled violent rage. My future wife and I spent an hour in the hot Florida sun, restraining the boy as she spoke truth after truth into his life. “You are not what was done to you. You are loved. We’re here for you. We love you.”
Fast forward. Eight years later, I’m still in awe. My wife is a mental health counselor with a private practice that also works at a local teen pregnancy and relationship center and a battered children’s center. She knows how it feels to pour herself out emotionally for strangers. She lives it. And yet, somehow, on the toughest of days, Lyndsey finds something left in the tank for her family and demands me to do the same. Unlike countless civil servants, Lyndsey gives the best parts she has to offer for both the workplace AND her family; a feat that I personally struggle with.
So, I suppose, this blog post is to merely say, “Thank you.” To the countless husbands and wives that challenge my fellow colleagues to be their very best in the workplace and at home via leading by example. Thank you for loving us unconditionally (even at our most unlovable moments). And sure, this post is ultimately self-serving, but perhaps in our selfless profession a dash of self-servitude can go a long way. So I implore you teachers, do YOURSELF a favor and say thank you to the ones you love. You couldn’t do it without them.