Teachers who are also active-duty spouses: I see you! You are my people! Your roles as a wife, who lives with frequent moves and so many unknowns, and as a teacher, which involves all of those same struggles, make you stronger and I am thankful for you. Raise your hand if you have left entire libraries of books in a classroom because you didn’t want to pack them. Raise your hand if you have teacher certifications in three or more states. Raise your hand if your resume looks like a map of the world!
Teachers, your challenges in this dual role of active duty spouse and teacher are also assets! Stop being embarrassed by your 2-year intervals in different school districts and celebrate the experiences that make you the uniquely gifted teacher you are.
Here are my top 3 challenges for active duty spouse-teachers that are actually assets:
- Your resume makes you look (and feel) flaky. Am I the only one who has shown up to an interview feeling sheepish about all of those 2-year teaching positions? It is so difficult to send your resume and work history off into a faceless portal without being able to explain your reasons for staying at each school for 2-3 years. But your experiences at different schools give you a perspective on students and learning that other teachers lack. I’ve long envied those teachers who are in their 10th, 15th, even 20th year at a school. But their asset of longevity and stability can make them complacent (clearly this is not true in every case!). The time you’ve spent in urban, suburban, rural, and DoDEA or DoDDS schools provides you with a broad lens. What are strategies that were tried at your prior school that supported student learning? What diversity and inclusion initiatives were implemented effectively? Bringing those ideas to meetings while using a little sensitivity with your current co-workers can go a long way in helping learners.
- All of those *forking* tests! I just had the pleasure to take my third science teaching test. That’s right, it wasn’t enough to demonstrate my aptitute for teaching middle school science with Arizona’s AEPA or the nationally recognized PRAXIS for General Science, I had the opportunity to pay for, study for, and take the NES for Chemistry as well. Having to repeatedly demonstrate your aptitude as a teacher after years of experience can get old. But there is an upside! When it’s testing time in your classroom, you can have more empathy for students during testing time because you yourself just battled through a standardized test. Share tips, such as using scratch paper and getting a good night sleep, to support students in showing what they know.
- Having to constantly be the new girl or guy. Just when you’ve learned the culture and routines at a school, it’s time to PCS. Walking into a new school on the first day of back-to-school teacher training can be intimidating…and you’ve done this 4-5 times in your career. As an introvert, I share your pain. Over time, those uncomfortable first weeks of school and staff meetings can help you to flex your people skills. As an added bonus, these times at schools all around the country (or even the world) can provide you with life-long relationships and contacts.
Just like we teach our students, our mindsets can make a world of difference in our experiences, both in and out of the classroom. Find a way to capitalize upon and celebrate the strengths that your roles as an active duty spouse AND teach supports you in being a leader in your school.