A spouse’s column

Posted by Dan Barkin on October 24, 2013 

Matthew Brown, a Raleigh banker, wrote a blog post about his wife’s experiences as a public school teacher. His wife, Haley, was giving up teaching after seven years. He sent it in to the N&O editorial page, which printed it as a column. The column was linked to by the Huffington Post, was all over Facebook, and so has gotten a lot of attention. Around 533,000 page views on our web site. That is a tremendous number of page views for a column in a local newspaper the size of the N&O. We’re talking more page views than the Krispy Kreme race photo galleries, and those do monster traffic.

The column was about how happy Brown is that his wife is giving up teaching. He basically denounced “the oppressive hands of incompetent legislators and school board members who wish to micromanage education without actually getting involved with the people in it.”

The column went into detail about the heavy workload, stagnant pay and other problems facing today’s teachers.

The response to the letter was so great that we thought it would be a good idea if we could contact the Browns and tell folks about them.

That’s unusual, because the editorial page and the newsroom are separate, and I can’t recall when we’ve ever written about an op-ed piece. But the response to it was kind of a commotion, and an old editor of mine used to say “cover commotions,” and I have been guided by that advice for a long time.

Jane Stancill, a reporter who knows a lot about education, interviewed the Browns and her story went online Wednesday and in today’s paper.

Now, personally, I would have been hesitant to do what Matthew Brown did. I have always felt it’s never a good idea to burn bridges. Some day, Haley Brown may decide she’d want to give teaching another go of it. I wouldn’t bet on it, but there’s always that possibility. The Internet being what it is, this column is going to live online for a very long time. Employers are routinely doing web searches about prospective employees.

Some school principal five or 10 years from now who looks up Haley Brown is going to find this column, and wonder if hiring her would be a great idea.

But maybe I feel that way because I’m too timid and the Browns are not. Maybe they just felt that things had to be said, the heck with the consequences, and if that’s the case, then they have a lot of moxie.

One more thing. There are a lot of spouses who could probably write a column like Matthew Brown’s.

There may, in fact, not be any husband or wife in America or on the planet who couldn’t describe, in detail, the co-workers, bosses, culture, and workload at their spouse’s place of employment. Most jobs are tough, a lot of working conditions are unsatisfactory and many people work with the quirky and for the demanding. And often the only person one can safely vent to is a partner at home.

This is an often under-appreciated role Matthew Brown performed, as the spouse who asked his teacher wife, “So how was your day?” and then got told, for seven long years, how the day was.

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