Married to a [Former] Teacher (w. Aaron Shepard)
In this episode of the podcast, I bring my husband, Aaron, on to share his perspective about OUR time in the classroom. Yes, I use a collective pronoun because I think he would agree that WE experienced being a teacher together, albeit from different perspectives. While I was in the thick of lesson planning, engaging with parents, and dealing with student behaviors he was experiencing the residual effects of my response to those situations.
Aaron and I started dating right around the time I graduated from college, so he has literally been here since the beginning and has shared this entire journey with me. I thought it’d be interesting for you all to get a perspective from someone who experienced my life as a teacher from an outside perspective. He shares how, being in a relationship with a teacher, is a unique experience. It shaped his perspective on the value of the impact that teachers have on society and created a feeling of empathy for the challenges that teachers face.
In this conversation, Aaron shares:
His initial feelings about my decision to be a teacher back in college. He shares with me how he felt a deep level of respect as he fondly recalled memorable experiences with caring, nurturing teachers he had when he was in elementary school.
“You don’t get it, you aren’t a teacher…”
Aaron witnessed both the emotional and physical toll that being a teacher had on me. He recalled watching - and feeling helpless - as I would fall into an emotional tailspin trying to juggle, be, and do it all, and he felt like there was nothing he could do to support me.
He explains how I started to put up fences to guard what little energy I had left trying to fit a constructed ideal of what a “good” teacher was. “You don’t get it, you aren’t a teacher…” was my usual response when Aaron did his best to support me. He started to learn and understand how real and seriously draining burnout is and the profound impact it was starting to have on me, him, and our relationship.
“I’d tell myself to not take it personally. Teaching is a unique experience, so be patient. But I wish I could have prepared you for the burnout and padded your fall…”
Aaron shared that the drain that teaching had on me took time away from us because I was constantly feeling overwhelmed and recovering these feelings. It’s hard to be present when you're constantly in survival mode because you're trying to maintain your energy. “Teaching is uniquely challenging. Being with a teacher is the equivalent to being with a doctor or a lawyer because of the emotional cost needed to do your job,” Aaron explains.
But, he also wants to remind us, that our work - no matter what it is - doesn’t define us. Yes, it is a significant amount of our time, but it does NOT define our overall happiness.
To the partner - “ Your person is getting pulled in so many directions. Be accepting of the nuances that come with being a teacher and seek empathy and understanding.”
To the teacher - “You are trying to go through a unique experience, but try not to be exclusionary. It’s hurtful when you say ‘You don't get it…’ Don’t put up walls, we really want to be there and help. “
If you are enjoying the podcast, please do me a HUGE favor and rate, share, and subscribe to this podcast. My hope is that the experiences and gems shared on this show will inspire teachers to become better versions of themselves as they redefine what it means to teach well and prioritize themselves.