My husband teaches at a mid-sized school in the South. The student population is broad: Black and white kids, rich and not-so-rich kids, Ivy-league kids and vocational tech kids. He went back to school recently. We were sad to see him go, and the night before he started, our kids and I moped. He shook his head. “Don’t be upset, y’all,” he told us. “I’m excited to go back. I’ve missed my kids and I want to be back in the classroom.”
And I nearly cried, because yes: this is my husband. He is a teacher. He has always been a teacher. He taught at the university level, realized he didn’t want to be part of that system, and moved to high school. Sometimes he has the same kids for three or four years. It makes him happy.
Teachers have gotten a bad rap lately. They’re lazy. They’re indoctrinating our kids. They push “critical race theory.” But real talk: there are great teachers out there. They love your kids. Those teachers want to help your babies as much as they can, even if that means late nights and hard work.
They care a hell of a lot.
My husband is one of those teachers, and I couldn’t be more proud.
He Works Hard To Treat His Kids Like People
My husband gets angry sometimes. “How hard is it to respect kids like real people?” he asks. “How hard is it to see them as real humans?” He hates that assumption his teens are somehow less than because they simply aren’t done learning… well, how to people.
He’s a patient soul with them. It can drive me batty: he uses all his patience on his kids and on some difficult days, there isn’t much left for us. When kids get angry, he sees that anger and realizes: this is not about me. This is about something else, and they are lashing out at a convenient target. So he treats them accordingly. He’s not a teacher who takes outbursts personally (or at least he tries not to). I know this because he’s stellar at bringing that skill home to our own children. He’s mad because he missed fencing, he’ll tell me. This is not about you, even though he’s being a jerk right now. Take it as it comes and let him be angry.
He Cares About His Classroom
My husband’s classroom is full of posters, some funny, some serious. He has Shakespeare. He has Harry Potter. But he also has motivational quotes. Before COVID-19, he lined his back wall with bean bags, blankets, and pillows. Students who were having a hard time, or who’d finished their work, migrated back there and chilled out.
That simple gesture meant so much to his kids. A teacher cared enough about both their physical and emotional comfort to give them a calm-down, cool-down space. He’s filled his desktop with pictures of me, of our kids. Of fossils and rocks and our sons’ art projects. These start conversations and help his students see him as a real person with real interests outside the classroom. The kids appreciate that. They also appreciate his collection of stuffie octopuses.
His hall passes crack them up. Sometimes kids have to tote along a plastic squid to leave his classroom. It makes them laugh, and high school can be hard as hell. A mid-day laugh can mean a lot.
He’s also the teacher who stocks his classroom with little things he knows his kids will need: Band-Aids — in Black skin tone too, not just tan. “It’s only fair, they’re half my classes,” he says. He has extra pens. He has paper. He has a bowl of hair ties and plenty of tissues. He notices his students; he sees what they need, and he tries to give it to them.
He’s That Teacher Keeping An Eye On Kids
I don’t know much about this, but I know a little. He’s the teacher who notices kids. He knows who broke up with who, who recently lost a friend, who’s struggling in other classes. He’ll mention these things in passing, and always without breaking confidentiality: I had a girl who broke up with her boyfriend today, he might say. I spent lunch talking to her and she used up most of the tissues.
He befriends kids who seem lonely. If your kid’s being bullied, they may have told him, and he dropped his own limited time to help them get administrative help for it. If a kid has zero friends, he’s a teacher who reaches out. He gives them books they might like. He learns about their interests — he knows more about anime than any forty-year-old man has a right to — and makes an effort to draw them out. Movies. Fishing. Sports. He uses it all to give those lonely kids a listening ear.
I might be proudest of how he treats his LGBTQIA kids. My husband is one of the few teachers in his Southern school who never, ever deadnames the trans kids. He rarely gets angry — until a student says, “That’s so gay,” or uses the f-slur. LGBTQIA kids learn very quickly that his classroom is a safe space. While the school is steadily becoming more progressive, his students know that he, along with a few other teachers, stands up for students of all sexualities and genders.
A rainbow flag hangs on his ceiling. Once, a kid asked if he was gay. He replied only, “Does it matter?”
And in a move that never ceases to make me cry, he stocks extra snacks. If a kid hasn’t had breakfast, he tosses them a granola bar. But he also knows which kids depend on school meals. Many of those kids go home each Friday with snacks in their backpacks. They’re given quietly, without fanfare, without other kids hearing about it. But he makes sure his students eat.
He stressed about them last year. “I worry some of them aren’t eating enough,” he’d tell me. “I worry about some of their home situations.” (Never with names, never with specifics). “And there’s nothing I can do.”
My Husband Isn’t The Only Great Teacher Out There
I just described my husband. But I also described several of his colleagues. I described teachers in every school, teachers who go above and beyond to help. I described teachers who make sacrifices, teachers who work hard to help the students who need a shoulder to cry on, an adult to understand their anger, a person to say: I see you.
These teachers are real. These teachers love your kids.
So as school starts, remember them. They aren’t trying to indoctrinate your kids. They’re trying to teach them what they need to learn, and help them along the way. When my husband told me he showed a student how to tie a necktie, I lost it. He’s that teacher. But those teachers are everywhere.
They’re also principals. They’re administrators. They’re janitors and coaches. They want your kids to grow into their best version of themselves. They sacrifice to help that happen.
Please think of them. Please don’t lump teachers together. They are doing the best they can. That best might be far more than you imagine, far more than your kid will admit. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, some teachers are horrible. But so many love your kids. They’re happy to see your child’s face, despite the dangers they face this year. They want to teach. They want school to start.
They are not doing a job. They have a calling.
Please see them.
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