Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Looking Ahead, Looking Back

Three years ago I wrote a post about aging and all that has and hasn't changed for me over the years. I also mentioned (in a subsequent response to a comment) that retirement was three years in the offing. Now I'm three years older and retirement is a mere five weeks away. I am tremendously excited about having free time, about not having to get up every morning and hurry off to work, about spending more time with my grandchildren without having to rush home at the beginning of the work week. I have a bucket list three miles long and can't wait to get started on it. There are some things about working (besides the regular paycheck) I will miss, though.

First and foremost I will miss daily contact with children. I've been working in the public school system for almost twenty years and find that being around young people is both immensely satisfying and outright challenging. Though they can be as opinionated as the adults that surround them, most children are more willing to open up to new ideas, to be fascinated by conflicting information, to make an attempt to learn a new skill or be beguiled by a new concept. They are quick to dispense hugs and they love to share.

It's a lesson in human resilience to watch these little beings grow and change over the course of a school year. I've worked at every grade level but the last few years have been focused on second grade. Second graders arrive in September at age seven little, scared, and excited, still carrying first grade anxieties about being full time students but ready to be "big kids" if given half the chance. They come equipped with already strong personalities that suggest nature as well as nurture plays a huge part in who and what they will become. By the end of second grade they read more confidently, write in complete sentences (hopefully), have mastered addition and subtraction, swagger a bit on the playground and speak up more in the classroom.

Their takes on life are often much more concrete than mine. They restate with confidence the things they hear at home or church or from other teachers and sometimes older schoolmates. I'm impressed with what they understand of modern technology and often amazed at what they think they understand about politics. A brash young fellow told me he would vote Republican in November if he could because the Democrats were taking soda out of schools and, as he liked to drink soda every day, he would be forced to drink "plain old water, yuk!" if President Obama were to be reelected. Another little tyke asked me if I thought her "ass was sexy. My mother said it is."

I will miss the insider camaraderie that exists between my co-workers though I will not miss the frustrations that come with the job. I will most definitely not miss supervising 48 of someone else's little darlings in the cafeteria or the cacophony of slamming lockers and end of day confusion as I herd them off to the open maws of the waiting buses.

What I look forward to most about retirement are the hours I get to reconfigure, the daylight hours I can spend out of doors instead of locked up in a building. As a first grader I ran away from school twice before the teachers assigned me a personal watchdog. The idea of staying all day in a stuffy building, no matter how many books it held, was abhorrent. I still feel the same way almost 60 years later! A meager social security stipend will necessitate returning a few days a month to sub. I will bite the bullet and do it (and probably enjoy it), but the time I spend hiking and biking and gardening and exploring and traveling and drawing and painting and dreaming and playing with the grandchildren and reading and napping will overshadow any days spent holed up in a classroom.




17 comments:

Out on the prairie said...

I tried subbing but it didn't fill my void. After 3 years I went back to work, there are lots of volunteer opportunities i enjoy also.

Brian Miller said...

it takes some getting used to...my mom was a school teacher and retired 3 years ago...she recently took a PT job to have more human contact at least until dad retires in 2 more years....

Flea said...

Is Australia on your bucket list AM?

Friko said...

As a long time retiree I can tell you now that you won't know how you fitted work into your busy day!

Have a good time, it's not all downhill from now.

Brian Hayes said...

Love what Friko says :-)

Love what you say, "Though they can be as opinionated as the adults that surround them, most children are more willing to open up to new ideas, to be fascinated by conflicting information, to make an attempt to learn a new skill or be beguiled by a new concept."

We shall overcome, wot.

Pauline said...

OOTP - I'll be subbing to help fill the coffers and only for the grades I've been working with the past few years. There will be plenty of volunteer opportunities, too but I will need the $.

Brian M - I am looking forward to LESS social contact. I really am a loner type...

AD - it sure is!

Friko - I am looking forward to upward and onward and busy days :)

Brain H - we shall indeed and with glee :)

Joanna Jenkins said...

Pauline, THANK YOU for being a caring and generous teacher. You are a true warrior in my book and I'm sure have had a very positive impact on many children during your career.

Enjoy your retirement. I love that you will be spending more time outside and with loved ones.

xo jj

Pauline said...

That's so nice of you, JJ! I will miss the kiddies but oh, I am looking forward to being out of doors all day every day!

Judith said...

Well thought out summary --- for once, a blog post mostly for you!
(Although I'm happy to be let in on the way you're taking stock and seeing retirement.)
What you say about the kids is simultaneously hopeful and dismaying! (A 7-year-old's ass is sexy? A Dem election means you have to drink water? As the twigs are bent ----)

Pauline said...

Ah J - as the twigs are bent indeed. It's hard to watch those little minds hardening into grooves that will not serve them well in the future. Glad you picked up on that.

goatman said...

But now you have a whole new group of "children" to conspire, reflect, and connect with . . . we blobbers ever ready to explore a new take on life.
And there is always volunteer work if you crave the human contact -- and who doesn't.
It will be a whole new world (from one who is also passing the border into exploratory living.)

Pauline said...

Goatman - the Senior Center is less than a mile's walk from my cottage so volunteering there will be easy and fun. There's plenty of volunteer activity in town to participate in but I'll be mostly on my own in the woods and fields exploring and writing and just thinking.

Hilary said...

I suspect the biggest loss would be you as a teacher to those kidlets, so aside from the income, I think it's a good thing that you'll be subbing. They need minds and hearts like yours.

Congrats, though.. you have certainly earned your days to yourself and to nature of course. :)

Barbara Shallue said...

Pauline, first I am so impressed that you accomplish so much while working full time as a teacher! Second, I recently started subbing again and have now subbed twice in second grade. They are everything you described them to be. It had been such a long time since I'd been around a group of them, I really enjoyed it! That doesn't mean I'd want to do it every day though. Bless you and enjoy your retirement!

Pauline said...

Hilary - thanks. I will miss the kids. I hope they miss me.

Barbara - I'm so glad you like subbing. I've done some over the years when I was between jobs and ultimately that led me to work in a school full time. It's been a busy 20+ years but it's been fun!

Marion said...

I'm catching up on all my reading! I've been busy with Spring clean-up and it's now ready for planting. I love reading how far along your garden is. It'll take a few more weeks of warm weather for us to get there...it snowed a couple of days ago!

I hope visiting western Canada is on your to-do list, after your retirement. And I know the kids will miss you like crazy. When I was little, it was like mourning when a favourite teacher left...my heart hurt. So glad you're subbing for a bit...the kids will still see you once in awhile.

Can't wait to read about all the adventures you'll be having...xx

Pauline said...

Marion - I've been eating herbs and spinach and lettuce for a couple of weeks now. If ever i get to western Canada I will be sure to look you up. We'd never stop talking!