If you’ve met my husband you know that he is strong, wise, kind and good. He is a former naval officer of twenty-three years and you can see it in his posture and bearing. He commands respect. He is a certifiable genius and has been for as long as anyone can remember – he learned to read at 18 months, reading the street signs to his astonished mother. He is also a tender and goofy man. A big kid at heart who spends his spare hours reading cartoons and whose favorite tv show just might be America’s Funniest Home Videos. If he could choose anyone in the world to have dinner with it would be Stephen Colbert – they’re both funny and intelligent enough to be the best of friends.
The point is, my husband could do or be anything. He has a wealth of leadership experience behind him. He has run organizations and been the chief engineer on a nuclear submarine. He has taught engineering in one of America’s most prestigious universities and he has taught high school in the African bush. He is a father and a friend and a mentor to many. He is a man of reflection and insight. A man of courage and compassion. A man of laughter and tears.
So what to do? What to be? After Africa we knew three things. That we love diversity, that we love education and that we want to continue to be part of making an impact in individual lives. Money and rising up the career ladder seemed less important than ever. Instead we took a year or two off from real work to invest in ourselves, our kids, our marriage. Then David went back to educational consulting, part time university teaching and started attending an American high school credentialing program so that he would have more to offer to teachers and schools.
Fast forward a few years. David is now being paid to complete his student teaching in one of our city’s three high schools. He teaches the ninth graders, the lowest kids on the math totem pole. Those who discovered somewhere during junior high that they hated math, along with the knowledge that they were ” probably stupid.” His high school isn’t known as the best in town – perhaps some of his kids are among the least privileged in our region, which is known for it’s high poverty rates. He teaches integrated classrooms with special education and ELL students. This seems like a stretch for my head-in-the-clouds philosopher of a husband who’s never quite sure how I’m able to keep everyone happy at home.
I mean the man’s a genius, but can he keep thirty integrated, wild, loud, curious, irrepressible 14 year olds on task and advancing in math skills daily? And can he do this with five different classes every day?
I love how in the first week, David took the most failing kids aside and asked them, “since you’re obviously so smart, why aren’t you doing better?” I asked him how he knew they were smart. “They just ARE”, he said, ” you can tell it by looking at them.” He tells me how they are loud and they are sometimes nearly impossible to manage but they are all “such good kids.” And I quietly break into tears sometimes because I wonder how many people have truly believed in them before the way my husband does now.
He was a little bit sick over the weekend, a respiratory flu that left him aching and sleepy and sore-throated. Yesterday he headed back to school for a full day in the classroom and by the time he had come home and talked a few minutes to all of us he was voiceless, his baritone reduced to a whisper. This morning as he whispered good morning to me, I asked him who he would get to sub for him and he said, “no, I’m going in to teach.” I wondered how he would manage, if even with a full voice he still works hard to keep his classrooms quiet enough to learn in.
“I’m going to have a ‘Whisper Day'” he said, “there will be prizes”, he said.
We came to Bethel to see miracles and to be a part of making them happen. But I never expected the biggest miracles to be those that happened inside of us. The ways we’ve so unexpectedly changed. The humility my incredibly accomplished husband has learned. I didn’t expect how we’d learn to adapted to assignments and seasons so different than anything we planned on. I didn’t know all the things we’d lose and all we’d gain because of it.
I’ll be honest, I still don’t know where exactly we’re heading. And sometimes this round-a-bout journey of life feels much too complicated, slow and unproductive. Sometimes I miss the rat race because it had evidence of actual forward movement – if only in the bigger pay checks and new job assignments.
But this, this miracle of watching my husband head off for “Whisper Day”, a whistle loosely slung around his neck . . . . this miracle of praying for my husband and his tribe of 120 students daily. . . I want to stop and take notice of this. To take notice of where we’ve been and where we’ve come to. To really see the strange and circuitous path we’ve traveled even if I have no idea where it’s taking us yet.
Only the lucky ones have so many adventures in one short pair of lives.