Reading through my college magazine, I naturally turn to my graduating class to see what people are up to. Should I have been surprised that nearly everyone announced their retirement? Friends and colleagues my age are peeling off all around me, including my wife who finally left school for good yesterday. Just like so many of my peer group have had to deal with aging and dying parents and topics like “hip replacement” are creeping into our conversations, retirement is the buzz word that keeps circling around my head, but has yet to land.
“How did you know it was time?” I keep asking and as you might imagine, there is no one answer. Some felt their job become obsolete, some refused to use computers unnecessarily, some had never liked their job, some wanted more time with the grandchildren and some just felt something click that said “Enough.” Nothing easy to explain, but a certain clarity to the realization, some whispering inner voice that felt trustworthy. But so far mine is mute.
But another reliable voice is talking to me and that’s a sign in the direction of staying the course. Today I listened to a jazz tune and thought, “This would be great to do with the 8th grade next year.” And went ahead and imagined the specific kids doing some of the parts. That’s how I often dream my classes and I find it a necessary way to do accomplish what I call 3D teaching—first dream the class, then do it, then de-brief it, with the group and alone by myself. It not only gives more body and weight to the class, but it keeps the excitement about teaching bubbling. For some, summer is beach time and that’s great and I have some of that too, but mostly for me, I walk around with my antennae up and with space cleared in the brain from not teaching the kids at the moment, I’m open to receive signals from the world.
I imagine that when I finally leave the school, I’ll keep having moments like, “Wow, this would be great to do…oh yeah, no more classes.” That will be strange. It looks like my daughter is cut out of the same mold, talking about how she immediately thought of lesson plans and discussions and healing rituals after Orlando to do with her 5th graders and then realized it's summer. (Besides the habit of processing the world through teaching that we share, it also was a reminder of how important it is to have a community to share both grief and joy. I suspect that that will be another loss after retirement.)
But hey, I’m signed up for the next go-around so these are bridges I needn’t cross now.
Hmm, maybe "bridges" would be a cool theme for the 4th graders……