This is my first guest post here at CollegeReadyWriting! This is by Heather Scarano (@HeatherScarano on Twitter), a wife, mother, professor, and wife of a college baseball coach. She blogs over at http://nobluffing.com/. I like her writing, and as a fellow trailing spouse, I wanted to share the similar and yet different kinds of challenges she faces.
There is something about the fragrance of February that I love. A walk outside this time of year invigorates the body and encourages the soul. The freshness in the air and the smell of moist earth and wet grass are glad reminders that Spring is near. But there is something else about February that makes me happy: it marks the beginning of baseball season.
As a college baseball coach’s wife, I look forward to February, when at last the hours, months, even years of preparation are tested in nine-inning contests of skill, speed and strategy.
Being a coach’s wife has its benefits. I have front-row seats at the games, which I enjoy watching with my two young sons. Each new season I am introduced to a new group of guys and have the privilege of getting to know them and their families. I also travel to tournaments and tag along on Spring break trips to warmer, beachier places.
Whenever our family has moved to a new college or university, we’ve found instant friendships within the institution’s athletic department. And we have never suffered from being unknown in a new community.
But being the wife of a coach isn’t eternally pleasant. We move a lot. And to places I’d frankly rather not be. Baseball coaches and their families do not live only in sunny places like Florida, Texas or Southern California. They live in the rural Midwest, too.
And now that I am working at the same college as my husband, as a coordinator of a writing center and instructor of developmental English, I’m learning that the label “coach’s wife” isn’t always useful.
It is one thing when you’re not working in higher education to brush off a comment like, “So, have you always been a cleat chaser?” as immature and unenlightened, but it’s an entirely different thing when you are facing these stereotypes while at the same time trying to establish credibility in your first year of teaching.
For the record, I am not a cleat chaser. Joe and I met during his last semester of his fifth year of college, and we did not go to school together. The only baseball I ever saw Joe play was as an outfielder for the church softball team. While we were dating and newly married, he worked as a landscaper, limo driver, newspaper delivery boy and Starbucks barista. I never imagined he’d be a college baseball coach.
I’ve also had to deal with people who suspect or infer that I am in my current position – that I got my job -- because of my husband. Maybe I ought to get around to hanging up that diploma of mine.
I’m discovering that there are other challenges as well. For example, what do I do when two baseball players in my introduction to composition course do not complete their first writing assignment? Do I tell their coach, who will undoubtedly chew them out, or do I handle it on my own?
One night last week, at the end of a long day and after the kids were in bed, Joe and I were sitting together on the couch. I was venting my frustrations about the lack of motivation I was beginning to see in some of my students. Without thinking about the possible consequences, I mentioned to Joe that his baseball players were two of several students who did not hand in the paragraph that I’d assigned.
Encouraging academic achievement and cultivating attitudes of respect are priorities for my husband. I should’ve known what would happen next.
Later the following day Joe told me, “I buried those guys. I embarrassed them in front of the entire team. I asked them if they thought they should be on scholarship if they can’t complete simple assignments.”
Oops. I wasn’t trying to get my students in trouble. Now I felt like a tattletale.
There are other issues I will need to figure out, too.
With the first home doubleheader of the season just days away, I’m wondering what to do if one of my baseball-player students hits a homerun, or makes a diving play at third base?
Do I stand up, yell and slap my little boys high-five, as I normally would? Or, would it be better for me to tone it down a bit – stay seated, clap quietly and smile? How do I transition from teacher, to coach’s wife, and back to teacher again while still maintaining boundaries and some semblance of respectability?
Or, what if one of my students sees me in my yoga pants, or chasing my wild, two-and-a-half-year old up and down the hallways of the hotel when we are in Florida next month on Spring Break? Will he still be able to take me seriously at 8 a.m. the next time we have class?
Despite these conundrums, I am enjoying my new career in academia. It is not the career I envisioned for myself (I was thinking more along the lines of award-winning international journalist, read: Christiane Amanpour) but now that I’m here, I think I’m finding my niche.
Joe is in his seventh year working with college students, and I am now beginning to share his passion for these burgeoning adults. The college years are a brief but transformative time, and as their tutor and mentor, I have a big role to play in my students’ personal development.
As an English instructor, my job is extremely meaningful. What could be more valuable than helping students become better communicators, especially in this socially-networked, hyper-communicative world in which we now live?
I could also see my role developing into a faculty advocate for student-athletes. What many academics fail to see, I fear, is that student-athletes may be some of the most disciplined, hard-working students of all. The average college student does not get up for 6 a.m. workouts or spend hours in the afternoon at the gym or on the field for practice. When the other students are at home for the semester break, at the beach for spring break, or in their beds on a snow day – the student-athletes are on campus, practicing or playing games.
I have a mission, and it is not at all different from my husband’s -- to help develop young adults into responsible, respectful, capable human beings. Our goals are the same, though admittedly we use different means (and tactics) to get there.
Still, there is one thing that we can always agree on: February is an awesome month. Just like the scents of the season, the sounds are hopeful, too -- the trickle of melting snow dripping from roof gutters and sloshing down streets, and the cheerful songs of returning robins and sparrows as they titter in the trees. Add to these the ping of a metal bat connecting with a leather-covered, cork ball, and the thump of an 88 MPH fastball meeting the catcher’s mitt, and the ambiance of approaching Spring is complete.