Tag Archives: retirement

Like Pulling Teeth from a Chicken


Life is hard here in the Kingdom of Paffoon where you labor hard at a labor of love and try to give birth to something eternal that ends up going nowhere… stacks of old writing litter my closets, and the prospects of being published grow dimmer and dimmer.  My book Snow Babies has a contract with a publisher, but, apparently they are not going to be able to publish it after all.  I am at the very least going to have to find another publisher for the rest of my books, both finished manuscripts and works in progress.

Blue and Mike in color (435x640)

I do intend to follow through and get published, though.  I can no longer teach, but I feel a powerful force pushing me towards the sheer precipice of authordom.  One way or another I am going to make it over the edge and plummet to the bottom of that cliff.  I am compelled by the need to tell stories, and I have a captive audience every school day no longer.

I used to tell my classes that doing impossible things was like trying to pull chicken teeth with pliers.  You know, impossible things like getting a book published or teaching a mostly Spanish-speaking student how to read in English…  every-day-sort-of impossible things.

“But, Mr. B, chickens don’t have teeth,” some bright-eyed student would say after realizing that “chicken” was the English word for “pollo”.

“Exactly!” I would say.  “That’s what makes it so challenging!”

And now I must put on my chicken-catching socks, find my tooth-pulling pliers, and get ready to make more novels happen.  After a brief bout of consternation and depression, I actually feel a bit better about the whole fiasco.  There are other publishers, and publishers seem to like my writing, even if they can’t publish it.  And I have waited two years to get Snow Babies published, all apparently for nothing.  It is time to stop wasting time.  And maybe to stop repeating repetitions too.

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing, self pity, writing, writing humor

Conversations With the Ghost of Miss M…

DSCN5148Beneath the old cottonwood tree there once stood a one-room school house.  My mother went to school there as a girl, a short walk from home along the Iowa country road.  Misty mornings on a road between cornfields and soybean fields can often conjure up ghosts.

I took this morning walk with the dog while I was visiting my old Iowegian home, and I was writing my fictional story Magical Miss Morgan in my head, not yet having had time to sit down and write.  I was reflecting on times long past and a school long gone, though Miss Morgan’s story is really about my own teaching experience.  Miss Morgan is in many ways me.  But I am not a female teacher.  I am a goofy old man.  So, why am I writing the main character as a female?

Well, the ghosts from the old school house heard that and decided to send an answer.

Miss Mennenga was my third grade and fourth grade teacher from the Rowan school.  The building I attended her classes in has been gone for thirty years.  Miss M herself has long since passed to the other side.  So when she appeared at the corner…  Yes, I know… I have said countless times that I don’t believe in ghosts, but she had the same flower-patterned dress, the glasses, the large, magnified brown eyes that could look into your soul and see all your secrets, yet love you enough to not tell them to anyone else.  Suddenly, I knew where the character of Miss Morgan had actually come from.  I also realized why I was drawn to teaching in the first place.  Teachers teach you more than just long division, lessons about the circulatory systems of frogs, and the Battle of Gettysburg…  They shape your soul.

“You remember getting in trouble for doing jokes in class when you were supposed to be studying your spelling words?”

“Yes, Miss M, but I didn’t make any noise.. they were pantomime jokes that I stole from watching Red Skelton on TV.”

“But you pulled your heart out of your chest and made it beat in your hand.  You had to know that was going to make the boys smirk and the girls giggle.”

“I did.  But making them happy was part of the reason God put me there.”

“But not during spelling.  I was trying to teach math to fourth graders.  You interrupted.”

“You made that point.  I still remember vividly.  You let me read the story to the class out loud afterwords.  You said I needed to use my talent for entertaining to help others learn, not distract them from learning.”

“I was very proud of the way you learned that lesson.”

“I tried very hard as a teacher to never miss a teachable moment like that.  It was part of the reason that God put you there.”

“And I did love to hear you read aloud to the class.  You were always such an expressive reader, Michael.  Do you remember what book it was?”

“It was Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary.   How could I have forgotten that until now?  You made me love reading out loud so much that I always did it in my own classes, at every opportunity.”

I remembered the smile above all else as the lingering image faded from my view through the eyes of memory.  She had a warm and loving smile.  I can only hope my goofy grin didn’t scare too many kids throughout my career.

10931430_1392374101067123_2624334665191497015_n I needed a post for 1000 Voices that was about reconnecting with someone.  I could’ve used any number of real life examples from everything that has happened to me since poor health forced me to retire from teaching  I could’ve written any number of things that would not make me feel all sad and goopy about retiring and would not make me cry at my keyboard again like I am doing now… like I did all through that silly novel I wrote… even during the funny parts.  But I had to choose this.  A debt had to be paid.  I love you, Miss M… and I had to pay it forward.


