Teaching and Taking My Kids to Work...Every Day

I'm a huge baseball fan, focused right now on spring training and hopeful for a good season for my favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds.

But the news the past few days hasn't been about box scores and pitch counts. Baseball sites have been a-twitter over the strange case of White Sox first-baseman, Adam LaRoche, who abruptly retired Wednesday, walking away from a $13 million contract. The reason he gave was a directive from the club's vice president, who had asked that he not bring his 14-year-old son into the clubhouse every day.

LaRoche has put together a nice career, hitting 255 home runs over the course of 12 years in the Big Leagues with the Braves, Nationals, and one year with the White Sox, during which he hit for a disappointing 0.207 average and hit just 12 home runs. At age 35, he could be considered on the downside of a baseball career--although not over the hill by any means.

The record also shows that he has played major league baseball all but two years of his son's life. That's a lot of miles and days spent away from his son: 81 games on the road every year, not to mention a month of spring training in Florida or Arizona, depending upon the team. It isn't any surprise that LaRoche obtained an agreement from the White Sox when he signed before last season, allowing access for Drake to White Sox facilities to spend time with "dear old dad."

Team Mascot

What came out in the days following LaRoche's departure was just how much a part of the clubhouse Drake was. He was in the locker room every day during spring training, he was part of the team for 120 of its 162 games last season, and he even flew on the team charter on about half the road trips the team took.

Now I'm a devoted father, too. But when I see that Drake is 14, I think that he must be in 8th grade. Eight-graders are in school right now--with a week off for spring break, perhaps. How is Drake spending every day with the team?

Yahoo Sports found an old Washington Post article about Drake's attachment to the Washington Nationals while Adam played there.  In it, Adam said:
“We’re not big on school. I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.' "
This bothers me. LaRoche and his brother, Andy, both played in the big leagues--and like Drake, they had a big-league dad of their own, Dave Laroche, who pitched for 14 seasons. But an 8th-grader belongs in a classroom every day, not a locker room.

A Better Option, but Lower Pay

Yesterday, listening to Buster Olney talk about LaRoche on a podcast, I realized something:
I take my kids to work every day, AND they get to go to school.

I'm a teacher.

Earlier in the day, I had been asked, "What do you love most about teaching?"

There are many things I love about teaching--students, learning for myself, working with smart people--but one thing I treasure is that it lets me be a good dad. For a year, prior to the birth of my youngest son, I worked in Nashville, a 50-55-minute drive each way. I had a great job, but my kids were five and two, and I missed them.

After losing that job and spending a year as a 'free agent,' I was happy to get back into teaching. Within a few years, my students were enrolled at elementary and middle schools that share a campus with the high school where I teach. We drove to school every day, and every evening, as we drove back, I got to hear about their days, share their successes, and support them through frustrating times.

In fact, once my eldest--my daughter--entered my school as a freshman, I felt my teaching come into focus for all of my students. I wanted for them the best education I could give, because that was what I expected my colleagues to provide for Ellie. Now my son is a freshman at my school--Ellie is in college. I'm so glad that I get to spend these years close to him.

Mind you, he isn't in my classroom throughout the day. There isn't a policy against teachers teaching their own sons or daughters, but it would be awkward. But my classroom is a 'safe place' in school for him to hang out before or after things start. In turn, my kids make me look good to colleagues who may have had their doubts about the "mad scientist-style" teacher at the end of the English Hall, but have few doubts about the intellects and abilities of the kids I've raised.

Adam LaRoche, I think you have a new calling. Be a teacher. You can teach a little math or English. You can even coach other kids on the high school baseball team. You can see your son every day and be the kind of father you want to be.

Just don't...

Don't expect to earn $13 million for your efforts, okay?