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Guest column: Being married to an educator in 2020

Greg Rusk teaches to students online.
Courtesy photo

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — As I write this, I hear Greg speaking fluently in Spanish around the corner.

Today is Greg’s live teaching day, and later he’ll head to the school and then the golf course to start his role as an assistant coach for the fall season. Soccer, normally nearing the end of district play now, is slated to start in February.

No one talks about what it’s like to be the spouse of a remote teacher during the pandemic.

The district Greg teaches in has done as good of a job as possible in this continually changing scenario. The elementary school kids are back in session, and I expect soon the middle school kids will go back.

But the way it’s looking, it will be Thanksgiving when the high school kids, whom Greg teaches, return. We anticipate him not teaching in the classroom until January.

I have worked at home most of my career outside of my own days teaching.

I have loved the flexibility to keep up with the house and other projects, and for seven years on a military grief study, I had a boss who left me alone. As long as the job was done, he didn’t care about the rest.

Greg is a classroom and soccer-field guy. He loves the energy of the kids and being in front of them and possibly throwing their phone in the trash.

As they are missing the energy of their teachers and friends, he is missing their energy. He’s not used to sitting most of the day, which he has to do now.

I hate Zoom and the precursor I had to use. Sitting and staring at a screen all day goes against everything we have been telling people about getting up and moving around, which Greg lets his students do in the classroom.

Because of this constant sitting and staring, and the fact that he’s had to learn to do something new (which in itself is not a bad thing), he’s drifted away from me. I tell him things, he acts as if he heard me, but later he claims I never told him.

We’re not talking about “spouse selective hearing” — I know the difference.

I don’t mind having him home because we have separate spaces and I’m off in my own world. But I miss the separation we had during the day because it made me appreciate him more.

While I worry about the mental health of the students, I also worry about the mental health of our teachers who love to teach, who are in the classroom because they truly want to help kids learn.

This has been a struggle for them, so it’s a challenge for us who care about them. I hope that at least being outside on the golf course with a small group will make a difference as this situation continues to drag on.

We know how lucky we are in New Mexico that we can always escape into the sunshine that reminds us no matter what’s happening around us, all is well.

(Michelle Rusk, Ph.D., the wife of Cleveland High girls soccer coach and Spanish teacher Greg Rusk, is an international speaker and author. She has written 10 books ranging from suicide grief to fiction. She also focuses her time on creating vintage-inspired handbags, apparel and home decor with her brand, Chelle Summer.)

 

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