Filed under 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, humor, photo paffoonies

Retirement Sinks In…

There comes a time in every career when the career is over and it has to end.  I spent 310 years teaching in Middle School and High School and loved every minute of it.  (Okay, divide the years by ten and subtract about twelve thousand minutes from the love… but I did love it.)  And I was good at it.  (At least, in my own confused little mind… I have photographic proof that I did help students get some quality sleep time in, but… hey, English is supposed to be boring.)

wonderful teaching

A year ago I was forced to make the decision to leave the job I loved.  Failing health and failing finances made it increasingly hard to do the job.  I was never a sit-behind-the-desk teacher.  I had to do the dance… up this row, down that one… lean over the spit-wad shooter before he could adequately aim and pull the stray cafeteria straw out of his mouth… suggest the verb needs to have an “s” on it if the subject of the sentence the student just wrote for me is singular…  stand in front of the boy who can’t listen to my wonderful teaching because the girl across the room is wearing a dress and block his view… and he doesn’t even like that girl, but she’s wearing a dress… you can see her legs… and he’s a teenager… you know, the dance of teaching.  When you walk with a cane and have a back brace on every single work day, the dance becomes harder and harder as the year wears on.  I got to spend my days with Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut and Maya Angelou and Robert Frost… and even more important I got to spend my days with Pablo and Sofie and Ruben and Rita and Keith…  I had so many more favorite students than I ever had those black-banes-of-a-teacher’s-existence kids that other teachers were always talking about in the faculty lounge.  (I rarely hung out in the faculty lounge because they tended to talk bad about kids I really loved and enjoyed teaching… and besides, I had crap to actually do before the next class came in.  Lounging was rarely an option.)

I confess that I have spent a good deal of this school year depressed and feeling sorry for myself.  No kids to talk to on a daily basis except my own, and even with them, only after school.  My wife is still teaching… so I rarely see her.  (Am I married?  I need to double-check.)  I fill the lonely hours with writing and story-telling and recollections of days past… and I am beginning to come to terms with my loss.  In retirement I can do more of the things that I always wanted to do… but never had time for.  I can draw and paint and write and sing (pray hard I don’t start posting videos of me singing!) and play with my toys… I have even decided to write a novel about people playing with toys.  Would I ever teach again if suddenly I was healthy and could do it again…?  YOU BETTER BELIEVE I WOULD!


Filed under autobiography, humor, photo paffoonies, teaching

Missing the Mayhem

School is approaching.  A new school year.  Looming chaos.  And for the first time since 1981 I won’t be participating as a teacher.  I have retired.  I knew all the crying and goodbye-ing at the end of last school year was not the worst of it.  The worst is now.  No classroom to prepare.  No new names to learn.  No endless hours of in-service training where principals and experts blah-blah-blah endlessly.  (Okay, I don’t miss everything.)  But I am not dead, merely retired.  I should not have to feel so bad and left out.  Still, I linger in bed in the mornings, and I really don’t feel blessed by being retired.  I know many, many teachers who live for the day when they can retire.  They count the hours.  Not me.  I had to retire because of poor health and money woes.  But I taught long enough to get a full pension, and should not have to worry for whatever years I have left.  But it makes me sad not to be there.  I miss it.  And life will never be the same.



Filed under Uncategorized

One More Day…

So, I have three more classes on a day that ends at 1:00 tomorrow… Then no more being a teacher for the rest of my life.  Am I happy?  Ah, no…  I have been a teacher for 31 of the last 33 years.  I was a substitute teacher for the two years in between job two and job three.  I do not know how to regulate the rhythms of my life without a daily bell schedule, without hallway duty, without discipline referrals, without restroom passes and library privileges.  What will I do come Monday?  I guess I will remember how much it is in my blood… in my genes… in my very soul.  And I will never actually stop being a teacher.  I just will have no more class.           Ee-hee-hee-hee-hee (snort! Snort!)


1 Comment

June 6, 2014 · 12:19 am

Mr. B Gets Weepy

Mr BThey were going to make me cry sooner or later. I told you that. Today was the day. In the midst of trying to get everything done without actually teaching, they surprised me with a multi-level “We Will Miss You… And We Love You” poster. Current students and former students all signed it and lied to me in prose about how wonderful a teacher I have been. Drat their evil plots! Getting through the week without tears is now a lost cause. We took a lot of pictures, but teachers can’t post pictures of students on the web without violating FERPA guidelines and federal privacy laws. So I cut them out of this Photo Paffooney. Besides, the gentleman in blue to my right flipped the bird in one of the photos. I photo-shopped that finger off his hand. Ha-hah! If only teachers could do that in real life!  Oh, and I avoided photos of me crying.

1 Comment

June 4, 2014 · 2:08 am

Creepy Times, the Second Chapter

Creepy Times, the Second Chapter

As a teacher, you always have to wonder who is pulling your strings, who is the puppet master? It is usually a principal, but today I think it was a colleague. She dumped another monster assignment on me. Individual test score conferences with all our ESL 10th and 11th grade students. They are taking my classroom away from me tomorrow, so I have no place to do the work, nor sufficient time. I apparently get half of the ninth graders too. Then I will called on the carpet if I don’t get this done soon… preferably tomorrow. This from a woman who has no classes to teach and no job beyond paperwork. Why can’t she do all of this extra work? She has the time and an available office. Another of the many reasons I am retiring in June. I love teaching, but nobody lets me do it any more… at least, not the right way.


May 15, 2014 · 1:54 am