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.)
Eight years 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 I have to 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 or work. 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! In fact, I was able to be a substitute teacher again from the Fall of 2019 to the start of the pandemic in 2020. IF ONLY IT COULD’VE LASTED A LITTLE BIT LONGER!